If it was up to reformers, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) probably wouldn't be anywhere near the heart of health care negotiations. But unfortunately for them, he's right in the middle of the action. Yesterday he said he'd vote against the legislation he's helped craft in the Senate Finance Committee unless Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate guaranteed they wouldn't make it any more liberal. And now he's suggesting that, after months of delay, the committee probably won't settle on a final product before adjourning for August recess at the end of next week.
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Enzi's access infuriates liberals--but in a way his presence at the negotiating table is emblematic of the Finance Committee's entire process.
If after the Democrats' historic election in November, I had suggested that one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans would stand a chance of hijacking President Obama's health care proposal, you might have waved off the threat, and rightly so. But thanks to Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus--who has insisted on passing a consensus bill at the expense of a number of liberal goals--that's basically what's happening.
Enzi, the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, isn't without health care knowledge--but he's also not the sort of Republican who comes to mind when Democrats need a few Republicans to pass a major piece of legislation. He probably less in common with Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) than do most Democrats. In fact, he vociferously opposed the HELP Committee's reform bill, and is basically insisting that that bill, and House legislation, be completely scrapped before he and other conservatives hop on board. But despite that distinctly GOP-first outlook, Baucus gave him a seat at the table.