The Chairman: No Easy Way Out?

Dan Rostenkowski employs the hard grammar of power with such sovereignty that it was difficult to imagine last week that his words might be hollow. Seated at the ornate, curved rostrum of the House Ways and Means Committee's hearing chamber, the chairman of 13 years was blunt about his plans for passing a health bill. "If we can be bipartisan and achieve universal coverage," he growled, "great." Pause. "If we can't, I will do whatever I need to do to to get at least 20 votes" -- a majority.

The Illinois Congressman knows how to make good on a threat as...

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