If there's one clear and unequivocal thing the Democrats did wrong in the last session, it was letting the health care debate consume virtually all the Congressional term. The longer and more acrimonious the debate, the more the process itself colored perceptions of the bill, and the more it fed the perception that Democrats were ignoring the economy. They could have passed the exact same bill in early fall, sparing themselves months of process stories and Cornhusker Kickback angst, and then tried to build support for some kind of temporary tax cut or another economic measure. Instead, they consumed months on end in a completely futile question for Republican votes. There is literally no rational argument that the Democrats were better off passing a bill in the Spring rather than passing the exact same thing six months earlier.
Unless, of course, you're Max Baucus:
The key Senate Democrat who delayed health care reform last year while trying to get Republican buy-in is now facing the uncomfortable reality of his own prediction, leading him to weigh some bipartisan changes to his party's signature legislation.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus' reputation as a dealmaker will be put to the test as he faces resurgent Republicans hostile to legislation that has been associated with him nearly as much as President Barack Obama.
The high-ranking Democrat, who has in the past drawn the ire of party faithful for seeking middle ground with Republicans, can't escape his prediction last summer that the health care bill needed GOP votes if it was going to last the years. At the time, liberals hammered him for trying to get Republicans on board.
"And I was right," Baucus said.
Really, that's your takeaway? You were right? Look, I don't think Republicans support was as valuable as Baucus did, but I agree it had real value. But you had to weigh that value against the considerable cost of delaying the bill. If Baucus ended up securing GOP support at the cost of delay, you could argue about whether it was worth it. Yet the calculation here is not very difficult. There was zero Republican support. The party simply made a calculation to withhold its votes and make the bill completely partisan, driving down its popularity. Olympia Snowe voted against the final product even though it was the same thing as what she voted for out of committee.
Let's tabulate this. Costs of Baucus's strategy: high. Benefits: zero.