Why the Gang of Six is Deciding Health Care for Three Hundred Million of Us

Last night, the so-called “gang of six” — three Republican and three Democratic senators on the Senate Finance Committee — met by conference call and, according to Senator Max Baucus, the committee’s chair, reaffirmed their commitment “toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill” (read: less coverage and no public insurance option). The Washington Post reports that the senators shared tales from their home states, where some have been besieged by protesters angry about a potential government takeover of the nation’s health care system.

It’s come down to these six senators. The House has reported a bill as has another Senate committee, but all eyes are fixed on Senate Finance — and on these three Dems and three Republicans, in particular. But who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation’s health care?

I don’t get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House’s health-care bill will spawn “death panels,” empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die. At an Iowa town meeting last Tuesday Grassley called the President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi “intellectually dishonest” for claiming the opposite. On Thursday Grassley told the Washington Post that Congress should scale back its efforts to overhaul health care in the wake of intense anger at town hall meetings. But — wait — the anger is largely about distortions such as the “death panels” that Grassley refuses to debunk.

This week on Fox News Grassley termed the House bill “the Pelosi Bill,” and called it “a government takeover of heath care, exploding the deficit because it’s not paid for and it’s got high taxes in it.”

I really don’t get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that’s what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.

So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley’s hands?

It’s not even as if the gang represents America. The three Dems on the gang are from Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota — states that together account for just over 1 percent of Americans. The three Republicans are from Maine, Wyoming, and Iowa, which together account for 1.6 percent of the American population.

So, I repeat: Why has it come down to these six? Who anointed them? Apparently, the White House. At least that’s what I’m repeatedly being told by sources both on the Hill and in the Administration. “The Finance Committee is where the action is. They’ll tee-up the final bill,” says someone who should know.

Originally published at Robert Reich’s Blog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

7 Responses to "Why the Gang of Six is Deciding Health Care for Three Hundred Million of Us"

  1. Anonymous   August 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    You have been there. This is politics 101When this bill passes and the shit hits the fan, the democrats what cover by saying it was bipartisan by virtue of the three republican members of the gang of six.Thereafter, the democrats will blame it all on the republicans for agreeing with them.

  2. l. laird   August 21, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    They got elected…and selected by their peers. Which is a whole lot more than you ever did.

  3. CH   August 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Robert….you are the epitome of the out of touch far left in this country. The reality is that these six states represent a solid cross section of the centrist hard working american population…not the liberal coasts. A population that irrespective of party affiliation is growing weary of increased government control in any form. You should spend less time whining about death panels, Fox news, and the like and address (if you can) the very real arguments and questions about government mismanagement of everythig from the war to medicare and the incredible cost of the public option and how it will be paid for. Give us some actual economic statitics to support your arguments. I thought this was an economic blog?As a sidebar, the blue dog dems may actually be listening to their constituents (hello, that’s what they were elected to do) and fully recognize if they breach that responsibilty they will be tossed on their cans in the next election.

  4. Guest   August 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    If you knew anything about history which apparently you do not a lot of times major decision on major issues often do rest on a few. I do believe earlier this year there was an agreement by resolution in the senate that 60 votes well be needed for passage not 51. Surely a person of your education level knows this. To go with 51 votes for passage would violate the agreement.For the first time today I realized how passage of the health care bill could cost me well over 8000 thousand dollars year in diverted wages.1. I currently have catastrophic coverage through my employer with health savings account – this will be illegal under the health care bill.2. My employer decides it is cost affective to pay the tax rather than provide health coverage.3. The federal government looks at my earnings and bank account and dictates I must buy the public option.

  5. Invest in America, buy a senator!   August 24, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Hey CH, The blue dogs are listening to who pays them, ie, the rich lobbies. Give us a break the American people are tired of this bullshit, but we don’t have the money to pay Fox to puut Goebbels on TV, and we don’t have the money to invest in Senators. The probelm with big money is, to corrupts democracy. It should be 1 person 1 vote, not $1000 = 1 vote or whatever the equation is.And there are too many greedy people willing to be corrupted to save on their taxes. They are digging a hole for their children, thats the death panel for you. Our democracy is dying, and its thanks to the greedy Americans who know who to lie to ignorant Americans.

    • CH   August 26, 2009 at 6:46 pm

      Invest in America:More extremist blather….ease back on the juice (will help with spelling and linear thought) and write something intelligent.If you’re truly worried about lobbyists and “corruptors” controlling politicians, the smartest thing you could argue for is LESS government control….shrink government’s ability to control our lives (you can start by saying no to the jamb down takeover of the health care system) and the lobbyists and the like become less powerful.

  6. MPatin   August 28, 2009 at 11:43 am

    The Democrats have more than communication issues on their hands. Without adequate cost control measures to contain abusive healthcare pricing and med mal liability awards, any “reform” will not have the intended fiscal effects in the long run. And without crawling out from under the thumb of insurance, trial attorneys, and maybe the AMA too, then adequate cost control measures won’t happen.