Just Three Republicans?

From “Prospects For Bipartisan Health Reform,” a breakfast conference at Union Station in Washington, and the Senate Finance Committee mark-up of its health reform plan in the Hart Office Building:

Quick question: How many Republicans are likely to sign on to the health reform package now making its way through the Senate?  Apparently, only three, if you believe the prognostication offered by an august group of Washington insiders this morning: former Louisiana House Member Billy Tauzin (now CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America); Ron Pollack, executive director of the advocacy group Families USA;  and John Rother, executive vice president for policy and strategy at AARP.

The Pontificating Panel/Photo by Alicia Ault

The Pontificating Panel/Photo by Alicia Ault

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, whose Bipartisan Policy Center hosted the breakfast, was even less sanguine.  He said maybe two Republicans might cross their GOP leaders to back a reform package.

Mr. Daschle may be more in the know.  After all, as the Washington Post recently reported in a front page story, he occupies one of the most prominent seats at Tosca, Washington’s newest power lunch spot.

But it certainly doesn’t require a crystal ball or longtime inside-the-beltway chops to discern the lack of bipartisanship.

Just a few blocks away, the Senate Finance Committee had begun the second day of deliberations on its draft reform plan.   It was not pretty.  Republican amendments were being struck down with impunity by the Democratic majority;  Democrats’ amendments were largely adopted by the same majority.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) struggled to rein in a near-mutiny incited by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) over whether the committee was moving too fast.  (The same Jim Bunning who was caught napping during the first day of mark-up.) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the chairman’s lone Republican supporter after almost three months of negotiations, jumped ship and joined with Sen. Bunning in condemning what she called an illogical and improper rush.

Sen. Bunning’s attempt to delay a vote  was being echoed across the Hill. Or maybe his amendment — which would have required the legislation to be posted and a Congressional Budget Office score to be in hand before the committee voted — was an echo of what was happening elsewhere, as House and Senate Republicans vociferously pushed for passage of a bill that would require all legislation to be posted online or otherwise made public at least 72 hours before a floor vote.  See Minority Leader John Boehner’s release here and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s YouTube video here.

Sen. Baucus tried to muzzle his Republican colleague several times, but committee member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) interceded and Sen. Bunning got his say.  In the end, a Baucus-led amendment passed; it was a slight variation on the Bunning theme, requiring that the panel make its bill public 72 hours before it voted.

But it left a sour taste in Republicans’ mouths.

The sausage-making is getting bloodier.

How many Senate Republicans do you think will vote for the final health reform package? Take our poll.

— Alicia Ault (on Twitter @aliciaault)
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Filed under health reform, Practice Trends

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