Over at the Daily Kos blogsite, mcjoan has brought up an excellent point: The process by which the Senate Finance Committee is approaching its work is deeply flawed. She and I may disagree on the merits of the “co-op plan” that they favor, but we share a couple of serious process concerns that have been raised by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).
First, Rockefeller and most other committee members have been shut out of the discussion, which currently involved only six members. The other 19 members are hopefully getting more information than the public (which has so far seen only a mid-June leak of a first-draft outline), but they’ve been excluded to the point that some are making noises about ousting committee chair Baucus. That is a sign of a degraded process for decision-making, which will make later work more difficult.
Another concern is that the gang of six appears to be pushing forward in the absence of reliable data on what impact a co-op plan is likely to have.
I don’t believe that we can really tell the future from the past, because a nationally coordinated, government capitalized cooperative development initiative is very different than the regionally concentrated grassroots initiatives started in the 1930s and 1940s. Nevertheless, we need to know everything we can about what has worked and what hasn’t. Otherwise, we risk repeating the mistakes of those co-ops that have failed. And we cannot afford to do that.
Fortunately, Sen. Rockefeller has contacted the GAO to request any information they can provide. I’m anxiously awaiting their response, and will appreciate any hot tips about that information when it comes.
When we are tackling such an enormous and important issue, we need to do it well. If a co-op plan is going to succeed, it will rely on the goodwill of enough people to become members and make it viable. If the plan is rammed through somehow, it will reduce the likelihood of its success.