Conservative Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana unveiled his long-awaited health reform proposal yesterday, the results of weeks of negotiations among the Senate Finance Committee's so-called "Gang of Six"–three Democrats from the right-wing of their party and three moderate-to-conservative Republicans. The bill (unsurprisingly) does not include a public option andcouldend up leavingmiddle-income Americans paying too much for health insurance (Think Progress, 9/15/09). At the same time, no Republican–including those in the Baucus' Gang–has indicated that they intend to vote for this bill.
But some of the early media coverage seems to find it encouraging that the Baucus bill pleases almost no one. The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly presents that view today ("From Finance Chief, a Bill That May Weather the Blows"), with the lead: "On the surface, it appears that no one is happy with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)–and that may be the best news President Obama has had in months."
What exactly is the good news? Connolly explains that liberals unions "fumed," but more importantly, "the fragile coalition of major industry leaders and interest groups central to refashioning the nation's $2.5 trillion health-care system remains intact." These "influential players" have not found "reasons to kill the effort." Quite the opposite: "Most enticing was the prospect of 30 million new customers." Well, that is good news–if you happen to believe that pleasing health insurance companies is the key to passing meaningful reform of that industry. Here you see the worldview of the Washington Post in action.
Meanwhile, USA Today's front page headline in the print edition (9/17/09) is "Bill Seen as Step in the 'Right Direction.'" This is a strange conclusion to reach about a bill that no one seems to like. The "right direction" comment was made by Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican included in Baucus' Gang of Six, who the paper tells us isn't even sure she'll support the Baucus plan anyway. On their website USA Today has changed the headline to read, "Bill Elates Few but Seen as Progress"– an improvement, but still a strange way to describe the state of the debate. Unless, of course, one seesMax Baucus, Olympia Snowe or the insurance industry as the most important voices in that debate.