WASHINGTON--After President Obama offered opening remarks at the bipartisan health care meeting with GOP and Democratic congressional leaders, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) took the floor to frame the GOP positions. He made a request for an incremental approach--not the comprehensive overhaul the Democrats want. Alexander's point: Congress does not do comprehensive well. That's a big bridge to build between the side. Obama's track record is to go for bite sized do-able chunks, but will have a challenge getting congressional Democrats to go along. The GOP wants Obama to "start over," and start with a blank slate, not the Obama proposals posted at www.whitehouse.gov
Alexander also asked Obama to "renounce" a controversial Democratic option of passing a health care bill in a process known in the Senate as "reconciliation," which would require only a majority vote--not the filibuster proof 60 votes. The election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) left Democrats one vote short of 60.
"Renounce this idea of jamming through" a bill on a partisan vote," Alexander said.
If not, everything at the session will not be relevant, Alexander said.
I doubt the Democrats will ever make that pledge to Republicans and take away what is an important option for them.
"Reconciliation is not something that hasn't been done before," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.), in reply to Alexander.
That's that, it seems.
Obama retold stories about the health travails of his mother and daughters, Malia and Sasha. Obama told the lawmakers, assembled at the Blair House, across the street of the White House:
I can certainly remember Malia coming into the kitchen
one day and saying, "I can't breathe, Daddy," and us having to rush
her to the emergency room because she had asthma, or Sasha when she
was a baby getting meningitis and having to get a spinal tap and being
on antibiotics for three days, and us not knowing whether or not she
was going to emerge okay. In each of those instances, I remember
thinking, while sitting in the emergency room, what would have
happened if I didn't have reliable health care.
My mother, who was self-employed, didn't have reliable health
care, and she died of ovarian cancer. And there's probably nothing
that modern medicine could have done about that. It was caught late,
and that's a hard cancer to diagnosis.
But I do remember the last six months of her life, insurance
companies threatening that they would not reimburse her for her costs
and her having to be on the phone in the hospital room arguing with
insurance companies when what she should have been doing is is --
spending time with her family.