There has been considerable discussion about Obama’s proposed health care summit, on camera, with the GOP. I have commented here and on several other blogs that the Republicans lack the courage to go through with it. The following is an excerpt from a letter to the White House from House GOP leaders, Boehner and Cantor:
...Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people? Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that the President is “absolutely not” resetting the legislative process for health care. If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate.
Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan way, does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation? As the President has noted recently, Democrats continue to hold large majorities in the House and Senate, which means they can attempt to pass a health care bill at any time through the reconciliation process. Eliminating the possibility of reconciliation would represent an important show of good faith to Republicans and the American people.
If the President intends to present any kind of legislative proposal at this discussion, will he make it available to members of Congress and the American people at least 72 hours beforehand? Our ability to move forward in a bipartisan way through this discussion rests on openness and transparency.
Will the President include in this discussion congressional Democrats who have opposed the House and Senate health care bills? This bipartisan discussion should reflect the bipartisan opposition to both the House bill and the kickbacks and sweetheart deals in the Senate bill.
Will the President be inviting officials and lawmakers from the states to participate in this discussion? As you may know, legislation has been introduced in at least 36 state legislatures, similar to the proposal just passed by the Democratic-controlled Virginia State Senate, providing that no individual may be compelled to purchase health insurance. Additionally, governors of both parties have raised concerns about the additional costs that will be passed along to states under both the House and Senate bills.
The President has also mentioned his commitment to have “experts” participate in health care discussions. Will the Feb. 25 discussion involve such “experts?”
Will those experts include the actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who have determined that the both the House and Senate health care bill raise costs – just the opposite of their intended effect – and jeopardize seniors’ access to high-quality care by imposing massive Medicare cuts? Will those experts include the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which has stated that the GOP alternative would reduce premiums by up to 10 percent? Also, will Republicans be permitted to invite health care experts to participate?
Finally, as you know, this is the first televised White House health care meeting involving the President since last March. Many health care meetings of the closed-door variety have been held at the White House since then, including one last month where a sweetheart deal was worked out with union leaders. Will the special interest groups that the Obama Administration has cut deals with be included in this televised discussion?… [emphasis original]
You can find this on the House Republican Leader website. I refuse to provide that goose-stepper linkage.
Assuming the President is sincere is a backhanded way of saying that, if Obama does not answer ‘Yes’ to all the questions, he mist not be sincere. Then this convoluted logic follows that, if he is not sincere, there is no basis for a meeting. In short, these are demands to which Obama must agree, or there will be no televised meeting.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Consider what Keith Olbermann and Ezra Klien have to say:
Just for the sake of absurdity, lets assume that Obama were to accede to these demands. What would happen? The GOP would agree to only two reforms. First, allow insurance companies to sell across state lines. In the absence of federal regulation, only state regulation now holds insurance abuses in check, and that in some states only. This reform would allow insurance companies to sell only in states with no regulation, thus circumventing what state regulation there is now and freeing them to commit even more abuses. Second, they want tort reform to allow insurance companies to form networks of providers offering sub-standard care, but immune from suit for their malpractice. This is the GOP solution.
Boehner and Cantor are asking Obama to surrender in advance of the meeting. Were they to make these absurd demands to Harry Reid, I trust he would give-in. But Obama will not, and the Republicans know it. Therefore, this whole elaborate scheme is nothing but a ploy to avoid the meeting in which they would make fools of themselves on camera.