The Baucus Dialogues: My Conversation With a GOP Congressman About a Magic Quote

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 4 2013 3:04 PM

The Baucus Dialogues: My Conversation With a GOP Congressman About a Magic Quote

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Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., has some questions of his own for political reporters.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Republicans took their time filing out of today's conference meeting; having agreed upon some strong messaging about Democratic intransigence, they stuck around to talk to reporters. Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, an 11-term conservative from Savannah, gamely hung around to talk on and off camera about all the offers the House GOP had made, only to be rebuffed by the Obama administration. I asked a question I occasionally write about in this space: Given that the GOP agreed to deals in 2011 that didn't defund or delay Obamacare, how long will they stick to that demand in 2013?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"I'm not sure why it wasn't part of the August 2011 discussions," said Kingston, "but, you know, in the words of Sen. Baucus, the Senate architect of the bill, it's a train wreck."

Having written about the Baucus "train wreck" quote before, and having listened to approximately 94 percent of the Republicans in the House and Senate cite it, I decided to finally quibble with the interpretation.

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"He didn't mean the actual implementation," I said. "He meant it if wasn't advertised correctly."

"All I know is that he said it was a train wreck," said Kingston. "You might be closer to him than I am. We do know—you know what's a great questions for you guys, since you're so interested in Obamacare? How many members of the administration went through the exchange. Does anybody want that story? I think it'd be a good one. Did Kathleen Sebelius go into the exchange Oct. 1?"

"We've talked to people who are not in the administration," I said.

"I think it'd be an interesting story," said Kingston.

"She's not eligible," interjected another reporter.

"Oh!" said Kingston, victorious. "She's not eligible! Well, you know, we did pass a bill Saturday night—I just think it'd be interesting, how many of the administration employees went into the exchange, since it's such a wonderful thing. Let me ask y'all—how many of y'all went into it?"

"I have health care already," I said, confusedly, deciding to declare a personal bias that happened this week. "We've talked to people who've gone into it—my brother's going into it."

"Well, did you go into it?" asked Kingston.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I have health care already! The exchanges aren't for people who already have health care."

"I don't know," said Kingston, "but I'll say this. Sen. Baucus did say it was a train wreck. Now, he may have needed you as a press guy, to say, 'No, Senator, that's not what you meant.' "

"No," I said, "in the full context, it's not what he said! He's a senator—he could get get rid of the law if he wanted to. But he was talking to Sebelius about the PR campaign."

"What did Harry Reid say about children and cancer? What would you say he meant to say?"

"Oh," I said, "he said a stupid thing about how he didn't care about one kid with cancer."

"Well, there you go—we agree on something!" Kingston good-naturedly turned back to the other reporters, deflecting a question about whether the Tea Party had too much influence in the debate. Later, I apologized to him for my occasionally heated tone, saying I just wanted to clarify the Baucus point.

"Not a problem," said Kingston. "It's good practice."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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