In his opening statement at today's Senate Finance hearing on "The President's Fiscal Year 2010 Health Care Proposals," Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said he and Sen. Chuck Grassely (R-IA) had laid out a schedule to have a bill on the president's desk by July 4th.
The ambitious agenda is another signal that Baucus intends to be one of the key players driving health reform forward. The Boston Globe an excellent piece detailing Baucus growing prominence in health care:
The careful Montanan, known for irritating the left wing of his party by compromising with the GOP on a range of matters, including the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, has suddenly become a leading force behind legislation that liberal Democrats have longed to pass for the last half-century. [...]
Because of Baucus's tendency to hew to the political middle, many healthcare reform advocates feared that the Democrats' top voice on finance would decide that a health bill was too expensive amid an economic crisis. In 1993, Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan insisted that healthcare reform wasn't a priority and helped kill Bill Clinton's plan.
Baucus has chosen a starkly different course, arguing with evangelical zeal that the economy's free fall is not an excuse to put off changes in healthcare but rather a compelling reason for a comprehensive fix: Healthcare costs, he argues, are bankrupting individuals, businesses, and government.
You can read Baucus's full opening statement at today's hearing is below: