As select members of the Senate Finance Committee race to finalize their health reform bill before August recess, it’s worth noting just how few Americans those lawmakers represent.
The so-called “gang of six” consists of Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.); and GOP Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Combined, the lawmakers represent about 8.4 million people** — roughly the population of New York City — or 2.75 percent of the nation’s population. Yet the bill they’re crafting will likely influence every warm body in the country.
The disproportionate voice of these lawmakers wasn’t lost on New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who noted dryly last week that, “Nothing is going to happen on health care without the approval of Baucus, whose vast authority stems from the fact that he speaks for both the Senate Finance Committee and a state that contains three-tenths of one percent of the country’s population.”
**Enzi, who also sits on the Senate health committee, represents the country’s least populous state of Wyoming (532,668); Conrad hails from North Dakota, which ranks 48th (641,481); Baucus, chairman of the Finance panel, comes from 44th-ranking Montana (967,440); Snowe represents Maine, which ranks 40th (1,316,456); Bingaman is voting for 36th-ranking New Mexico (1,984,356); and Grassley hails from 30th-ranking Iowa (3,002,555).