With 564 amendments to consider, the Baucus Bill is going to get a workout in committee. Rockefeller wants to strike out the co-ops and include a public option. Schumer wants to get rid of the mandate. Snowe wants a trigger mechanism for the public option. And then there are dozens of little bits to work through. Kerry wants to protect the manufacturers of medical devices. Bill Nelson wants to prevent cuts in Medicare Advantage. Orrin Hatch wants to make all states beginning in ‘U’ exempt from certain provisions of the bill. It all gets started on Tuesday. The key thing to remember is that the composition of the Finance Committee is 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Than means any time there are two Democratic defections (without any Republican cross-over), the Republicans are going to win the vote.

It is not known when the Democrats will be able to seat their 60th senator (from Massachusetts) but getting unanimity within the caucus will be difficult in any case. If Rockefeller’s public option amendment fails, it’s likely that he will vote against the bill coming out of committee. Will Snowe make up for that defection? Will any other Democrats go with Rockefeller, killing the bill? If Rockefeller’s public option amendment succeeds (an unlikely prospect), will that mean Snowe is out of the picture? Will that doom that bill on the full Senate floor?

And the public option is only one of several potential bombs that are set to explode as the committee tries to move this legislation.

I still think that the Finance Committee will fail to report a bill and that if they do report one, the overall bill (once it is melded with the HELP Bill) will fail to get 60 votes. I still think we’re headed for the budget reconciliation process. But, we’ll know for sure before long.

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