Ezra Klein, in his guide to the health care summit, writes that "the most consequential fight of the day will be over the most boring item on the agenda: the budget reconciliation process."
In spite of the fact that both Reagan and Bush2 used reconciliation to get their tax cuts, the Republicans are calling it an "abuse of power." The Democrats have a more literal term for it: it's majority vote.
Reconciliation is just one of the sticking points in today's meeting. One problem for Republicans is that they may be seen as refusing to back a bill which contains key Republican proposals.
Republicans are planning for this, of course, and may well head it off by proposing a deal that Democrats have to refuse. One possibility would be demanding that Democrats remove all Medicare reforms from the bill, which would rob the legislation of needed revenue. If your opponent is trying to offer a deal you can't publicly refuse, you need to begin by extending an offer he can't possibly accept.
Republicans are stuck with a loser position. Their proposed health care coverage is narrow and does little to bring down long term costs.
GOP proposals don't make much of a dent in the problem: They neither insure many people nor save much money.
Steve Inskeep, on NPR this morning, compares today's televiewing of the Blair House meeting as a "telenovela" that goes on and on and on. The NPR report dissects the Republican claim that proposed health care legislation is very unpopular with the American people. Yes, it's true -- most polls show we're tired of the process, of "health care" in general. But by a significant majority, we like the actual components of the health care bill. In other words, we don't like Democrats and Republicans or legislative sausage-making. We do like what health care reform would give us.
EJ Dionne sees the process in terms of honest disagreement with naked hypocrisy.
The Republicans don’t want our national government to play a major role in solving the core problems of our health-care system. They insist that more federal action will simply make things worse. (Although they then turn around and criticize any cuts President Obama proposes in Medicare, which, last I looked, is a federal government program). The GOP’s suggestions are small because they don’t want government to do much. The party’s main health-care proposal would spend $61 billion over 10 years -- in other words, an average of $6 billion a year -- and cover an additional 3 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The amounts they propose are a smidgen compared to the value of the tax cuts the Republicans voted for during the Bush years.
Washington Post reporters see an important sticking point in the current relationship of House and Senate, of Democrat and Democrat, exacerbated by the loss of Ted Kennedy's seat to Scott Brown.
House Democrats fume that the Senate took too long to pass its version of health-care legislation, causing the debate to spill into the midterm election season. Senate Democrats want their House counterparts to back off their more expensive plan and accept the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve.
With a single roll-call vote, the House could send the Senate version of health-care reform directly to Obama for his signature. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), along with White House officials, have spent recent weeks weighing potential "fixes" to the legislation that would address House Democratic objections. Those changes could be offered as a separate bill, protected from filibuster under special budget rules known as reconciliation that would allow it to pass the Senate with a simple majority.
Those rules may also require the House to initiate action on the fixes -- a leap of faith that many House Democrats are unwilling to take. "The trust of House members . . . in the Senate delivering on anything is at an historic low," said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.). "And the House taking major action that is dependent on a future action of the Senate, I think that's very, very difficult."
Yesterday afternoon, a big group of religious leaders came out in favor of health care reform, according to the New York Times.
An unusually broad array of religious groups sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress on Wednesday calling on them to pass a comprehensive health care bill [pdf].
The 58 national and 80 local groups signing the letter represent evangelicals, most mainline Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Quakers and Mennonites. Some of the signatories are health care providers, and some work with low-income communities. Some are religious orders of Catholic sisters.
The letter says that while no reform bill will be perfect, “Turning back now could mean justice delayed for another generation and an unprecedented opportunity lost.”
The letter does not specifically endorse the president’s proposal or the House or Senate bills. But one of the coalitions that signed the letter, the PICO National Network, which represents a thousand congregations across the country, has applauded the president’s plan, saying it would go further than the Senate plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income families.
Marc Ambinder looks at yesterday's CNN poll.
Obama and congressional Republicans have their own dynamics when it comes to public opinion, and that the president performs better than his party does. It also shows that congressional Republicans' opposition to the president's agenda might not be winning them any points--even though it's generally taken for granted that obstructionism has been an effective strategy for them.
At the same time, people want Democrats to do the reaching out. Congressional Republicans may be unpopular, but Democrats, for now, are stuck with them and will be held accountable for the results. Despite the GOP's seeming recalcitrance, poll respondents wanted Democrats to cede ground and make things happen.
Democrats are being held accountable for Washington's partisan culture, and the health care summit--which was their idea--may offer them a chance to win some ground in this whole scheme.
I'm not sure that's what the poll shows. Instead, it looks as though Obama is perceived as showing the most leadership and willingness to bend. Voters are depending on him to lead Republicans (and Democrats) out of a stalemate. Lotsa luck, Barry.
The president is stuck with unreasonably high expectations. We could set up a round table and debate who's responsible for that, or we could get a life.