Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus says the "time has come" for passing health care reform, which he will do with or without Republicans. Few Democrats had done more to bring Republicans into the fold than Baucus, who has been villified for months by liberal pundits for his compromises. Baucus also stated today he does not plan on pursuing a public option, inspiring just as much controversy as his change in strategy.

  • Not Good Enough  Matthew Yglesias said Democrats should ignore Baucus's bill and push through a public option:
  • I’ve defended what Max Baucus proposed as better than no bill (and taken a lot of crap for it) but Baucus' bill is worse than the House bill and worse than the HELP bill and it’d be better to pass a better reform package, which is a lot easier to do if you can do some of it with 50 votes. I’m no senate parliamentarian, but it seems to me that since creating a public option leads to CBO-scorable savings, that it should be within the rules to do one in reconciliation.
  • Republicans Can't Stop Reform  Steve Benen praised Baucus' decision as shifting pressure from Democrats to Republicans:
  • This is significant. Before the recess, Baucus indicated that the Finance Committee would move on a bill when a bipartisan deal was in place. Today's news means the Gang of Six's relevance no longer matters -- the Finance Committee is moving forward. This announcement doesn't preclude a bipartisan deal -- the six centrists and conservatives will apparently keep chatting -- but it means their discussions will no longer delay the process. The train is leaving the station in two weeks; whether Republicans climb on is up to them.
  • Baucus No Friend of GOP  Once praised by conservatives for bipartisanship, Baucus's shift drew the ire of National Review's James C. Capretta:
  • The Baucus plan is flawed from the get-go because it starts from the same misguided premise as its counterparts in the House. It seeks to achieve "universal coverage" but without building a functioning marketplace to slow the pace of rising costs. And so, if it were to pass, costs would escalate just as rapidly in the future as they have in the past, and it would only be a matter of time before the current administration or its successor proposed new and draconian "cost control" measures to hold down governmental health-care spending.
  • Great For Drug Companies  The Wall Street Journal's health care blogger Alicia Mundy pointed out Baucus's sneaky provision:
  • Medicaid will no longer classify smoking cessation prescription drugs as “excludable.” Put another way, the medicines will be covered by the program that provides coverage to low-income people. That could be good news for Pfizer, which makes the anti-smoking drug Chantix, and for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Zyban, the major competitor to Chantix.