Dana Milbank has the funniest story about the Baucus hearings yesterday. Apparently, Senator Bunning appeared and strongly criticized the Baucus proposal within the first hour of the hearing, then fell conspicuously asleep. According to Milbank: “As giggles rippled through the chamber, an aide shook Bunning, who woke with a start.”
The rest of the piece is fairly predictable, with Milbank criticizing the Republicans for daring to oppose the Baucus bill despite Baucus’ “major concessions to Republicans.” He also called Baucus “one of the last serious men in town,” and threw in a dig at the president’s Letterman appearance.
For a more serious analysis of the Baucus hearing, see Carolyn Lochhead’s piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, which makes the point I made yesterday about the, shall we say, ephemeral nature of the bill’s apparent budget neutrality. As Lochhead puts it: “Each compromise Baucus makes with liberals is likely to add to the roughly $800 billion the legislation will cost over 10 years, undermining the deficit reduction that is its chief selling point.”
Another interesting read is the AP story on Baucus exempting consumer items under $100 from the proposed tax on medical devices. Baucus needed to do this because the tax in question was being ridiculed as the “tax on q-tips.” The piece quotes Avalere president Dan Mendelson, who said “The trick is to get funding for the bill but not to have anything that smacks of a middle-class tax.”
The committee’s work will continue throughout the week, so it’s too early to give an overall analysis, but expect continued efforts toward achieving the Mendelson trick.