If every kid in class finishes their homework except for one, guess which kid will get the most attention. That’s right, the slacker.
And, when the slacker finally does turn in the assignment, it is invariably a slapdash job that fails to meet minimum standards.
So it is in the U.S. Senate, where the Finance Committee finally got around to finishing its health care reform assignment.
The vote on the measure — which does not include a public option to hold insurance companies to account — was 14-9, with all Democrats on the committee and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe voting Tuesday to toss the measure into the legislative sausage-grinder that will eventually produce final legislation for the Senate to consider.
The important thing to remember is that for all of Tuesday’s attention to the finance committee vote, the full Senate will never vote on this particular measure.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has said throughout the process that “the bill that (the Finance Committee) proposes is just that – a proposal.”
Harkin is too polite to state the obvious: The Finance Committee proposal is no more likely to become law than the slacker student’s last-to-be-handed-in homework assignment is to be awarded academic honors.
That’s a good thing because the Finance Committee bill falls far short of real health care reform. It steers billions of taxpayer dollars into the accounts of insurance companies while failing to provide a realistic, humane or fiscally-responsible alternative to their profiteering.
Of course, that embarrassing omission did not prevent the committee’s chairman, Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat whose campaign accounts are overflowing with insurance-industry contributions, from hailing his “accomplishment.”
Baucus has always fancied himself as the man who would define the parameters of reform. On the committee, he set up an elaborate process for achieving bipartisan “buy-in.” He assured everyone that he would get all the warring camps of the Senate Democratic Caucus behind one bill. And he promised that it would be a good bill.
Baucus failed on all three counts:
1. He blew deadline after deadline, delaying action for so long that the entire reform initiative was put in jeopardy.
Baucus patted himself on the back at the start of Tuesday’s final finance committee session for puttering away on the project “for 2 years now,” as if that was some kind of accomplishment. It wasn’t.