It’s hard to imagine how anything very positive will come out of the President’s health care summit in Washington tomorrow. An article in Politico describes the atmospherics and the haggles involved in detailed negotiations.
A gaggle of congressional Democrats and Republicans will meet with the President at Blair House for about six hours, apparently all of it televised. The White House has attempted to portray this as an example of long-promised bipartisanship and transparency. It’s a mystery how they could think that after a year of partisan conflict in Congress, health care reform can be resolved in six hours, particularly in the presence of TV cameras. But maybe they don’t think that at all — maybe this is just a cynical scheme to portray the opposition as a hopeless obstacle to justify forcing health care reform through Congress in the most partisan way possible.
The President and the congressional Democratic leadership are not going to suddenly see the value of satisfying Republican concerns about specific issues like tort reform and the possibility of tax dollars paying for abortion and medical care for illegal immigrants. They also aren’t going to accept the Republican argument that their plan is far too expensive and should be scrapped in order to address more specific measures in a less costly way. In fact, the Democrats can’t even agree among themselves on many health care issues.
Republicans aren’t going to walk into Blair House, take their seats at the table, slap themselves on their foreheads and say, “You know, those Democrats have actually got a great plan. Let’s all hold hands and be friends.” If they’re smart, the Republicans will present at least the outlines of an alternative plan that they can support, in full view of the cameras. That would defuse some of the charges of obstructionism. If they’re stupid, they’ll do some pontificating and mainly sit with their arms folded and a petulant pout on their faces.
It’s pretty obvious what the objectives of the two sides really are. As the Politico article noted,
The Democrats’ unstated goal, of course, is to make congressional Republicans look like a bunch of whiny, cynical, ideologically bankrupt crybabies who don’t have a plan of their own.
For their part, the Republicans are determined not to be lectured to by the President, as evidenced by their insistence on a round (or square) table where everyone sits at the same height, with no raised lectern. They’re not going to sign on to the Democratic plans (now in three versions), but they want to avoid the charge of being totally negative. We’ll see how that works out.
The real story coming out of the health care summit may be the confusion and disarray among Democrats. The Senate has their health care bill, the House has theirs, and neither of the two chambers can muster enough votes to accept the other chamber’s version. But wait — now the President has published his plan, which is more like the Senate bill but includes things the House wants. And the kicker is, the President’s plan hasn’t been accepted by either the House or the Senate.
And now they’re all going to gather at Blair House, probably to accomplish little more than making themselves look foolish and ineffectual. One thing is sure — we won’t hear a bipartisan choir singing “Kumbaya” at Blair House.