Senate Democrats

Sen. Baucus: The Truth About Bipartisanship

From the beginning of the health care reform process, President Obama and Democratic leadership pledged to craft a bipartisan bill. Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee, worked closely with the so-called "Gang of Six" – three Democrats and three Republicans – to put together a bill that would represent the best ideas from both parties.

Despite the long hours and many weeks stretching through Congress’ August recess that Baucus spent leading his committee members towards a bipartisan compromise, only one Republican Senator – Olympia Snowe – lent her support to its passage out of committee.

Regardless of the lack of broad Republican support for health care legislation, Democrats remained hopeful that several of their GOP colleagues would change their minds as they had a chance to amend the bill on the Senate floor.

Our hopes for cooperation were unrealized.

Shortly after the start of the Senate health care debate, it became abundantly clear that Republicans had no intention to work toward a good faith compromise, and no designs on producing their own health care plan.

Instead of offering amendments to the Senate bill – as is standard procedure during any legislative debate – Republicans offered five motions to commit, which amount to procedural roadblocks that were designed to kill this historic legislation. 

With the facts showing a clear attempt to reach across the aisle by Baucus and the Finance Committee Democrats, Baucus was surprised – to say the least – to hear his Republican colleague, Sen. Roger Wicker, suggest a lack of bipartisanship on the part of Democrats. Wicker clumsily attempted to argue that the Gang of Six members wanted to support a compromise, but "it dawned on them that my friends on the other side of the aisle wanted to Europeanize the health care system of the United States of America."

Outraged by Wicker’s attempt to distort the truth about the Finance Committee’s negotiations, Baucus responded angrily:

"I want to tell the Senator that that is not what happened. I was in the room constantly, constantly. I talked to those Senators many many times. That is not what happened. I”ll tell you what did happen. Your leadership pressured them, pressured them, pressured them not to work together. There is no European style effort in that room, that is a totally untruthful statement. Totally untruthful statement. None whatsoever….That assertion of working towards a European solution is entirely untrue. It’s entirely false."

“I just want the public to know that we worked very hard to get a bipartisan bill that side of the aisle started working with us but gradually they began to bleed politically,” Baucus said. They realized “that they would do a better chance in the 2010 elections by just not working with us, but just attack attack attack attack attack and try to score political points to defeat any honest effort to get health care reform."