Health Care Summit: The “I told you so” post
Ok, I’ll admit that it didn’t work out precisely as I said in my scenario in a previous post, and the Republicans did much better than I expected, however the result was exactly what I claimed it would be. A refresher with added emphasis:
Obama gets his moment recorded by the TV cameras no less. And mournfully he pronounces the Republicans as obstructionists who refused to negotiate in good faith as the great and wonderful Democrats have offered to do. And because of that, it is with a heavy heart and reluctantly he is forced to agree with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that reconciliation is the only route left open to them to do “what is right” for the American people.
When I wrote my quick review yesterday, Obama hadn’t yet spoken. In his 10 minute wrap up which went on for 20 minutes, he finally got to the purpose of the summit.
I’d like Republicans to do a little soul searching to find out if there are some things that you’d be willling to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance, and dealing seriously with the pre-existing conditions issue. I don’t know frankly whether we can close that gap.
And if we can’t close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward.
Or: “Ok, Republicans, time to join the team and show some real movement or we’ll do what we have to do procedurally”. And that, of course, is reconciliation. Greg Sargent heard the same message. Referring to that quote he says:
Unless I’m misreading that, Obama is saying that unless Republicans support comprehensive reform as Obama and Dems have defined it — dealing with the problem of 30 million uninsured and, by extension, seriously tackling the preexisting condition problem — they will almost certainly move forward with reconciliation.
What’s more, Obama also essentially accused Republicans of approaching today’s summit in bad faith — after they had sat there with him for six hours. He said that even after the public option was taken off the table, Republicans continued to use the same “government takeover” slur.
“Even after the public option wasn’t available, we still hear the same rhetoric,” Obama said. “We have a concept of an exchange which previously has been an idea that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it. Somehow, suddenly it became less of a good idea.”
This accusation, combined with his assertion that Republicans need to do some “soul-searching” on whether they wanted to join Dems in tackling reform as they have defined it, amount to an unmistakable vow to move forward without them.
That’s what it was all about. And anyone who watched or listened to the summit know the Democrats didn’t offer a single concession (they repeatedly refused to scrap the present bill and start over – something the Republicans asked for as a means of crafting a bi-partisan solution, a process in which they made it clear they’d be very happy to participate). There was no real attempt at negotiation – just a listing of purported agreements. But the implication is those agreements should be included in the existing comprehensive plan the Democrats had put forward and not the new bill the Republicans desired.
So it was 7 hours of window dressing to get to the point of claiming that lack of progress on the part of the Republicans (in a month to 6 weeks) would leave Democrats no choice but to move forward without them. The only way they can move forward without them is via reconciliation, since they no longer have the votes in the Senate to pass the bill via the appropriate means.
Bottom line: while Republicans showed well in the summit, it was indeed political theater staged to justify reconciliation. But because Republicans did much better than expected, the justification is much weaker than it would have been had Republicans mucked it up. As a result, I think the Democrats have essentially failed in accomplishing their primary goal – justifying reconciliation and gaining the approval of the American public to do so.