Why the Finance Committee?

If you heard the Blog Talk Radio show last night with me and Stranahan, you heard me screaming into my phone trying to explain exactly why the Finance Committee and its leaders, Baucus and Grassley, are involved in healthcare reform.

The argument is that the president made a mistake allowing these nincompoops to take control of the process in the Senate. Why is the president praising Baucus? Why is he complimenting Grassley?

The Finance Committee, for better or worse, has jurisdiction over Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and is therefore has a mandatory role in heatlhcare legislation. If you're looking for someone to blame, try FDR. From the official Finance Committee history (page 95):

In 1935, the Committee on Finance acquired jurisdiction over another major area of legislation—the Social Security system. On January 17th of that year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt transmitted the Report of the Committee on Economic Security which he had established on June 8, 1934. The resulting Administration bill, because of its tax features, was referred in the Senate to the Finance Committee. After months of work, the bill was reported to the Senate.

So when President Obama praises Baucus or seems to be giving too much latitude to the Finance Committee, it's largely due to the fact that he has to appease this committee or else healthcare reform dies there.

I can't imagine that the president, behind closed doors, is particularly thrilled with this crew because they're the only committee to not pass a bill prior to this insane recess -- a goal the president was very firm about in June and July. And for good reason as we've all witnessed this month.