The White House just released details for the Feb. 25 bipartisan health care summit President Obama called for. (h/t Greg Sargent) Here are the invitees and here is a letter about the format, in which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that before the summit, “we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package.” This could mean that House and Senate Democrats plan to have a deal in place before Feb. 25. It could also mean Democrats will present a less detailed rundown of the reform ideas House and Senate Democrats already agree on.
GOP leaders apparently saw this release coming and tried to get in front of it this afternoon with an open letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. In the correspondence, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence asked Democratic leaders to “publicly disavow” news reports saying that Democrats were working to close a deal on health care before the summit. The GOP leaders added, “Your response will help clarify whether Democratic Leadership is serious about genuine bipartisan negotiations and whether the proposed summit will be a truly open forum or merely an intramural exercise.”
A little clarity is called for here. What this posturing means after the jump.
The Republicans don’t like how the public perceives the Feb. 25 summit and are trying hard to recast it or create political cover if they decide to skip the event. All this talk about bipartisanship is probably baloney. If the Democrats have a sure-fire strategy for passing comprehensive health care reform without any Republican votes, they will do it – summit or no summit. By drawing up a reform plan ahead of time, Obama is hoping for a debate, not a negotiation. He’s hoping that when Democrats explain their ideas and Republicans explain their ideas that it will be clear that Democratic ideas are better. Simple as that.