There seem to be multiple versions of the "Gang of Six," but they all sound like bad news to me.
Ryan Grim reports at HuffPo:
A bipartisan group of centrist and conservative senators sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders on Friday urging delay in consideration of health care reform.And to what purpose, senators? You've had August to study costs and benefits. Is your staff lazy or incompetent? I tell you what: pull your spanner out of the spokes and shove it you-know-where.
The letter, obtained by the Huffington Post, was drafted by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and is also signed by Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.). Independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, signed on, as did Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- moderates heavily courted by President Obama.
It is a sad commentary that anyone would call these folks centrists. The perspective of the Village is badly skewed. And Nelson, Landrieu, and Wyden are DINOs, not Democrats.
Let's take a closer look at what these miserable excuses have been crafting, shall we?
Before they left Washington for the August recess, the Finance group, known as the "Gang of Six," had crafted the outlines of a package that trimmed more than $100 billion from the House price tag and jettisoned a government-run insurance option, which has become a rallying cry for many liberals but is opposed by Republicans. The senators also were looking to provide insurance subsidies to a smaller, less affluent group than the House bill would.As Digby so aptly comments:
After meeting via teleconference for more than an hour late Thursday, the Senate group is now looking to go further. They support a requirement that all individuals carry health insurance, but they are considering creating a bare-bones insurance policy that would be easier for people to afford without government help. They are also talking about further reducing the number of people eligible for subsidies, said an aide familiar with the talks.
Awesome, awesome plan. If we could just get rid of all subsidies and consumer protections, it would be perfect. All that would be left is the mandate.
Buy insurance stock.
What I, as a New Mexican, find distressing is that Jeff Bingaman is participating in this. Matthew Reichbach reports at The New Mexico Independent:
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman will participate in a teleconference to discuss health care reform legislation with his fellow members of the Senate Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six” according to “sources familiar with the agenda,” Roll Call reports.Senator Bingaman, if you are part of this approach then you are tossing us, the American people, aside and I say, "Shame on you!" Distance yourself from this now or you will never get my vote in the future.
Riechbach reports in a follow-up:
The Senate Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six” held a teleconference last night that Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said featured “a productive conversation.”Hmmm.
Bingaman, a Democrat, also sits on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee (commonly known as the “HELP committee”) which passed its own version of health care legislation earlier this year.
The other members of the “Gang of Six” besides Bingaman and Baucus are ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kent Conrad, D-N.D.,and Mike Enzi, R-Wy., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.
Senator Jeff Bingaman [OpenSecrets]Granted, that's only a third as much as Max Baucus got from the same sectors.
Health Professionals: $547,616
Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $100,986
Health Services/HMOs: $61,799
[Source: boldprogressives.org where you can see all the senators and their contributions from these sectors. Makes for interesting reading.]
Robert Reich has some pertinent observations:
I really don't get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that's what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.
So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley's hands?
It's not even as if the gang represents America. The three Dems on the gang are from Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota -- states that together account for just over 1 percent of Americans. The three Republicans are from Maine, Wyoming, and Iowa, which together account for 1.6 percent of the American population.
So, I repeat: Why has it come down to these six? Who anointed them? Apparently, the White House. At least that's what I'm repeatedly being told by sources both on the Hill and in the Administration. "The Finance Committee is where the action is. They'll tee-up the final bill," says someone who should know.
Mr. President, it is time you stopped playing so nice - and I do not buy that you are playing three-dimensional chess, you're just wussing - and kicked some senatorial ass. Get on it, dammit!