Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, got an earful from fellow committee Democrats on Thursday morning as members vented their concerns about closed door, bipartisan negotiations the chairman is conducting with Republicans.
"I told him I'm not going to accept tax hikes with any Medicare cuts for my seniors," said Florida Democrat Bill Nelson.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, told reporters that Baucus heard heated comments from his colleagues, noting that he had been "shut out of the process," adding, "I think the chairman was a little surprised by the strength and intensity of feeling."
Baucus has been negotiating for weeks with Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, Mike Enzi, R-WY, Olympia Snowe, R-ME, Kent Conrad, D-ND, and Jeff Bingaman, D-NM.
Rockefeller said, "Max took all the problems that were given to him and handled them honestly."
Baucus told reporters after the meeting that any agreement among negotiators is just "a proposal," saying he would have to show any compromise product to his committee Democrats. "Lot of members not in the group of six clearly wanted to know what's going on...Even more important, it was an opportunity for me to hear what senators on the committee want and what they don't want...I made it clear to the group that any proposal that the Group of Six comes up with is just that, a proposal."
Part of the concern, according to one Democratic senator who attended the morning meeting, was a White House proposal for creating an independent commission to squeeze cost savings from Medicare. Republicans are pushing back against this proposal, leaving negotiators to find more savings, possibly from outside the health care system. In other words, from tax hikes.
Nelson said that the committee has "a long way to go" before producing a bill.