Baucus on Reading Bill: We Hire Experts for That

The Flint Report | August 25, 2010

As an update on the story out of Libby, where Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) for a listening session Monday, apparently Senator Baucus- the Chairman of the US Senate Finance Committee who helped author the federal health care bill- still hasn't even read the entire thing.

This according to The Flathead Beacon which filed this report.

Judy Matott asked Baucus if he would work to improve Libby’s image, and then asked him and Sebelius, “if either of you read the health care bill before it was passed and if not, that is the most despicable, irresponsible thing.”

Baucus replied that if Libby residents assembled an economic development plan, he would do what he could to help, and he took credit for “essentially” writing the health care bill that passed the Senate.

“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill. You know why? It’s statutory language,” Baucus said. “We hire experts.”

So he wants to take credit for writing the legislation, but still hasn't even read the bill?  Reminds me of when one of my young kids grabs the broom and pats it against the floor.  You graciously thank the child for helping sweep the floor- even when realizing they didn't really do a thing to actually help.

As a side note, Judy brings up another great point: the only time the Montana press corps does a story about Libby is when it pertains to the asbestos issue, and it has hurt Libby's image and economy.  Maybe the cameras can show up to tell a good story about Libby every now and then.  Go visit and you can find plenty.  When we went to Libby for a live show of "Voices of Montana" during Logger Days, I had a nice lady who owns a business on Main Street come up to me during a commercial break and hand me a note graciously thanking me for coming to Libby and telling the story of Libby other than just the asbestos issue.

As the Associated Press reports with the headline "Baucus, Sebelius Rebuked Over Health Care in Libby," even Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was taken aback by the harsh questioning and criticism of the federal health care bill he helped author, as the US Senate's Finance Committee Chair and a Cabinet secretary held a listening session in Libby, Montana.  

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Baucus at the event.  Oddly enough, I checked in with our Libby radio affilliate to see what they were planning for news coverage and they mentioned having trouble even getting information out of the Senator's office regarding the days events.  Nonetheless, a  few critics were able to make it inside. 

Here's what the AP report had to say:

Instead of saying thanks, some residents rebuked Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Max Baucus on Monday for the very law that could help potentially thousands of asbestos victims here.

The health care reform law passed last year expands Medicare coverage for the sick residents of Libby, where years of asbestos pollution from a vermiculite mine made this the nation's deadliest Superfund site.

Other reports I received indicated a much more luke warm meeting than the AP suggests.  However, it is telling that even here in Libby, Montana- a place that was given a special deal (albeit deserving) under this federal health care bill, angst continues to surface over the bill.  
One woman asked Baucus where it says in the Constitution that people should be required to purchase health care. Another, retired nurse Judy Mattot, demanded to know whether Sebelius and Baucus had read the entire bill.

"How can you pass something that you don't know what's in it?" Mattot said.

The questions seemed to put Baucus off guard.

Of course, if the politicians wanted to take care of Libby- they could have done so as a stand-alone measure, instead of passing a bill that nearly everyone else (Libby residents included) has problems with.

Sebelius also spoke at an event in Missoula, you can find video of that event by clicking here.