Key Members of the Senate Finance Committee
Focused on Health-Care Reform
Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.)
Birthplace: Helena, Mont.
Hometown: Missoula, Mont.
Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1964; Stanford University, LL.B., 1967
First Year in Senate: 1979
Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; Finance; Joint Committee on Taxation
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus is responsible for driving health-care legislation. Although liberal Democrats have previously questioned Baucus's party allegiance, he is known as a lawmaker who reveres the bipartisan tradition of the Committee and has pledged to uphold it. In his 30 years in the Senate, he has never sought party leadership positions or spearheaded a high-profile policy issue.
Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa)
Birthplace: New Hartford, Iowa
Hometown: New Hartford, Iowa
Education: University of North Iowa, B.A., 1955, master's, 1956; University of Iowa, 1957 to 1958
First Year in Senate: 1981
Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Finance; Budget; Judiciary; Joint Committee on Taxation
Winning over Grassley, the Committee's ranking Republican, would be a major feat for Democrats and a rare step away from the GOP voting base for Grassley. The activist legislator is a close friend of Baucus. Although he refers to health-care legislation as "the biggest bill of my career" and his homestate of Iowa largely supports health-care reform, Dennis Goldford, a Drake University political science professor, told the Post's Shailagh Murray, "He's a guy who tends to think he's not just there to service the constituency, but to legislate. People like that can get caught in the middle."
Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R-Maine)
Hometown: Auburn, Maine
Education: University of Maine, B.A. (Political Science), 1969
First Year in Senate: 1995
Senate Committees: Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Finance; Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Ranking Member); Select Committee on Intelligence
A moderate Republican in the Senate, Snowe is known for her bipartisanship-building skils. As chairman of the Small Business Committee in 2003, she vowed to expand access to affordable health insurance. She opposes White House efforts to shift control of the Medicare payment equation. Her chief concern tied to health-care reform legislation is that providers will continue to look to lawmakers to protect their interests but that under a new system, she and others will be unable to respond. Congress must retain the ability to "shape and influence" Medicare rates, she recently told the Post's Shailagh Murray. "We're still going to be held accountable."
Sen. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.)
Birthplace: Bismarck, N.D.
Hometown: Bismarck, N.D.
Education: University of Missouri; Stanford University, B.A. (Government), 1971; The George Washington University, M.B.A., 1975
First Year in Senate: 1987
Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Finance; Indian Affairs; Budget (Chairman); Joint Committee on Taxation
As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, a committee that frequently deals with issues such as Medicare and Medicaid spending, Conrad is known as a fiscally keen legislator. A deficit hawk, Conrad has pushed the group to find savings to pay for expanded health-care coverage. He is also one of the architect's of proposed "cooperatives" that would replace the government-sponsored health insurance program advocated by President Obama and other Democrats. He's a former state tax commissioner.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-N.M.)
Birthplace: El Paso, Tex.
Hometown: Silver City, N.M.
Education: B.A., Harvard, 1965; LL.B, Stanford University, 1968
First Year in Senate: 1983
Senate Committees: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Chairman); Finance; Health, Education, Labor, and Pension; Joint Committee on Economics
Bingaman, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Senate HELP committee, often takes a bipartsian approach in rallying support for legislation. Known as low-key, he has voted with Democrats about 91 percent of the time in this session of Congress, according to National Journal's vote rankings. He has voiced doubts about a purely government-run insurance alternative but has spoken favorably about a nonprofit insurance option.
Sen. Mike Enzi, (R-Wy.)
Birthplace: Bremerton, Wash.
Hometown: Gillette, Wy.
Education: The George Washington University, B.A. (Accounting)
First Year in Senate: 1997
Senate Committees: Finance; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (Ranking Member); Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Budget
Enzi, the ranking Republican on HELP committee, was pegged the Senate's 'fifth most conservative lawmaker' in 2007 by National Journal. He had a cordial working relationship with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass). The two teamed up on legislation to expand mental health coverage and have often partnered on bills to invest in medical technology. In 2006, Enzi sponsored a bill that would have helped small businesses secure health insurance for employees, which he has called a compromise between the today's proposals and the Bush-backed deregulation of "association health plans." Enzi voiced bitter frustration that the health bill this year was crafted largely by Democratic staffers, arguing against what he calls "artificial deadlines" in the health reform talks. Senior Democrats say they are most skeptical about his commitment to passing health care legislation. He is a certified public accountant.