Senator Bayh Sucker Punches Dems (and Health Care Reform) On His Way Out the Door

You will be shocked, shocked to hear that a Blue Dog Democrat who made a career out of undermining his own party is sucker-punching them on his way out.  Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana abruptly announced this week that he would not seek reelection in November. Bayh’s departure is ratcheting up insecurity in the Democratic caucus at the very moment they need to take decisive action to pass health care reform.

Bayh could easily have won a third term, but it’s unclear whether any other Democrat can hold the seat. To add insult to injury, Bayh waited until 24 hours before the filing deadline for Democratic primary candidates, sending Indiana Dems scrambling to find a candidate to run in his place. Bayh’s tardiness was calculated. Since no Democrats were ready to file by the deadline, the Indiana Democratic establishment will get to handpick Bayh’s successor.

In a call with state Democratic officials, Bayh said his abrupt departure is for the best, as Evan McMorris-Santoro reports for TPMDC. According to Bayh, he’s doing the party a favor by sparing them a contentious primary process. Thanks a lot.

What does this mean for health care reform?

What does Bayh’s departure portend for health care reform? Monica Potts of TAPPED argues that replacing a conservative Democrat like Bayh with a moderate Republican won’t make that much difference. Bayh was never a reliable Democratic vote.

But Tim Fernholtz of TAPPED dismisses this view as naive. Fernholtz predicts that, for all of Bayh’s faults, the senate will be much worse without him: “In essence, the difference between this insubstantial Hoosier and, say, [GOP hopeful] Dan Coats, is simple: You can buy off Bayh.” Bayh voted for health care reform and the stimulus, no Republican, no matter how “moderate” is going to vote that way.

Anyone who expects a moderate Republican from Indiana to support any part of the Democratic agenda is deluded. On the other hand, the Senate Democrats already passed their bill, their only remaining task would be to pass a “fix” through budget reconciliation to make changes in the legislation that would be acceptable to the House. Of course, reconciliation will be a bitter political fight. One wonders whether the demoralized Senate Democrats will have the stomach for it.

About that health care summit…

Note that congressional Republicans have yet to commit to attending the “bipartisan” health care summit that they called for. Christina Bellatoni of TPMDC reports that yesterday White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wondered why the Republicans were for the summit before they were against it:

“Right before the president issued the invitation, the—the thing that each of these individuals was hoping for most was an opportunity to sit down on television and discuss and engage on these issues. Now, not accepting an invitation to do what they’d asked the president to do, if they decide not to, I’ll let them leap the—leap the chasm there and try to explain why they’re now opposed to what they said they wanted most to do,” Gibbs said.

Busting the filibuster

On the bright side, the Democrats still have a sizable majority in the Senate, with or without Bayh. Republicans would have to beat all 10 vulnerable Democratic incumbent senators in the next election in order to regain control of the Senate. The more immediate threat to health care reform and the Democrats’ ability to govern in general is the institutional filibuster. Structural reform is needed to break the impasse. Lawyer and author Tom Geoghegan talks with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on strategies for busting the filibuster.

Public option resurfacing

Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent reports that four senate Democrats have thrown their lot in with progressives clamoring for a public option through reconciliation. Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Michael Bennet (CO) argue for the public option in an open letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid. The letter reads:

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach – its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option….

Big pharma’s lobby

That’s nice, but let’s not forget who’s really in charge. In AlterNet, Paul Blumenthal recaps the sorry history of collusion between the White House, the pharmaceutical lobby group PhRMA, and the Senate. According to Blumenthal the White House steered pharmaceutical lobbyists directly to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the powerful Finance Committee, who was entrusted with crafting the White House’s favored version of health care reform.

Abortion and health care reform

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, Nick Baumann of Mother Jones notes that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is making abortion an obstacle to passing health care reform through reconciliation. The NRLC is insinuating that Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his coalition of anti-choice Democrats will vote against the Senate health care bill because it’s slightly less restrictive of abortion than the bill the House passed. The good news is that it’s procedurally impossible to insert Stupak’s language into the Senate bill through reconciliation. The bad news is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) needs every vote she can get to pass the Senate bill and anti-choice hardliners could be an obstacle.


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

photo credit: thanks to marcn via flickr
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger


Abo Ahmed r.
Abo r8 years ago


Martha Kauppinen
Martha Kauppinen8 years ago

This big change in our country's political climate should tell shrewd observers a LOT! No thinking, reasoning, intelligent person wants a government run health care plan the way it's been proposed! The Dems have been very sneaky about trying to force this issue and they've disappointed the American people on many levels too numerous to mention here.

April L.
April L8 years ago

And while I'm on it, here's some more food for thought...

Scenario 1: Emma is 25 years old and 40 pounds overweight. She eats donuts & pastries every day for breakfast and fast food for lunch. She has never exercised a day in her life despite the fact she is physically able to do so. She never gets enough sleep at night because she stays up watching movies & eating pop corn. She smokes a pack of cigarettes every 2 days. She drinks a case of beer each week.

When Emma turns 50, she finds out she is now a diabetic, she is now 55 lbs overweight, there is a spot on her lung and they want to test for kidney disease.

Scenario 2: Cara is 25, works out several times per week, eats mostly healthy foods, does not smoke and has only an occasional alcoholic beverage with dinner.

When Cara turns 50, she has no health problems.

Under a government run insurance program, single payer system, both Cara & Emma pay the same amount for coverage. Except, Cara needs it less. Still, she must continue to pay in the same amount as Emma. Cara is essentially paying for Emma's insurance and Emma doesn't take care of herself.

This is what some of you want??? Cara doesn't OWE Emma anything. They don't even know each other.

It makes me angry to think that this could be the country my children are forced to grow up in.

April L.
April L8 years ago

I'm not saying that there isn't a need to reform insurance laws...but GOVERNMENT RUN INSURANCE??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? America was NEVER meant to be a nanny state. Maybe some of you need a babysitter to take care of you, but I sure don't, thank goodness. If you give the government a say so in your health care, you give them control of EVERYTHING! Do you not realize this, or do you not care?????

And some of you who have posted on the autism/vaccines boards, you want to not vaccinate your children, but you want to givernment to give you healthcare? Well guess what, when they GIVE you healthcare, they can TELL you exactly what to do. This means they can take away all exemptions for vaccines and state that if your child isn't current on their vaccinations, then they don't get healthcare.

What the he!! are you people thinking? GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTHCARE???

Maybe Evan Bayh didn't want to be a part of the congress fleecing the American people. It's time for congress to listen to the people. The 25 or so people commenting on this thread may want a government plan, but the majority of the American people DO NOT WANT IT. LISTEN UP CONGRESS!

I'm happy they are still pushing for this stupid plan...maybe all the Dems up for re-elect this year will LOSE THEIR SEATS. Hopefully the next bye-bye will be for HARRY REID!

Unbelievable! Government run insurance?? Really??? GO TO FRANCE!

Nancy Hesse
Nancy Hesse8 years ago

Maybe, just maybe if we all worried a little less about party politics and a little more about what is best for the entire country, had a little more conversation, a little less name calling and finger pointing on both sides -- something good might get done.

Robert S.
Robert S8 years ago

I think he is planning on running for president in 2016.

Robert B.
Robert B8 years ago

Blue dog, Bad dog! Good Riddance! I guess he is going to get his financial payoff as a Well Paid lobbyist. One more SELL OUT! They lobbyists need to be stopped from throwing vast amounts of money around.

Jeanne Devey
Jeanne Devey8 years ago

It's just time for him to go, period! He's been Mr. No along with GOP'S.
Jeanne Devey

Rena Kaplowitz
Rena Kaplowitz8 years ago

Let's tell our reps and sens. in Congress that we want the public option! True health care reform won't be voted in by those who are the puppets of the insurance companies and the AMA lobby. Furthermore, it's a low blow to reintroduce the abortion issue to detract from the need to effect health care policy change immediately. Most Americans over 55 would love to buy in to Medicare. I would in a heartbeat....The threat of losing their seat used to be a potent motivator for elected officials, but now we have to ratchet up the pressure. So don't stop now. Scare tactics have been used before and will be in future....Don't be fooled again! Call, write, email, text, etc. your opinion. Whatever happened to "public" servants? Bye-bye Bayh!!!! and good riddance.

Helen Allard
Helen Allard8 years ago

I don't trust congress anymore.....I really don't know much about the tea parties except that I see a bunch of white angry people w/o much of a plan. I want to part of them or what they stand for which I don't know anyway, I know that I don't want to be around a bunch of angry white people who I think don't like anything that Obama does.
I was offended by the billboard that I saw about Bush, "do you miss me now". What the hell, no I don't miss him or any of Cheny's crap either.
I'm sticking with Obama and what he is trying to clean up after the Bush admin left. I still believe that we can change but not with the congress that we have now......We the people are no's we the congress and screw the people.......I may be off track about this I'm just saying what I feel as an american......Helen-- I know that I won't miss Bayh.....