Sunday, February 07, 2010

Obama to Hold Bipartisan Summit on Health Care

President Obama said Sunday that he will convene a half-day, bipartisan health care summit at the White House on Feb. 25 to be broadcast on television, so Americans can see Democrats and Republicans try to break the deadlock on health care legislation.
Fantastic! The challenge will be to make it something other than Republican grandstanding. He will have to show the country that he is serious about both health care and about bi-partisan cooperation and that the Republicans are serious about neither.

Here, for example, is what the leader of the Republicans said.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said he welcomed the bipartisan meeting on health care and called on the president to begin the dialogue “by shelving the current health spending bill.”

“The fact is Senate Republicans held hundreds of town halls and met with their constituents across the country last year on the need for health care reform, outlining ideas for the step-by-step approach that Americans have asked for,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “And we know there are a number of issues with bipartisan support that we can start with when the 2,700-page bill is put on the shelf.”
Obama said that he does not intend to start from scratch but that he is interested in listening to (and incorporating) any good ideas presented by Republicans. It will be up to him to ensure that the meeting stays focused and operates as a working session to discuss specific issues and that it not get dragged into the kind of demagoguery the Republicans thrive on.

I hope he succeeds. I suspect that this step will improve his public ratings. His critics will argue that his rating are improved (if they are) because he is reaching out to Republicans. I don't think so. If there is an improvement, it will be because he is seen as finally taking some action. In this case the action is putting it to the Republicans: put up or shut up. After that challenge is met, we can then move on and actually get a bill passed.

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