Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) announced this afternoon that “there is no way ” he could support the health care reform plan drafted by Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and his “(Bipartisan) Gang of Six” to be presented tomorrow, Weds. Sept. 16. Senator Rockefeller said in a conference call with reporters:
The way it is right now, now we have an amendment process coming up next week. I’ll have many, many, many amendments and we will see what happens on that. But now, there is no way that I can vote for the Senate package. For a lot of reasons. Obviously the lack of a public option is one of them. So that I want to be very clear about.
Rockefeller is one of about a half-dozen Democrats on the Senate Finance Commmittee, including also John Kerry and Chuck Schumer, whom Chairman Baucus excluded from contributing to the drafting of the plan.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos  reports  that Ron Wyden (D-OR), also of the Senate Finance Committee, is “livid” about what Baucus and his little group have come up with after several months’ work. One top Democratic official told Stephanopoulos that “the fundamental problem is that Democrats ‘are being asked to support a bipartisan bill that doesn’t have bipartisan support.’” Further, CNN reports  that when Baucus unveils his plan, it will not have the support of the three Republican “Gang of Six” members with whom he has been working for months, Charles Grassley, Olympia Snowe, and Mike Enzi.
So . . . why are they in the room, and the Democrats are not? And why has so much attention been lavished on the production of the Finance Committee’s plan when Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee wrapped up their bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act , in July (guided by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut)? Who needs Baucus when we have Kennedy?
We faxed a quick thank you note to Senator Rockefeller that reads in part:
We applaud you. . . . Senator Rockefeller, just as you have shown independence and leadership in matters of national security, we hope you will urge Majority Leader Reid to disband Baucus’s “Bipartisan Gang of Six” and go with the HELP Committee plan led by senators Kennedy and Dodd—now under the capable leadership of the good Senator Harkin. The HELP plan would provide near-universal coverage at about $597 billion over the next decade—or about $1.3 trillion with subsidies to the poor, some 4 percent of the $33 billion the U.S. is projected to spend on health care over the next 10 years.