Let no one question that President Obama is still hoping to push health care reform across the finish line – he stayed put and moderated the entire seven and a half hour bipartisan summit on the issue today.
The tone was civil and the discussion was occasionally substantive. But was it a game changer? Not in the sense that Republicans and Democrats will find a path forward together. For all their attempts to frame the summit as Democrat charade, the Republican leadership did not try to keep the discussion on policy but rather seemed happy to watch the discussion to veer off substance and back toward talking points. I can’t recall House Minority Leader John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offering a single serious, detailed idea. Instead, they both asked the President to “start over” with “a blank sheet of paper.” That might make for a good narrative to sell to voters and it might be that Republicans are so ideologically opposed to the Democratic bills that they want no part of them. But starting over? It’s not going to happen and therefore it’s not constructive to suggest it. It’s just not. (Other Republicans at the meeting offered some suggestions and very legitimate criticisms, but they don’t run the show. Boehner and McConnell do.)
Still, it was a remarkable tableau and did, at times, crystallize the difference between how Democrats and Republicans view health care and health insurance. Here’s what’s next:
* The focus of tomorrow will be “how it played” – what clips get shown on TV, what columnists write, which headlines make A1.
* Then, it seems, the Democrats will figure out if they can get a bill passed via reconciliation. If the summit spurs that process along, then it could be a game changer.
Here’s what the President said in closing:
“We cannot have another year-long debate about this…We’ve got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that’s what elections are for.”