Friday, February 19, 2010

Republicans: Just say NO!

Next week, President Obama will unclench his fist to Republicans in an attempt to resolve the health care reform impasse via an unprecedented extortion play carefully framed as bipartisan outreach.  From the Wall Street Journal:
Next week's health summit offers perhaps the last chance for President Barack Obama to kick-start his languishing legislation. It will also put Republicans in a box.

The summit, scheduled for Thursday, is the White House's latest and highest-profile effort to promote the president as a leader who can change a dysfunctional political system. Bipartisanship—a concept often discussed on Capitol Hill but rarely delivered—has been a hot topic in recent weeks as voters express increasing disdain for Washington's political gridlock.

The summit indeed will be bipartisan, to a point. Republican and Democratic lawmakers will meet with the president at Blair House, across the street from the White House, and discuss on live television how to reconcile their competing ideas on revamping health care. Administration officials say Mr. Obama will arrive prepared to incorporate Republican ideas into the Democratic legislation, and will note those ideas already there.

"Let's hammer it out," the president said at a town hall meeting in Las Vegas dominated by health care Friday. "We'll go section by section."

If no deal is reached—a likely outcome given the entrenched positions of both sides—the White House wants Democrats to pass a bill without GOP support. That means using a parliamentary maneuver called "reconciliation" that requires 51 votes in the Senate, rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

"The best outcome is to find something to attract Republicans and to say, "Here's a solid Republican idea that came out of this thing, we put it in the bill and damn it, you didn't vote for it even then,'" said a senior Democratic Senate aide.

Republicans, aware of the strategy, are in a bind. Boycotting the summit would allow the Democrats to paint the party as obstructionist. Attending and rejecting a proposed compromise could have the same result.

Republicans sensed the risk. "When it comes to some health-care summit that's nothing more than a photo op designed to pave the way for Obamacare 2.0, the answer is no," Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Still, they plan to attend and highlight public opposition to the bills and to spotlight their own ideas. "If the president is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan fashion, he must take the reconciliation process—which will be used [to] jam through legislation that a majority of Americans do not want—off the table," House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said Friday.
Good luck with that, Rep. Cantor.  Believe me, the Democrats have no intention of squandering this historic opportunity to nationalize American health care.  Damn the torpedoes.  Full steam ahead.  Wall Street Journal:
Liberals are making a bid to restore the "public option," ObamaCare's most controversial and destructive inspiration. Some 18 Senators as we went to press—led by Colorado's Michael Bennet and growing to include New York's Chuck Schumer on Thursday—have endorsed slipping this government-run insurance entitlement in the reconciliation process that would let Democrats abuse Senate rules to hustle ObamaCare into law with 50 votes. Vehemence among House progressives is also at a fever pitch, though it always is.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined the mob, telling MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that if the public option is "part of the decision of the Senate leadership to move forward," then the White House is all-aboard. Right on cue, Majority Leader Harry Reid put out a statement that he'll work to "craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles."

On that score, the main obstacles to this agenda aren't procedural but moderates in his own party. Rational Democrats killed the public option because it is hated by the insurers that will be driven out of business by its subsidy advantage, by the doctors and hospitals that will be forced to accept its below-market rates, and by the taxpayers who will get stuck with the bill. On the other hand, this new political strategy might fire up the dispirited liberal base—and allow the White House to cast the GOP as obstructionist going into the health summit next week.

It really does seem as if the Democrats are gearing up for Pickett's reconciliation charge. What was that again about "the best ideas from both parties"?
Republicans should concede that now is not the time to be the party of "no."

It's time to buck up and be the party of  "Hell, No!"

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