, the Capitol Hill rag, reported yesterday about a meeting that the staff of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) held with health industry representatives and lobbyists, where they were basically told that if they met with a couple of Republicans senators, they would be crushed in the healthcare negotiations process.
Russell Sullivan, the top staffer on Finance, and Jon Selib, Baucus’ chief of staff, met with a bloc of more than 20 contract lobbyists, including several former Baucus aides.
“They said, ‘Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,’ ” said a Democratic lobbyist who attended the meeting.
“Going to the Republican meeting will say, ‘I’m interested in working with Republicans to stop healthcare reform,’ ” the lobbyist added.
Republican leaders have been meeting with healthcare stakeholders for months, with those sessions occurring “more frequently than once a month,” according to a senior Senate GOP aide.
The stated purpose of Thursday's meeting, organized by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is to discuss proposals for how to pay for healthcare reform.
In other words, if you exercise your constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech and you exercise your legal right to do your job, and you talk to Republicans, you will be punished harshly.
And Baucus is the moderate one.
You have to wonder what kind of threats are being made by Pete Stark, Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy’s people.
It is interesting to note that the Baucus folks are most concerned about a Republican meeting about how to pay for this multitrillion-dollar entitlement that we simply cannot afford at this time. Cleary, the Montana senator doesn’t have the answer to that critical question yet, and he might be afraid that the best answer is the most obvious. Don’t do a public plan at all.
When Republicans put together the Medicare reform bill several years ago, they were criticized for not inviting Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to a couple of meetings with House and Senate negotiators. Rangel was dead set against the bill, and was disruptive in other meetings, which is why they cut him out.
But Republicans never went to the lengths that Senate Democrats seem to be going with these threats.
It shows how the pressure is really getting to the Democrats and to the Baucus staff in particular.
To the credit of the Senate Finance Committee chairman, he said he didn’t know anything about the meeting or about the threats, and I believe that is true. But I also know that Sullivan has been around long enough to know what impact his words have, and he was making those threats to send a message to K Street.
Those threats, though, are starting to look more like desperation than anything else. The AMA is walking away from negotiations, as is the Chamber, and possibly the NFIB.
The public option is starting to look like the weakest option. Cost is the reason. They can’t raise taxes enough to pay for it, they can’t cut spending to pay for it, and they can’t just put it on the credit card. The credit card is already maxed out.
But the double standard still needs to be mentioned. Had Republicans threatened Democratic lobbyists to this extent, it would have hit the front page of every major newspaper, provided for constant chatter on every cable channel, and Brian Williams (the president’s favorite correspondent) would have done a two-hour special on it.
Alas, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Still isn’t fair, though.