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Presidents Baucus and Grassley Allow Obama to Speak

Monday, Co-President Chuck Grassley told Andrea Mitchell that his discussions on health care with Co-President Baucus was the only game in town. Nothing accomplished by the Senate HELP Committee matters. And as for the House bill, everything they proposed is "off the table." Chuck and Co-Prez Max have that phrase down.

I’ve been watching the news stories all day, and I’ve yet to find a single statement by any Democratic leader to challenge Grassley’s view. Oh, Speaker Pelosi insists they’re still on track, and Harry Reid says we’re still following some schedule. But it is startling that neither Reid nor Durbin, Pelosi or Hoyer, seems offended by President Grassley’s arrogant assertion that he and Co-President Baucus will unilaterally define health care reform, so only their views matter.

I would have thought that the role of the Senate Finance Committee was to figure out how to finance necessary health care reforms in a responsible fashion. It wasn’t their job to make the major "policy" calls about what reform entails. That’s the job of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committtee, and the respective House Committees, and they’ve already defined what they want and are in basic agreement.

No, Finance’s job was to look at the range of financing options — some from Tax A, some from Tax B, a bit from Tax C, plus Savings X, Savings Y, etc. — and then choose. Put together a package that’s fair and that does the job. But apparently, the entire Congressional leadership is waiting for President Baucus and President Grassley to tell them what the substance of reform will be.

So, what have the two Co-Presidents produced so far? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Unless you count delay.

Despite their dismal failures and delays that are putting reform in serious risk, the Demoratic leaders areallowing these arrogant Co-Presidents, all by themselves, to decide whether we can have reform at all, whether reform will create meaningful competition for insurance companies or not, whether individuals or employers will have to do anything, whether reforms will be done nationally or be handed to such 3rd world states as Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska, and whether there will or will not be an institution with authority to examine, recommend and enforce ways to "bend the curve" of exploding health care costs.

How did it come to pass that the country has left 1/6 of the US economy in the hands of these two people? When did we elect them as Co-Presidents?

I suppose a co-presidency with no other meaningful legislative branch is one way to organize a government. But I just wish they’d told us how this works in grade school. Those of us in the rest of the country could have avoided the trouble of voting. And those 530 or so other chumps in Congress would have known not to waste their time or ours.


Update: Tonight, the man whom the nation’s crazies — that’s most of the Republican Party these days and much of the media — think is not President held a press conference. At least the press addressed him as "Mr. President" and didn’t call him names like half the clowns on cable news do.

The President addressed — no, surrounded, analyzed, explored, turned in-side-out, every question. He defended health reform as necessary and correctly tied it to bringing down budget deficits and avoiding bankruptcies. He talked about how much progress has been made, and the broad scope of agreements.

But he also seemed to focus a couple of times on making the insurance companies the villains — near the end he spoke of their record profits at a time of rising premiums and used that to defend the need for the public plan, to keep them honest. And he repeated some of the stories he hears — "my health coverage is great," he said, but a lot of people are having problems. That was a good response.

He’s still praising Grassley, Snowe, and others on Finance, even though they’ve produced nothing and could force him to retreat on major elements of the reforms he described tonight. I didn’t hear him putting any pressure on them to propose real reform, and that continues to be a problem, in my view.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley