01.31.2010 0

Editorial: Televised Circus at 1600 Penn

  • On: 02/24/2010 09:35:39
  • In: Health Care
  • “Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up! Hurry, hurry! Here’s a sight you haven’t seen before: bipartisan healthcare negotiations!” That’s what President Obama has been trumpeting to the American people for over two weeks now, with his healthcare summit at the historic Blair House now less than 24 hours away.

    There’s only one minor problem. It is literally impossible for this meeting to resemble or produce anything faintly bipartisan. You know it’s true, and so does Obama and every Democrat and Republican member of Congress too.

    Let’s review the facts and see what went wrong. On Super Bowl Sunday, Barack Obama stated, “I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward.”

    Any American with a modicum of common sense could – and did – deduce from that statement that Obama was proposing a truly bipartisan healthcare discussion, one starting with a “clean-slate” if you will. Meaning, Obama and the Democrats would not show up with a partisan, trillion dollar bill already written. Nor would Democrats come loaded with a controversial plan mapped out utilizing budget reconciliation to pass the partisan bill by a party-line vote (i.e., not bipartisan) under special procedures. But, as you already know, this is precisely what has come to pass.

    Obama introduced his own healthcare proposal just three days ago and declared it to be the “starting point” for the summit discussions. The proposal is not an actual bill, mind you, since it’s only 11-pages long and does not contain sufficient detail to be scored by CBO. Nevertheless, it bears a striking resemblance to the Senate-passed bill that failed to garner a single Republican vote, and has been referred to as “toxic” by more than one Democrat House member. This is apparently Obama’s definition of working with Republicans in a “bipartisan manner.”

    This fact actually explains the continued erosion of public support for the Democrats current healthcare reform efforts. Rasmussen’s latest poll on ObamaCare finds 56 percent of voters opposed to the plan, including a whopping 45 percent who strongly oppose it. Rasmussen also conducted a poll just after the president first announced the summit, and discovered that 61 percent of voters believe Congress should scrap the current plan and start all over again. In the same poll, only 35 percent of voters believe Congress should pass healthcare reform before the November elections.

    Republicans, for their part, have been singing with the chorus of the Rasmussen poll daily. Just yesterday, Boehner stated in a release that, “Americans want us to scrap this massive bill and start over with a step-by-step approach focused on lowering costs.”

    So with Obama on the record in support of true bipartisan healthcare discussions and the polls overwhelmingly in support of the Republican position of starting with a clean slate, why is the summit set up to fail? Unfortunately, largely because Boehner and McConnell failed to initially set any terms for their attendance. Yes, they criticized Obama daily as his plan became increasingly obvious, but by the time the ground rules were set – heavily in favor of the Democrats as expected – it was too late for Republicans to back out while saving face.

    They were simply never bold enough to demand as little as one condition – a clean slate as the starting point of discussions – or threaten to boycott the event. Now, the optics and parameters are so lopsided, Republicans even expect to get whipped tomorrow. Consider the following: Obama is making the opening statement, followed by the Republican and Democrat leader, so it’s already two-on-one. Obama is the moderator. Obama determined the “discussion points” which include “How will each side ensure universal coverage of the 30 million Americans currently uninsured.” This is a false question for Republicans, since they reject the very premise of the question on constitutional and free-market grounds, but it is the key to Democrats strategy. Democrats will castigate Republicans for refusing to attend, or attack their plan as woefully inadequate for failing to meet the “bare minimum” in healthcare reform, according to Obama’s own standard.

    Hope still remains, since the facts are on the side of the Republicans. While many of the most articulate conservative members have apparently not even been invited – such as Rep. Mike Pence and Rep. Paul Ryan – Boehner and McConnell are well aware of the stakes and are sure to come out swinging. Let’s hope they land a few for the American people, deliver ObamaCare a TKO, and send this circus packing.


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