Senator “Train Wreck” Goes Home to Montana
On April 23, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, announced that he was retiring from the Senate after six terms. In a parting shot to the Obama Administration, he warned that health reform was headed for a “train wreck”. If it is, the blame will rest squarely on the Senator himself, since his Committee wrote the bill.
More than any single person, Baucus himself deserves the blame for the unpopular and poorly wrought health reform legislation Obama is now struggling to implement. Baucus vetoed Obama’s first choice for Secretary of HHS and health reform point person, former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, due to personal jealousy and rivalry, costing the administration not only decisive leadership in crafting health reform, but four crucial months at the beginning of 2009.
Then Baucus ceded the lead on writing the legislation to Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, who pushed aside Republican colleagues and wrote an inflammatory and highly partisan bill that ignited a political firestorm on the right which caught fire during the summer of 2009. Failing to sense the wildfire of popular reaction against the bill, Baucus then wasted most of the fall of 2009 trying to get a bipartisan solution in the Senate.
When Republicans rebuffed him, he turned his overmatched staff loose and they wrote the Affordable Care Act which is now law. It was an incompetent effort, staggeringly complex, riddled with drafting errors (some nearly fatal), heavily reliant on expanding a broken Medicaid program and upon the co-operation of state governors and legislators who opposed the bill. Baucus actually told voters in Montana that he had not read his own bill before the President signed it into law.
Three years later, with the implementation process breaking down and key states (Florida, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, etc.) failing to co-operate, Baucus had the gall to warn the administration of an impending “trainwreck”. If it is, the Senator’s unique combination of vanity, political tone deafness and legislative incompetence will be the main reason. Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time.
Want to see a real train wreck: view this December, 2009 YouTube of Baucus on the Senate floor railing against his political opponents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5Y9X5ggxzA
Hasta La Vista, Max Baucus.