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Max Baucus Was for a Deadline Before He Was Against It

I just returned from a week long vacation, so my apologies if this has been covered. The worst news of a terrible week is that Max Baucus is even more pathetic than I thought, and believe me, I had set the bar extremely low. A few weeks ago, Max Baucus told his committee that if he had not reached a bipartisan agreement by September 15, he would go ahead and push a vote through his committee anyway. I hailed this as huge news. (The Republicans have every incentive to delay health care negotiations indefinitely, even if they plan to sign on eventually.) Clearly the deadline originated from the White House, but Baucus agreed with it, or at least had put his prestige behind it, making me think he would understand the necessity of enforcing it.

Now (and by "now" I mean last Friday) I see that the "Gang of Six" negotiating a bipartisan health care bill has decided to blow off this deadline:

In a conference call, the three Democratic and three Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee agreed to redouble their efforts to craft a less costly alternative to the trillion-dollar initiatives so far put forward in Congress. They discussed the possibility of also reining in the scope of their package, the sources said. The senators rejected the idea of imposing a deadline on their negotiations, and they agreed to talk again Sept. 4 -- four days before lawmakers are scheduled to return to Washington from their August break. The consensus, one participant said, was "to take your time to get it right."

In case you don't realize this, Max Baucus is a member of the Gang of Six. This is his own deadline he's scoffing at.

So first Baucus announces a deadline. Then he says we don't need no stinking deadline. I'm at a loss. I have been told by somebody in a position to know firsthand that Baucus, to put it delicately, is not an intellectual giant. But is he such an affable dolt that he simply agrees with whoever speaks with him last? Do other Senators routinely trade him shiny new dimes for drab old dollar bills? Just how mentally feeble is this man?