Real-time reporting from the Senate finance committee vote on health reform.

Real-time reporting from the Senate finance committee vote on health reform.

Real-time reporting from the Senate finance committee vote on health reform.

How to fix health policy.
Oct. 13 2009 2:56 PM

Health Reform Clears Finance

Real-time reporting from the Senate finance committee vote on health reform.

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What's unreasonable?

11:30 a.m.: More opening statements. Blah blah blah. Meanwhile, if the Senate finance committee's live video feed  doesn't work for you (it doesn't for me), try the Washington Post's live video feed.

10:53 a.m.: While we wait during opening statements for the actual amending to begin, let me take this moment to flag this extremely helpful sortable spreadsheet  of all 564 proposed amendments, prepared by Slate's Chris Wilson. Here's the  text of the bill  to be amended.

10:50 a.m.: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says this is the most difficult piece of legislation he's ever worked on.

10:39 a.m.: Kyl also dumps on the Massachusetts health reform, where he says soaring costs are leading to rationing. This legislation was signed into law by Kyl's fellow conservative Republican, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Massachusetts experiment puts Republicans in a bind. On the one hand it resembles the federal bill that they're trying to kill. On the other, it's the work of someone who may end up becoming their presidential nominee in 2012. If the Baucus bill is to be branded Obamacare, I'd like to see more public references to the Massachusetts version as Romneycare.

10:37 a.m.: Mere seconds after Menendez's complaint, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says: "This bill is a stunning assault on liberty." In one breath he says the bill constitutes "a Washington takeover" of health care. In the next he complains that it will bring about cuts in Medicare.

10:30 a.m.: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is the first Democrat to complain about partisan baiting from Republicans.


10:10 a.m.: A little while ago, while I was fiddling with my Wi-Fi connection, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he had just read T.R. Reid's The Healing of America. He waved a copy for the cameras. This is the best news  I've heard all morning. Unfortunately, he took away the wrong lesson from it. He said there were many examples in the book of industrialized countries that "contain costs, have universal coverage … and yet are not government-run systems." Well, yes. What he neglected to say was that in these countries health insurers were regulated to a degree not contemplated in any bill under consideration and were not permitted in most instances to operate on a for-profit basis when providing a government-mandated package of basic health benefits. The Reid book, incidentally, is ranked No. 11  on this week's New York Times best-seller list, even though the TimesBook Review declined to give it a stand-alone review.

10: 06 a.m.: Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is speaking now. "Let us recall it took us a year and a half to pass Medicare." She adds, in her Down East accent: "The system is fundamentally flarred."

10:04 a.m.: First invocation of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's memory, by his fellow Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry.

9:57 a.m.: Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the bill does too mandate government takeover of health care.

9:55 a.m.: I'm here in the committee room today, but I could be home watching on my computer. At least in theory. I can't seem to make it work on my laptop.

9:50 a.m.: It never pays to arrive at these things on time. The finance committee members are reading their opening statements. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., begins by stating that his bill does not mandate government takeover of health care. "We have a tradition of mixed solutions. We have a tradition of compromise. We have a tradition of balance." He says he hopes the bill can reach the Senate floor "as early as next week."

Correction, Sept. 25, 2009: An earlier version of this column erroneously referred to Sen. Bill Nelson as Sen. "Ben" Nelson. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

E-mail Timothy Noah at