On Thursday morning, somebody’s going to be left out. You see, with the exception of the keg, which is far too socialist of a beer delivery system at this politically delicate time, beer comes packaged in increments of six. We have the six pack, the twelve pack, and the case (24). None of these figures is divisible by 7.
Yet, on Thursday at 11:15 in the morning, President Obama is inviting the “Gang of Six” to the White House for a meeting on health reform. The Gang of Six includes six key members of the Senate Finance Committee: Sens. Baucus (D-MT), Grassley (R-IA), Bingaman (D-NM), Conrad (D-ND), Enzi (R-WY), and Snowe (R-ME). Given that the struggles of the Senate Finance Committee to agree on how to pay for reform have been one of the big holdups with reform, this is likely to be an arm-twisting effort by Obama to bring both sides to a consensus on key elements that remain under dispute.
Recently, in the Gates-Crowley ordeal, President Obama earned himself a bit of a reputation as the “Beer Mediator” (like the Dog Whisperer, but much, much cooler). His motto: Surely there’s nothing between us that can’t be resolved over a pint or two. But, count with me, six Senators plus one President equals seven. So, unless Vice-President Biden crashes the party again and everyone splits the case — 3 beers each — then someone is going to be left out.
All indications are that either Sen. Grassley or Sen. Enzi will be the one to go without. As ranking member, there’s a much stronger spotlight on Grassley, and I think you can expect him to work towards a bipartisan agreement. Sen. Baucus has already circled September 15th on the calendar, and while some suggest that he’s merely bluffing, I don’t think Grassley is likely to call him on it. It’s really the Senate Finance Committee version of “Pay-or-Play.” Work with us on this or be content with what we come up with for you.
I expect that President Obama will reiterate his broad “elements of reform,” but more than that I think he will use the power of the executive office to deliver an ultimatum to the group (and that includes Baucus) — either get serious about reaching bipartisan consensus, or get ready for a purely Democratic bill. Obama’s seen too many “soft” deadlines pass already, and the stakes of the debate are too high, for him to convene a “status update” sort of meeting. I think this is more of a Rahm Emanuel, head-bashing sort of get together.
What will come of the meeting, we won’t know until after it adjourns, but this we do know: there’s not going to be enough beer for everyone. That means something’s got to give, and it may mean that someone winds up giving up their seat at the table.