Turmoil in Senate over Baucus healthcare deal

Some Democrats are balking at a long-awaited deal for a bipartisan bill

Published September 15, 2009 8:01PM (EDT)

It's taken Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., quite a while to figure out the details of the healthcare reform bill he's been working on with several other Democratic and Republican senators. Now that the legislation is just about ready for its big unveiling, though, it's in trouble.

Two Democrats, Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Ron Wyden are unhappy with the bill. Rockefeller, for one, has already gone so far as to say, "I want to make clear that in its current form I cannot put my support behind the Finance bill — it will not have my vote." Among other things, he's reportedly upset about the lack of a public option in the bill.

Of course, Rockefeller and Wyden aren't the only people with reservations. Baucus' chief negotiating partner in the GOP, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, has already all but said he won't vote for the bill, no matter how many concessions to him it contains. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos summed up the Democratic perspective on all this pretty well, saying, "Baucus draft is a bipartisan bill without bipartisan support."

Update: More defections from Baucus' group -- CNN reports that when the senator unveils his bill, he'll do so "without the support of the three Republican senators — Charles Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe — he's been negotiating with for months."

Also, the quote attributed to Rockefeller has been changed since the first published version of this post, as the original wording came from a post on Twitter and wasn't precise.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Jay Rockefeller D-w.va. Max Baucus D-mont.