So much for bipartisanship in the Senate

I wouldn't have supported the bipartisan deal on Stimulus 2, but it is interesting to see how Senator Reid killed it so that he could blame Republicans for not getting something passed.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) worked for weeks with Reid's blessing and frequent involvement to craft an $85 billion jobs bill, a measure that seemed destined to break the partisan logjam that has ground the Senate to a halt.

But as Baucus, Grassley and President Barack Obama were preparing to celebrate a rare moment of bipartisan Kumbaya on Thursday, Reid stunned a meeting of Senate Democrats by announcing he was scrapping Baucus-Grassley, replacing it with a much cheaper, more narrowly crafted, $15 billion version.

"Grassley and three to four Republicans would have voted for it, but all the other Republicans would have beaten the living s—t out of us [during the 2010 midterms], claiming the bill was too bloated," said a Democrat who supported Reid's decision, explaining the leader's logic.

Few felt as good about the decision: Republicans say the about-face will only add to an already poisonous partisan atmosphere, liberal Democrats think the bill is too small to do much good and the powerful negotiators of the bipartisan package were left embarrassed, demoralized and befuddled.

Aides to Baucus and Grassley said their bosses didn't know of Reid's decision when they unveiled their bill early Thursday – and expected it to have the leader's support.

"Sen. Reid's announcement sends a message that he wants to go partisan and blame Republicans," Grassley spokesperson Jill Kozeny said in a statement.

Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who supported the bipartisan effort, said her boss was “deeply disappointed that the majority leader has abandoned a genuine bipartisan compromise only hours after it was unveiled in favor of business-as-usual, partisan gamesmanship.”

The White House also appeared to be caught off guard.

Moments before Reid announced his decision, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement, saying, "The draft bill released today by Sens. Baucus and Grassley includes several of the president's top priorities for job creation. [T]he president is hopeful that the draft language presented today will lead to a bipartisan Senate bill." . . .

On health care, Obama is pushing for a summit when it is obvious that Democrats have already decided what they are going to do and that they don't really seem interested in any deal with Republicans.

Senate Democrats may go into the bipartisan health care reform summit later this month holding a legislative gun to Republicans' heads.

Some Democrats are readying a health care reform "Plan B" in case negotiations at the half-day televised forum on Feb. 25 go nowhere. The plan would involve passing part of the imperiled health care bill using reconciliation, a controversial procedural maneuver that would allow the package to pass with 51 votes, as opposed to the usual 60 required to overcome a filibuster.

"I think a decision has just been made -- we're just going to go ahead" with a reconciliation bill, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told reporters. . . .

Trying to undo the political damage, "A senior Democratic Senate aide clarified that Democrats are heading in that direction, though they are waiting to see what happens on Feb. 25 before making a decision."

That might be believable if there weren't already other statements such as:

In comments reported by Congress Daily, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top health care aide Wendell Primus admitted top Democrats have already decided on the strategy to pass the Senate's pro-abortion, government-run health care bill.

Primus explained that the Senate will use the controversial reconciliation strategy that will have the House approve the Senate bill and both the House and Senate okaying changes to the bill that the Senate will sign off on by preventing Republicans from filibustering.

“The trick in all of this is that the president would have to sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill second, and the reconciliation bill would trump the Senate bill,” Primus said at the National Health Policy Conference hosted by Academy Health and Health Affairs.

“There's a certain skill, there's a trick, but I think we'll get it done,” he said. . . .

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