Baird: Healthcare votes of retiring Democrats aren’t necessarily in the bag

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) stressed Sunday that the votes of retiring Dems such as himself aren’t necessarily in the bag.

Appearing across from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Baird heartily agreed in principle with the need to reform healthcare but expressed reservations about the current bills. He responded “yes” when host Candy Crowley asked if he would vote against the current proposals even if it meant that healthcare reform went down.

{mosads}”The House bill is better than the status quo; the Senate bill is better than that,” Baird said, adding that the process could be done in a more “elegant,” “straightforward” way.

“I don’t think this bill is what I would like to see us do if I ran the universe,” Baird said.

Van Hollen expressed confidence that the bill would pass, adding voters liked components of the bill even if they were uncomfortable with the totality of the package.

Van Hollen also pointed out that even if things Baird and others may have wanted to see certain items in the package, he’s “obviously” not getting the public option that he wanted for a lack of Senate votes.

“There’s no question that we need to reform the current system,” Baird said. “The question is, is this the best way we can do reform?”

“The complexity I think worries a lot of people … because they build on an existing complicated system, a hodgepodge,” Baird said.

The Washington congressman shrugged off the idea that his vote would be influenced by a “take one for the team” pressure on retiring lawmakers.

“It has no impact on me whatsoever,” Baird said. “At the end of the day saying do it for political reasons or don’t do it for political reasons makes no difference to me.”

Van Hollen said Dems were continuing to work on Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who has said he could take a dozen Dems into the “no” category with disgreements over abortion language in the final bill.

“We’re going to continue to work with Bart Stupak and those members for whom that’s a concern,” Van Hollen said. “The issue is what can you use your own money for. … I don’t think we’ve lost.”

The DCCC chairman also referred to the controversial budget reconciliation tactic almost as a foregone conclusion in the final bill’s passage.

“Under the reconciliation process, under the majority-rule process, there are limits as to what changes you can make in the Senate bill,” Van Hollen said in reference to Stupak’s objections.

Baird, complaining that the Dems “don’t have a dance partner” in the GOP, also said the unwillingness of Republicans to budge nudges the bill toward reconciliation. “The choice we have left is a majority vote, which I think most people think we should use anyway,” he said.

Baird theorized that Republicans weren’t willing to meet Dems halfway on healthcare because “they see it as such a potent political weapon” come midterm elections.


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