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The Center for American Progress Action Fund hosted Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who outlined his priorities for health care reform. March 27, 2009
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) made an offer to his fellow senators: send him their tax reform ideas, and he'd keep them secret for 50 years. This stunning offer for absolutely no transparency, typical of Baucus' closed-door, smoke-filled room preference for lawmaking, has had pretty predictable results: "lawmakers and lobbyists are using their confidential and off-the-record testimony and letters of support to ask for brand new or expanded tax breaks in addition to the old."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to participate in this exercise, possibly because he knew it would be a boondoggle, and probably because there was no indication that Baucus would go along with the Senate Democrats budget blueprint call for $975 billion in new revenue over the next decade, a budget plan Baucus voted against.

Reid issued a thinly veiled warning last week that he couldn’t support a reform that doesn’t generate significant levels of revenue. He suggested using the Senate budget, which called for about $1 trillion in new taxes, as a base even though Baucus opposed that measure in large part because of concern about the new revenue target.

“I want Sen. Baucus and Sen. [Orrin] Hatch to go forward on tax reform, but it has to be under the total understanding that this can’t be revenue neutral; it can’t even be close to neutral,” Reid said. “It has to be significant, and a good place to start would be the budget resolution.”

Other key Democrats agree, perhaps not feeling like reliving the fiasco that was Baucus' health care reform negotiations: months and months of chasing—and being strung along by—Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) resulting in very little. While Reid comes off as the bad guy in this story (it's his lack of support that's keeping Republicans from participating, Politico says), he's definitely not alone. The White House isn't jumping on Baucus' "reform" bandwagon, either. While it's looking for tax code tweaks in its lesser Grand Bargaining, it doesn't seem to have much interest in this effort that Baucus wants to claim as his legacy when he retires in 2014.

It's just as well. Would Baucus really want his legacy to reinforce his approach to lawmaking: secret, weighted down by lobbyists, out of the public eye, and away from public input? That's a pretty depressing history.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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