Max Baucus will release the Chairman's Mark -- the official first draft of his bill -- later today. But things are not going according to plan. He's got a bill full of the compromises meant to attract Republican support, but no Republican support. Not even Olympia Snowe, at this point, has committed to backing the bill.
Meanwhile, the framework has conceded enough to the GOP that it's also losing Democratic support, including that of Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Finance Committee's Health Care Subcommittee. And Rockefeller says that four to six Democrats on the committee feel similarly. Baucus is thus caught between a rock and a hard place. The absence of any Republican support makes it hard for him to justify his compromises. And his compromises make it hard for the Democrats on the committee to support his bill.
Nate Silver checks in with objections from the Senate Finance Committee:
Firstly, there's Jay Rockefeller, who opposes the lack of a pubic option.
These are not just any old random set of Senators opposing Baucus's plan -- these are the thought leaders on health care reform.
Negotiations are funny things. Sometimes the scariest moments come when you're closest to a settlement, as all sides feel emboldened to take the last opportunity to demonstrate resolve. Leverage in a negotiation is not necessarily a zero-sum affair, since nobody has any leverage if there's no hope to reach an agreement. So some of this maneuvering, perhaps, is a reflection of the bill moving closer to passage and not further away.
But let's be clear -- some of this is Baucus's chickens coming home to roost. When you make a unilateral decision to negotiate with only five other people from a 23-person committee and 100-person Senate, and two of those five people have clear electoral disincentives against supporting any plan that you might come up with, the negotiations are liable to end in failure far more often than not. The flurry of on-the-record statements against Baucus's reform plans -- not "leaks", not trial balloons -- points toward a defective process.
And that may suit Democrats just fine. There are at least three other starting points for a final showdown over health care: the House Tri-Committee bill, the Senate HELP bill, and possibly also the White's House's statement of principles, some of which remain vaguely defined. Many of the objections raised to BaucusCare would necessarily apply to one or more of those bills too -- but they'd appear to be starting from no worse a position than Baucus's plan itself.