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Shorter Rahm: If This All Goes South, Baucus Owns It

Rahm dictates a story to David Kirkpatrick in the New York Times about the deal with the hospitals. While Obama is taking an "active role" in pushing through health care — wouldn’t want people to think he wasn’t Commander in Chief stuff — the current pickle is really all Max Baucus’s fault:

Early last month, for example, hospital officials were poised to appear at the White House to announce a deal limiting their industry’s share of the costs of the overhaul proposal when a wave of jitters swept through the group. Senator Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman and a party to the deal, had abruptly pulled out of the event. Was he backing away from his end of the deal?

Got that? It was "his end of the deal." Nothing to do with the White House.

Not to worry, Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff, told the hospital lobbyists, according to White House officials and lobbyists briefed on the call. The White House was standing behind the deal, Mr. Messina told them, capping the industry’s costs at a maximum of $155 billion over 10 years in exchange for its political support.

Ever wonder why Messina suddenly crawled out of relative media obscurity to confirm the deal with PhRMA when Billy Tauzin was blackmailing the White House leaking to the New York Times? Now it’s Messina who reassured "lobbyists on the call." Messina is Baucus’s former Chief of Staff.

Some Democrats and industry lobbyists now argue that, in negotiating deals through Mr. Baucus’s committee with powerful health care interests, the White House was tacitly signaling as early as last spring that it might end up accepting something more modest than the government insurer the president has said he prefers.

See, the White House negotiated deals "through" Baucus.

Lobbyists for both the drug and hospital industries say that, as early as June, White House officials directed them to work out cost-saving deals with Mr. Baucus’s committee.

Are you getting it yet? Just in case it’s not crystal clear:

Drug industry lobbyists said they negotiated a deal to contribute $80 billion over 10 years toward the cost of an overhaul with Mr. Baucus, under White House supervision, before taking it to the president for final approval.

And now, pay close attention. On July 8, Biden announced that there was a deal with the hospitals — just like the one with PhRMA — where they agreed to $155 billion in cost reductions over 10 years. According to the NYT:

Several hospital lobbyists involved in the White House deals said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan paying Medicare rates — generally 80 percent of private sector rates — or controlled by the secretary of health and human services.

Got that? The deal between the White House and the hospital lobbyists meant that a public plan could not pay medicare rates. So what happens on July 15? The Blue Dogs pitch a shit fit, because they — wait for it — don’t want a government run pay to play Medicare rates!

Quelle coincidence, wouldn’t you say? But it gets better. How does Rahm respond to the charge that the White House is bigfooting the work of the committees?

Mr. Emanuel and liberal Democrats argued that the White House had worked more closely with the Senate Finance Committee because it was stepping in to break up legislative logjams. In the same way, they said, Mr. Obama and Mr. Emanuel had personally interceded to resolve a last-minute revolt by conservative House Democrats that threatened to derail a bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the end of July.

Yes and how exactly did Mr. Emanuel "resolve" that last-minute dispute in the House? By making sure the Blue Dogs got what they wanted, and that a government run plan wouldn’t be tied to Medicare rates! Why, miraculously just what Rahm Emanuel Max Baucus had negotiated with the hospitals!

[I]ndustry lobbyists say they are not worried. “We trust the White House,” Mr. Kahn said. “We are confident that the Senate Finance Committee will produce a bill we fully can endorse.”

Well I guess they feel they have reason to be confident. They no doubt have memos of their own.

And what should our takeaway be from all of this?

  1. When the Justice Department starts looking into pay-for-play ($150 million for $220 billion is a damn good deal) because the reckless Billy Tauzin just can’t help himself, Baucus will be cannon fodder.
  2. If there’s blowback onto the White House, it’s all Messina’s fault.
  3. Rahm is working through the Blue Dogs to get the House bill to conform to the Senate Finance bill.
  4. Anyone who thinks the White House is going to bring all these people to the table and cut all these deals, just to fuck everybody over in conference needs to be in rehab.

Is Messina going to be a good soldier and take one for the team? Well Rahm’s definitely setting him up. We may well find out.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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