Orrin Hatch has officially dropped out of the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan talks on health care reform. Via Politico:
Hatch informed Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Wednesday afternoon that he couldn't continue to participate because there were too many aspects of the bill that he could not back, including the employer mandate, individual mandate, Medicaid expansion and tax increase...Hatch said he told Baucus he would try to be helpful, but he couldn't stay in the talks under "false pretenses."
Hatch's departure brings the number of senators involved in Baucus-led talks down to seven, including Republicans Enzi, Grassley, and Snowe. His departure is undoubtedly another nail in the coffin for bipartisanship, but as Cohn points out, a more partisan bill--should one actually pass--could actually bring better reforms to Americans than a bipartisan one. So was Hatch's involvement all for naught? Well, not necessarily. As the Politico story mentions, Democrats were surprised that Hatch even bothered to stick it out in the bipartisan talks for so long, given all his protestations. (And as I described in my earlier piece on Hatch, the Utah Senator's personal relationship with Kennedy may have been the impetus for his unusually resolute commitment to the process.) That Hatch--certainly one of the most conservative members of the bipartisan group--was so closely involved up until now underscores the fact that a degree of moderate support for the comprehensive reform is still possible in the Senate. And Hatch's additional comment to Baucus that he's still willing to be "helpful" is perhaps a sign that he'll be willing to vote for cloture to prevent filibustering the bill-the most, and perhaps, the best we can hope for at this stage in the game.
Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.