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Can we call this a bipartisan agreement?

From last week.

As Democrats in Congress push harder for a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers in some reform bills, Sen. John Cornyn said it remains a “deal-breaker” with Republicans.

From this week, via Kos.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus was meeting with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

OK then. The Democrats can pass a better bill, and the Republicans can sit on the sidelines instead of “negotiating” a “compromise” that they’d all then vote against anyway. Works for me. Ezra notes the political calculus of it:

The story doesn’t say this, but the likely concessions would also have another effect: They would make the bill less appealing to the public. Taxing employer health benefits, which I support, is a wildly unpopular idea. So too is eliminating the public insurance option, which commands large majorities in polling (much larger majorities, actually, than health-care reform as a whole). A bipartisan bill, in other words, will probably attract three to four Republicans, and in return, sacrifice a half-dozen Democrats, demoralize the liberal base and create a plan that’s harder to sell to the public. It’s hard to imagine the cost-benefit calculus that could bring those sides of the ledger into balance.

He also thinks that this story was put out by a Democratic Senate staffer who opposes the idea of telling Baucus to ignore the Republicans, probably from one of the usual suspects. I have a feeling that it won’t play out the way that person hoped it would. I sure hope so, anyway.

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