Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grading Baucus So Far 2

On the bad side: well, we don't know yet. The delay was only OK if it ultimately allowed Baucus to produce a bill he could get out of committee. As I read the reactions yesterday and today, I'm not at all certain that's the case. It's pretty clear that liberals are going to want to push the bill in their direction. There are nine "no" votes going in, so of the thirteen Dems plus Snowe, Baucus can only lose three votes.

The thing is that if we're talking about needing sixty votes, then the Democrats only have a margin of one in the entire Senate (figuring sixty Democrats once Kennedy's seat is filled, plus Snowe). It's possible that the final bill could get two or three additional Republicans, but unlikely that Lugar, for example, would sign on as the 60th vote. So if Baucus can't get all fourteen votes out of his committee, then it's not as if the Democrats have other votes in reserve once the bill gets to the floor.

In other words, we don't know yet. I think that the initial reaction is not very promising, but as I always say, you can't trust what poker players say in the middle of a hand. We're going to have some votes in committee on various amendments to push the bill in a liberal direction; we don't know how the votes will fall on those amendments; and we don't know whether the result will wind up with something that Conrad, Nelson and Lincoln -- and Schumer, Rockefeller, and Kerry -- can all vote for. I will say one thing: if Baucus can get something through his committee with fourteen votes by the end of September, then he'll deserve a lot of praise. But it could still blow up, and I'm not convinced that anyone, including Baucus, has a good whip count on committee votes.

For those of us who have an odd attraction to watching sausage get made...well, there sure are going to be a lot of unidentified animal parts flying around for the next couple of weeks.

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