Bless him, Father Occam, for he has sinned.

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In my continuing disagreement with the tendency of the twenty-something liberal bloggers to blame the system for Democrats’ inability to get things done, I take note that Ezra Klein has now gone well out of his way to do just that.

In commenting on the fact that Dems are losing patience with Sen. Max Baucus over his inability to get a health care reform bill moved out of his committee (the Finance Committee), Klein says:

But this isn’t, as some are suggesting, because Baucus is a schmuck. It’s because the structure of the legislative process is more important than the individuals within it. The House has majority rule and an internal structure that lends itself to party discipline. The Senate has the filibuster. And beyond the Senate having the filibuster, Baucus wants a bipartisan bill out of his committee.

It is no surprise that the chamber with majority rule and party discipline is outpacing the chamber with anti-majoritarian rules and a bipartisan bent. We’re seeing how difficult it is to build bipartisan legislation when the minority believes it can kill the bill.

Occam (supposedly) tells us we shouldn’t multiply entities unnecessarily — in this case, those entities are explanations for the failure of Max Baucus — and Klein has done exactly that.

Let’s review the three key facts:

  1. Baucus, for whatever reason, surely having nothing whatever to do with the fact that he’s gotten more campaign money from the health care industry than has any other member of congress, rilly, rilly wants his bill to be bipartisan.
  2. The GOP believes it can kill health care reform altogether, which would be a huge political albatross to hang around the Dems’ necks in the next elections; therefore no Republican has any incentive to vote for Baucus’s bill or even negotiate in good faith.
  3. Unlike the House Dems  — and, though Klein doesn’t mention this because it cuts against his blame-the-system argument, also unlike the Senate GOP — the Senate Dem caucus is totally undisciplined.

QED.

You don’t need any more than that to explain why Baucus can’t — won’t — get moving.  So long as he clings to his forlorn hope for a bipartisan bill despite fact #2, and so long as Harry Reid continues to let him, there will be no bill.

The existence of the filibuster rule is, at this point, irrelevant.  It doesn’t apply to committee votes.  The rules for committee votes are totally majoritarian.  Just like Klein’s beloved House rules.  All Baucus needs is 12 of the committee’s 23 votes, a simple majority; which means he doesn’t even need all 13 Democrats to vote with him.  He chooses not to proceed on that basis, and Senator Mudpuddle chooses to let him dawdle.

So, while Klein says “the structure of the legislative process is more important than the individuals within it,” that’s simply not the case with health reform.  The individuals in the system are more important than the legislative process.

Baucus is a schmuck (or at least a chump).  So is Reid.  So are the Republicans.  And that’s the problem.

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2 Responses to “Bless him, Father Occam, for he has sinned.”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    Baucus, for whatever reason, surely having nothing whatever to do with the fact that he’s gotten more campaign money from the health care industry

    Snark aside, big business owns congress. This is due, in large part, to the power of campaign contributions, and in another large part to the influence of their lobbyist, and in another large part to their abmbitions to become lobbyists or some other version of high-paid parasite. Is Baucus really interested in a bipartisan bill? There really is no reason to. My guess is he’s slow-walking because the Health care industry owns him, and his loyalty is not to you and me.

    The GOP believes it can kill health care reform altogether . . . therefore no Republican has any incentive . . . to . . . even negotiate in good faith.

    Because of senate rules and procedures.

    These are systemic problems in the system.

    I’m not defending any of the people, many of whom genuinely are schmuks. But, really, the root cause is in the system.

    Really.

  2. jazzbumpa Says:

    Oops. HTML fail. Meant to close italics after “good faith.”

    My bad.

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