Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Televised bipartisan health care meeting a good step

Posted by sanityinjection on February 8, 2010

As much as I have criticized President Obama and his Administration in this space, I have tried hard to give them credit when they do something right. The White House plans to hold a televised discussion on health care reform with Congressional leaders from both parties. This is a step toward fulfilling President Obama’s previous promises that health care legislation would be discussed publicly and crafted in a bipartisan fashion.

Of course, make no mistake about it, the Administration is only doing this because its hand has been forced – by disagreements within the Democratic caucus and by the loss of a Senate supermajority with Senator Brown’s election. Until recently, the Administration was only too happy to ignore its promises and try to ram through a partisan bill. Now that they can’t, it’s a new ball game, and Democrats are rightly worried that voters will punish them if they fail to keep their promises. As the saying goes, better late than never.

It’s possible that nothing may come of this conference. President Obama remains resistant to starting over from scratch on health care, and it seems unlikely that Republican opposition can be mollified by adding a couple of their ideas to a bill that they detest. Still, an open and inclusive process is an improvement in itself. Most of the biggest legislative achievements over the past hundred years or so came about with bipartisan support. Working with members of both parties tends to exclude extremist ideas and focus on those that can attract more broad support.  It also creates a give and take process – you get one of your ideas in the bill, we get one of ours. This can be time consuming, but as we have seen, one party rule is not necessarily fast or efficient either.

It’s a sad comment on the state of affairs in Washington when the occasion of Democrats and Republicans – and the Administration – actually talking to each other seems like progress. But progress it is, and let’s hope to see more of it.

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3 Responses to “Televised bipartisan health care meeting a good step”

  1. Looks like I spoke too soon. Politico says the meeting has been set up to fail with the goal of making it look like Obama and the Democrats are reaching out only to be spurned by Republican obstructionism:

    http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=B03E5F4E-18FE-70B2-A85D9EABC1385032

  2. CBS’ Mark Knoller tells it like it is:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2010/02/09/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry6191815.shtml

  3. The President appears to be talking out of both sides of his mouth on this:

    “Obama said he’s not interested in starting over on health care, with five congressional committees holding new rounds of hearings and bill-drafting sessions.

    “What I don’t think makes sense — and I don’t think the American people want to see — would be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues,” he said.

    But he said he’s open to “starting from scratch” as long as three major goals are met: reducing costs, curbing insurance company practices such as coverage denials, and expanding coverage to millions of people who buy their own policies or work for a small employer.

    “I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals,” Obama said.”

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2010/Feb/09/obama_to_take_health_bill_that_s_not_all_he_wants.html

    Well, which is it, Mr. President? Either you are willing to start from scratch, or you aren’t.

    I think that passing some sort of reform bill would be a good thing for both parties, but it is going to have to be more modest. I think it would be possible to put together a bipartisan bill that would make progress in each of the areas identified by the President, although probably not to the degree he would wish. But only if both sides are genuinely interested in doing so rather than just posturing. At this stage I have no confidence in that.

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