I think I’m getting a clearer picture on what the president has in mind for healthcare. I believe the Democrats are pursuing two tracks.
1) They’re preparing a strategy to pass the current Senate bill in the House, then concurrently passing fixes via reconciliation. This, I think, is the failsafe mechanism for passing reform. More on this presently.
2) Today, the president announced a bipartisan, bicameral half-day healthcare summit to be held on television (C-SPAN probably) during which he’ll make a very public attempt to talk things over with Republicans and Democrats alike. I presume the point of this isn’t necessarily to start a new bill from scratch, but to kill some of the GOP’s biggest lies while keeping Democrats enthused and on board with passing reform in an election year.
“I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” Obama said in an interview with Katie Couric during CBS’s Super Bowl pre-game show Sunday.
Obama said he wants to “look at the Republican ideas that are out there.”
“If we can go, step by step, through a series of these issues and arrive at some agreements, then, procedurally, there’s no reason why we can’t do it a lot faster the process took last year,” he said.
In a statement, the official said, “What the president will not do is let this moment slip away. He hopes to have Republican support in doing so — but he is going to move forward on health reform.”
Yeah, on the surface, it sounds scary and irritating. More attempts to seem bipartisan — to listen to the Republicans and attempt to incorporate their ridiculous ideas. But realistically, there’s no way they can start from scratch. And there’s no way the Republicans will seriously help to give the president a huge political victory.
Plus, let’s say they actually start over again with a bipartisan bill that gives insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, accomplishes tort reform and allows insurance companies to sell across state lines. The House won’t vote for this. Hell, they’ll barely vote for the current Senate bill with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for working class Americans. This plan would fail.
I think the president is smart enough to know this. So I think he intends to make an attempt to publicly appeal to the Republicans knowing that an actual bipartisan bill will never pass. And as soon as this self-evident fact is laid bare in practice, Congress will pass the existing legislation. Hence the reason for Reid and Pelosi continuing to hash out a plan for reconciliation.
At least, this is how I see it at this point. Not passing a bill isn’t an option. And a bill with Republican votes will never happen in a million years.
My hope at this point is that this game plays out quickly. The president has told us repeatedly that we’re racing towards a cliff “just like Thelma & Louise.” Such a dire warning doesn’t lend itself to waiting many more months trying in futility to appease Republicans.
So get on with it.