First, gotta give credit where it’s due. The president made a very smart political movie when he called the opposition’s bluff, “inviting Republicans in Congress to a half-day summit” on health care to be”televised live later this month.” He “challenged Republicans to come to the discussion armed with their best ideas for how to cover more Americans and fix the health insurance system”:
I want to consult closely with our Republican colleagues. . . . What I want to do is to ask them to put their ideas on the table… I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward.
Let’s hope he means what he says and instead of using a a proposal reconciling the House and Senate bills which passed last year as the basis for discussion, he really solicits Republican viewpoints. Perhaps because he’s wary of the president’s sincerity, House Republican leader John Boehner welcomed the discussion, but cautioned,
The best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap those bills and focus on the kind of step-by-step improvements that will lower health care costs and expand access.
Exactly. If the president does just that, this move could really redound to his benefit. He would show that like the Gipper, he’s teachable, able to make course corrections where necessary.
He’d also look good if Republicans are scattershot in their opposition, saying “No” for the sake of opposing the president instead of rejecting a proposal on its merits (or lack thereof). That is, I believe, what Obama is banking on. And it could work if congressional Republicans are (as Democrats believe them to be) too shrill in their opposition.
If, however, the GOP designates a few point persons, say, maybe Eric Cantor or Mike Pence from the House and Judd Gregg, Bob Corker or Scott Brown from the Senate, individuals able focus on a few specific ideas for reform (notably tort reform) and can clearly articulate why they oppose the statist solutions contained in the House and Senate bills, this initiative could backfire for the president. Congressional Republicans could use this forum to show that GOP views correspond with those of the majority of the American people.
If the president holds too firm to the Democratic bills, he runs another risk, seeming too intransigent, hell-bent on passing health care reform for the sake of passing it, stubbornly making the case for a program the American people have long since rejected.
It’s a smart move on the president’s part, but it doesn’t guarantee him success. Indeed, if Republicans come prepared, it could doom him to failure in this endeavor.