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Obama at bipartisan health meeting: Sweet analysis

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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.

8 Comments

A big gamble, but also pure genius. I honestly don't know what Americans these Republicans are speaking for, but they're certainly out of touch with me and most middle class families who genuinely need and deserve affordable healthcare and yesterday proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. So unless you are just brain-dead or brainwashed by 'Fox and Friends’ you will understand that this is necessary and the president and congress need to move forward with this. As it is it will take 2-3 years to implement after the bill is signed. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly better than anything the Republicans have brought to the table.

More posturing from the Poser In Chief - more politics-as-usual from foggy hill. Our freedoms are being gravely threatened. The man in the White House has had a year to get things done and all he's done is campaign! I didn't vote for him the 1st time, (the other party is better than nothing, it's a lesser of 2 evils) and I'd vote for myself before BOH. Read Revelations. "No one might buy or sell anything unless they have the mark ... their name, their number, or the number of the beast" (my trans.) A 3 caste system. Global socialism. Happy days for losers who believe in it, very bad for those who cherish freedom! Keep your voting pencils sharp and your powder dry. If we can't go the American route of voting the bums out, we'll have to go the French Revoulition route.

Mr. Obama used this meeting as a photo op - as if he has not had too many of them already. He has made it quite obvious that he does NOT have the medical concerns of our citizens in mind, this is a way to obtain more and more power in addition to what he has already grabbed.

I almost feel sorry for the Democrats, their savior hero is proving to be living in a world of his own and is also willing to throw them under the bus. Note his last remark at the end of the meeting yesterday.

It appears that there is agreement on the issues:
Health care is a universal right not privilege
Cost containment must happen in the near future
Fraud needs to be harnessed
Prevention incentives are necessary
Malpractice law suits need to be capped
Premium discrimination needs to be eliminated
Preexisting clauses and life time max must be removed.

The divide between party lines is comprehensive vs. incremental aspects of change.
There are a few areas of the current bill that I have great objection to:
1. health care coverage should not be dictated by geography and specific states should not be given special rates.
2. Section 13 states the secretary will define what is "essential health care benefits". This position is not elected but appointed. Who is to say that one person should define what is essential. I think this will create disparities.

The Obama White House and Democratic leaders want to move this bill ahead by using reconciliation. I am very distressed over this aspect of government process. I feel like it doesn't matter what the public states there is a way to execute executive power. It is like the loop hole the lawyer will find to get the murderer off on a technicality.

I can't wait to see the out come.

After watching over 5 hours of this Bipartisan health meeting. Sen. John Barrosso, MD, makes statements that resonate with me as a health care provider. We are not listening to the American people. He addressed the fact that when you ask the American people if this health care bill represents a reasonable fix to the current issues.

Sen John McCain takes us back to the initial premise health care is a right not a privilege but we allow people in certain states have better benefits. Health care should NOT be defined by geography if we agree that ALL humans deserve health care!

Andre, if you think the staged photo op was a stroke of genius, I would love to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. My goodness, there was absolutely no surprise from the meeting. It was done solely to satisfy the cornball left on the issue of transparency, and to show a VERY staged half-a..ed attempt at Bi-partisanship. This administration is the most partisan I have seen since the sixties. Lynn, they will not incorporate any Republican ideas, and they will try and ram it through as is. Their only problem is other Democrats. Judging by comments like the one above, some people actually have the mistaken idea that the Republicans are blocking this bill.

I was fortunate to watch the entire summit, and I believe the President made his case for the democrat proposal. The republicans however failed to deliver a serious alternative to that plan and were reduced to denying having 30 million plus individuals lacking coverage is a problem. The republicans also went on record suggesting Medicare should be allowed to collapse, and replaced with a coupon system for seniors that wouldn't even cover today's cost let alone projected costs over the next ten years. One of the republican doctors had to be reminded that not all Americans earn $175,000 a year like members of congress and have million dollar lobby jobs waiting for them; therefore this notion of relying exclusively on savings accounts and catastrophic coverage wouldn't be realistic for most individuals. Cantor went on to equate government regulations with a 'government takeover.' The President correctly reminded him that the government could save money by eliminating meat inspectors, and the price of meat would probably fall, but who in their right mind would let consumers be sold poisonous meat to save a buck? The most telling exchange was between the President and I believe it was Republican Lamar Alexander, where Mr. Alexander asserted that the President's proposal would INCREASE premiums. The President pointedly denied this charge and pushed for independent fact checkers to determine who was correct. The independent fact checkers concluded that the CBO analysis supported the Presidents calculation that the proposal would actually REDUCE premiums, giving people the ability to purchase BETTER plans. To me, that should be what the MEDIA emphasized in reporting about this summit. Bottom-line the Presidents proposal will save most people money, cover 30 million more people, and at worst would be deficit neutral and at best save nearly a trillion dollars over a decade. I find it amazing that will all the evidence on the President's side, we're still allowing Republicans to distract us with irrelevant arguments about tort reform, which they refuse to say aloud amounts to simply capping the amount of damages you can receive when a doctor amputates the wrong leg. If they were serious they would have taken up the President's offer to explore REAL and SPECIFIC tort reforms that protect patients and actually reduces defensive medicine. Why aren't republicans agreeing to the suggestion of special medical courts and independent councils that screen out junk lawsuits free of cost to the doctors and plaintiffs? I find the stance of republicans offensive, and I hope my fellow Americans wake up to what these people are doing to our country. The democrats may be annoyingly weak but at least they are trying to solve problems that actually mean something to everyday people. Not just secure money for defense contractors in their state.

RL - you've got to be joking. The key concepts behind the Senate bill are Republican - exchanges, individual mandate, excise tax. It's almost a clone of the Republican Senate counter to Clinton's health plan from '92. Now the Republicans have no counter to Obama's plan other than "start over" and "clean sheet of paper" slogans. They couldn't even manage to lay out their "step by step" approach in a coherent plan, just a series of unrelated ideas. If Obama took their plan and adopted it wholesale, they'd still reject it because he would now be supporting it, just like the deficit commission. That's partisanship to the nth degree.

JohnR, I think we are looking at the same summit through different prisms. Don't think for one minute that I agree with all of the Rep. proposals. I do think that the insurance industry should have some regulation, as well as the medical community. The question is: how much is too much regulation? The reps. have the most benign approach that may or may not temper the escalating prices. The Dems., in their more drastic proposals have more regulation to try and lower costs, but may actually increase them. Who knows? I prefer less government, not more. Although with health care, something has to be done. I am not satisfied with the plans from either side but, I am far less satisfied with the Dem. plan. Unless it is altered, it will eventually raise taxes drastically. I look for a minor version of tort reform, and loosening of interstate restrictions to be added shortly by Obama. Both parties used the summit as a dog and pony show for the public's benefit.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 26, 2010 8:37 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Feb. 26, 2010. Historic Black college, university event was the previous entry in this blog.

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