Baucus is Back

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 9 2011 6:00 PM

Baucus is Back

Susan Davis confirms that Harry Reid will recommend John Kerry (liberal elder statesman), Patty Murray (first prominent female on one of this committees since... when?) and Max Baucus (liberal nightmare) to serve on the SuperCommittee.

Why "liberal nightmare"? Let us recall: Max Baucus, as ranking member then chairman of the finance* committee, gave the Bush tax cuts some of the Democratic support they needed to pass. In 2009, Baucus's "gang of six" health care dream resulted in nothing, unless you count the lengthy delay it caused for getting a health care bill over to a Senate vote. And the process and delay were key to the mammoth unpopularity of health care reform. Baucus has also become one of the party's more credible voices for deficit reduction at the expense of sacred cows.

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So the Democrats will have one of their compromisers on the committee. Unless the GOP puts up one of its compromisers -- a neo-Gang of Sixer, or someone like Bob Corker -- the Baucus move alone means a committee that leans right.

UPDATE: I still see some liberal annoyance about this pick, but there are two mitigating arguments. One: Baucus has held the line for them on entitlements, denying George W. Bush cover during his 2005 privatization campaign and opposing the Gang of Six plan. Two: In a truncated period, Baucus's love of process might not matter.

*I somehow mis-stated this as "budget" before.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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