He kept everyone waiting until the very last minute, but Rep. Brian Baird finally handed Democrats one of the votes they needed to squeak out a victory on health care reform last night. Having voted against a similar bill last November, what made the Vancouver Democrat change his mind?
Baird yesterday issued what The Washington Post called an "unusually lengthy and pensive statement" to explain, and it isn't entirely convincing. He reasons that this bill, unlike previous versions, "will be paid for and does not add to the deficit."
One might expect Baird, who has raised lots of questions about the cost of reform (see pdf), to be skeptical of this highly debatable claim.
Can a bill that requires almost a trillion in new spending really reduce the deficit? While the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has agreed with Democrats that the bill can do so, a former CBO director recently sided with conservatives in a New York Timesop-ed that attributed the positive spin to "gimmicks and budgetary games."
Baird concedes in his statement that the CBO analysis "contains a number of shortcomings." And he lists a number of other concerns he has with the bill, such as its complexity.
But he also cites what he sees as the bill's pros, including its prohibition on excluding sick people from insurance policies. His bottom line, he says, is that an imperfect bill is better than no bill at all.
With many calling the bill "historic," the retiring Congressman may have also feared being on the wrong side of history.
Inevitably, conservatives say his vote has rendered him just that. Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele seethed last night that the Washington Congressman will "forever remembered as the Congressman who sold-out his constituents in the ninth-inning for Team Obama."