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When A Picture Says A Thousand Words, None Good

David Herzenhorn and Robert Pear of the New York Times have an article today profiling the group of Senate Finance Committee Members trying to forge a bipartisan compromise on health care reform. And it comes with a handy annotated photo, explaining each of the members. There are three Democrats: Chairman Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman, and Kent Conrad. And there are three Republicans: Michael Enzi, ranking minority member Charles Grassley, and Olympia Snowe. 

The article notes that the group has already rejected two Democratic ideas: There will be no public insurance plan and, as first reported by Assoicated Press last night, there will be no requirement that employers contribute towards the cost of coverage for their employees. (Instead, there will be a "free rider" provision that charges employers a fee if their workers qualify for subsidies.) But since the negotations are still ongoing, I imagine the bill will be pared back farther.

I'm not sure it makes sense to kick and scream about all of this right now. Getting a bill out of Finance, any bill, will move things along. There's always the Senate floor--where the Finance bill must be merged with the bill from Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee--and then confernece committee. But it's important to note just how skewed this group is.

Look again at that picture: You don't see Jay Rockefeller, whose history of working on health care over the years is right up there with Ted Kennedy and Henry Waxman. And you don't see Ron Wyden, who spent the last two years promoting a serious and worthy health care plan that has the virtue of actually covering everybody with real financing--and has at least a little Republican support.

Instead, we have Mike Enzi. I don't know much about Enzi, except that he's a bona fide conservative who--last time I checked--basically disagrees with the basic core principles essential to any workable universal coverage plan. I'm sure it's possible to gut a plan enough to win his support. But why would that be a good thing?

--Jonathan Cohn