Health Care: Are the Republicans Negotiating for Real?

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That was the question I had for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, when a group of journalists met with him this afternoon at the White House. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has infuriated his Democratic colleagues in the Senate with his insistence on continuing to try to get a health care deal that a few Republicans–specifically, ranking member Charles Grassley, Maine’s Olympia Snowe, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming–will sign on to. A lot of Democrats say privately that they think Baucus is getting played. But a truly bipartisan plan would have a lot better chance of passing, and of holding up in the years that it would take to implement health care reform.

Here’s what Emanuel had to say:

“I have a great deal of admiration for their courage. You have the far left criticizing certain Democrats. These guys, I saw what’s going on, at least with Senator Grassley in Iowa. They’re showing, in the face of heavy criticism from their own leadership, but clearly back home and from very conservative right-wing groups, a tremendous sense of both public courage and principled action. And I really do believe that. Whether it all works in the end or not, and whether we agree on all the policy choices they made, they are trying. I believe they are sitting there for the right reasons and trying to do the right thing, even if we may not agree on all the items.

I think in the face of a tremendous amount of pressure, political pressure, they are acting very principled, and I think with a sincere sense of public responsibility—agreement or no agreement.”