WASHINGTON -- President Obama's bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders over stalled health-care legislation seems to have set the stage for Democrats to press ahead with or without Republicans aboard.
After daylong talks Thursday, here's where I think things stand:
1. Obama needs to show he can govern.
After a month to six weeks -- the timetable Obama cited at the very end -- Democrats will start moving health-care measures. If he can get some Republicans on board, the politics would be better, but "if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that's what elections are for," Obama said.
"We have honest disagreements about division for the country, and we'll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November, all right?"
2. The session was aimed at swing Democrats and independents.
The Democrats don't mind if the 2010 midterm elections turn on the health-care issue. They welcome running against health insurance companies, which is how the issue will be framed.
3. Some ideological divides will not be bridged.
Republicans and Democrats have a fundamental core difference: The GOP wants incremental changes to health-care coverage; the Democrats want a comprehensive plan.
4. Democrats will incorporate some GOP proposals into their legislation and call it bipartisan.
Obama said at the session he was open to some compromises on tort reform and selling health insurance across state lines.
5. Democrats will take the heat for jamming a health bill through on a partisan vote.
That should be their worst problem.
The Obama White House and Democratic leaders will move ahead, betting the public won't punish them if the Senate passes a health bill with a 51-vote majority using a complex, and in this context controversial, bit of legislative sleight-of-hand called "reconciliation."
The Democrats lost their 60-vote filibuster-proof roll call with the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
At the beginning of the session, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) asked Obama and the Democratic leaders to "renounce" use of reconciliation.
"It's never been used for anything like this," Alexander said.
Obama several times brushed aside such pleas as mere matters of "process."
Republicans can end up positioned as being more concerned with procedural wrangling than in working for substantive change.
6. Slogan alert.
The Republicans keep saying Obama and the Democrats should "start over." That's not going to happen; Thursday made that very clear.
7. Transparency matters may still be on the table.
Did the session mean Obama is now released from his campaign pledge to have health care negotiations on C-SPAN and that it can be checked off as "done"? The White House may well try to argue that.
C-SPAN, CNN, Fox and MSNBC (before cutting to Olympic coverage) televised the meeting. Obama last year broke his transparency promise when it came to making the back room the front room, and Thursday's Blair House meeting was a way of trying to regain the high ground. But the vow, as it was made in the campaign, was expansive, not limited. Obviously, there will be more negotiations between the White House and lawmakers, whether or not Republicans are in the mix.