Ousting Baucus

What's driving Democrats to consider taking down one of their own members in the Senate?

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Democrats are upset with Max Baucus, a Democrat, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee that has been working on a pared-down health care bill. They are so upset, in fact, that Senate Dems are publicly considering a move that could potentially strip Baucus of his powerful post. Baucus's left-leaning opponents in the blogosphere smell blood and wasted no time joining together in support of ousting Baucus.

Seeing liberal bloggers circle Baucus is a bit like watching a pack of hyenas on the Discovery Channel. You can almost see Steve Benen baring his teeth as he writes:

As of today, probably the biggest hurdle standing in the way of health care reform is the Senate Finance Committee, or more specifically, the group of six centrist and center-right senators on the committee who are crafting a Republican-friendly proposal. The effort, like the committee, is being led by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the not-at-all-liberal Democrat from Montana. [...] It's Baucus who's in the lead, and it's Baucus who won't advance reform until he can win over some conservative senators. Apparently, there are some senators who are wondering why Baucus has this much power, and what the caucus might do to change this. [...] "That's a nice gavel you have there, Max. It'd be a shame if something happened to it."

Salon's Alex Koppelman, whose blog appropriately displays a bird of prey on the logo, agrees:

Senate committees are a little like feudal fiefdoms. The committee chairs don't have absolute power over their turf, but they do get to dominate the agenda, and by extension they can skew the operations of the entire Senate. There's hardly any better illustration of this than how Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has been guarding the gate to healthcare reform.

Ezra Klein calls the proposal "really interesting," favorably comparing it to Kennedy's filibuster reforms, but concluding, "no one really wants to expend political capital on arcane parliamentary battles." Matthew Yglesias criticizes the system of determining chairmanships rather than Baucus himself, but manages a subtle jab at Baucus' home state of Montana. He writes of a supposedly hypothetical Senate chairman:

The guy can be corrupt or incompetent, and he still gets it. His views might be out of line with the sentiments of the party in charge or the American people, and he still gets it. He might represent a state containing no metropolitan areas, no racial minorities, and barely any rural white people and he still gets it. Vast authority with almost no accountability. [...] The merits of this proposal really have nothing to do with the details of Baucus or the health care battle. They are also obvious and overwhelming.
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