You could say Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. is the man of the moment.
In recent weeks, Baucus has been a media darling, or a bandit, depending, his face splashed across the pages of some of the nation’s largest news organizations. In this week’s Missoula Independent though, Matthew Frank’s solid profile of the senior senator attempts, as he puts it, to cut “through the news ping pong” that Baucus’ story has become.
The opposing view—voiced more loudly by critics—contends that Baucus’ lead role seems less political destiny and more dumb luck, like a third-string quarterback thrown into the game at the most crucial moment. He’s not very well known, somewhat inarticulate and a little awkward. The state he represents has fewer people than the number of Pennsylvanians lacking health care. He’s working diligently—but fruitlessly, so far—to draft a bipartisan bill, even though Democrats in the Senate have a filibuster-proof majority. His negotiation table includes everyone but single-payer advocates, whom he rejected like a patient with a preexisting condition. And the very industry he’s supposedly trying to reform has given him more money than its given almost any other member of Congress. Progressives wonder whether Baucus, beholden to big money, will blow the best opportunity to pass health care reform legislation in a generation.
Click here for the whole story. (In the sake of full disclosure, it should be noted that Frank is a former NewWest.Net writer.)
Elsewhere on Baucus watch, the Flathead Beacon’s Kellyn Brown points out that the trend I pointed out earlier in the week of dismissing Baucus and his colleagues, the so-called “gang of six,” for being from sparsely populated states, continues:
From Catherine Rampell at The New York Times Economix blog:
These states represent less than 3 percent of the country’s population, and hold only 2 percent of the nation’s uninsured, according to Census Bureau estimates.
It makes sense to give the residents of Montana and Wyoming a strong say in the future of health care reform, which will likely affect residents of every state. But shouldn’t someone representing a state with a few big complicated cities also have an official seat at that table, which is trying to determine a compromise that works for (almost) everyone? The way health care functions varies greatly from region to region, in terms of things like patient needs, delivery systems and resources. A more metropolitan state with a few rich, research-oriented medical facilities will operate differently, with regard to everything from expenses to treatment options to patients, from a rural state with fewer resources.