The Big Question: Will bipartisan talks revive healthcare reform?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.


Today's question:

President Barack Obama has invited Republicans and Democrats to a televised summit on healthcare. Will this generate momentum for healthcare reform?



Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

The word "reform" is meaningless, and there cannot be momentum in a meaningless direction. (Forgive me, but I teach physics, and the word momentum has a real meaning. You'd never know it by listening to politicians.)

Anyway, this "invitation" to televised exchanges is hardly an invitation to compromise. A friend of mine recently reminded me that when the Pope invited Martin Luther to visit Rome for a friendly conference to discuss the sale of dispensations ( a major source of income for the Church), Luther politely declined, and thereby survived to preach another day.

Nothing in the record of the Administration's approach to medical care suggests that they ever knew the meaning of the word bipartisan, so it is fatuous to believe that they have suddenly learned it.



Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Manager, Health Care for America Now, said:

"The summit will remind people that Republicans have no proposals to deal with the problems people have every day getting good, affordable health care. Republicans would not stop insurance companies from denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions or charging people more because they’ve been sick. Republicans would do nothing to end medical bankruptcy. In fact, Republican proposals encourage the sale of bare-bones plans with high deductibles, the kind of lousy coverage that leaves people with high medical debt.  The summit will show, once again, that Democrats have accepted more than 100 Republican amendments, and the party of no still votes no. And after the summit, it will be crystal clear why Democrats should quickly use their majorities in both houses of Congress to complete the job of passing health reform."


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

Boy, someone must really be up for some major profitmaking from this healthcare "reform" boondoggle, because in spite of the obvious urgency of the economic situation, this president and his clueless allies are still harping on the same subject. People are losing their homes, their jobs, eveverything they have -- and yet Congress and the President act as if we are living in normal times.


A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at THe Hill, said:

The new idea of meeting with members of both parties in open session to discuss their uncompromising positions on health care reform doesn't seem to be a silver bullet, but it means President Obama regrets breaking his campaign pledge to hold such meetings in public. It also seem to be the White House's way of painting the Republican party as dug in against Democratic reform. We don't know exactly what the White House will do to protect the Democrats from having their own divisions exposed but there are many, enough to have derailed reform, something the party had the votes to pass without the GOP.
 
We should all hope something constructive will happen at the February 25 session, and it should be noted that this morning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicated that President Obama may be willing to incorporate some GOP ideas on health care to a reform bill. Obama should buck the trial lawyers and back tort reform and he should agree to allow for the purchase of insurance across state lines. But the Republicans will also need to come up with cost savings, and must be willing to cut Medicare along with the Democrats -- without honesty about the broken state of Medicare and how it impacts our deficit no health care reform bill will truly reform the system.
 
It has been a long time since the two parties worked together on something this big. A change in the way Washington does business before the cameras on February 25th would be refreshing.


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

Is this a summit or a show trial?  Health care is dead and the democrats killed it.  As republicans have been saying for quite some time, the president needs to scrap the current plan and go back to the drawing board.


Damon N. Spiegel, entrepreneur and writer, said

This is nothing more than a weak attempt at a political setup! If Republicans do not accept this deceptive invitation, Democrats know that the public will condemn Republicans for being responsible for the collapse of an already sickly and deficient healthcare bill. If Republicans accept, this will turn into a debate; the questions and moderation of the event will be so heavily slanted toward the Democrats that Republicans will be mowed down. A perfect catch-22!

If the Democrats and Obama wanted to wisely engineer a successful healthcare bill for the people, they would simply start from scratch and focus on some of the issues that caused healthcare to be so expensive in the United States. I would suggest: standardizing reimbursement rules across the insurance industry. Increasing funds and mandating the implementation of electronic medical records and personal health records. Start with two items that will easily build consensus and lower cost —not $1.2 trillion. Once those are implemented and costs are lowered, then approach other solutions that won't bankrupt the country!
 


Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said:

At this point, how could it hurt? The window has probably closed on ‘big’ health care reform—and there will be books written about how Democrats let that slip away with all the advantages they had in 2009. But some incremental steps on items that have some bipartisan support (such as insurance reform) may be possible. It could be structured as a win-win for both parties. President Obama could salvage something for one of his top priorities, while Republicans could take credit for slaying the dragon while demonstrating they are not simply the ‘Party of No’.


Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

There is no hope of Republican cooperation on health care reform.  The only goal of GOP leaders is to block Democratic health care legislation by any means necessary.  The invitation is meant to embarrass them and energize Democrats.  In the aftermath of President's recent televised meeting with Republican leaders which clearly worked to his advantage, my prediction is that no prominent Republicans will attend the health care summit.


Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at UC-Irvine, said:

So what’s the TV show going to be called — "The Biggest Loser"? If the Republicans even show, their best strategy will be to sabotage the president’s teleprompter. No momentum. Just a cacophony.


Ron Walters, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, said:

 
I think this summit puts Republicans "between a rock and a hard place," in this sense: The "rock" is that if the summit is structured to invite their participation and they refuse to do so, as has been their political strategy, then they appear publicly to be even more obstructionist and, as such, violate the wishes of independent voters (and perhaps others) to seek solutions to the problems Americans face at the moment. The "hard place" is that if they appear to be cooperating with the Obama administration on elements of the heathcare bill, they run afoul of the Tea Partiers who just met in convention and mostly rejected Obama's health initiative out of hand. As seasoned politicians who do not want to be set up, I expect them to go to the meeting with a set of proposals, honed to appeal to conservatives and other constituencies in their party and if they are not received favorably, they charge Obama with being untruthful in his protestations of being bipartisan and the summit as a tactical sham.


Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

I listened to the Katie Couric interview with Obama inappropriately injected into the Super Bowl program where this was proposed and it sounded like an infomercial put together by the government with a fully cooperative television network. This is exactly the kind of dictatorial (totalitarian when you consider the dominance of the network when 80-some million people are watching on the only station showing the game) communication Aldous Huxley called the “feelies” in Brave New World. Couric is the quintessential “feelies” government moderator, dominator and broker agency, so perfect she would be to the role of a dictator’s spokeswoman that she channels the benign malevolence of a happy-face button. I thought Obama was going to focus on jobs this year. But he said he did that last year. I thought he focused on healthcare last year. There is already a forum whose purpose is to discuss and augment the healthcare visions of the president. It is called Congress. They disagree with the president because they disagree with him. It is what they do. It is their job. It sounded like he now intends to inject himself into the work of Congress with an ad hoc super-agency starring himself. It is not his place. It sounded like he just thought this up Tuesday with Hillary and Rahm Emanuel and that new PR guy he just brought back in from his campaign since his numbers slipped below 50, and thought he would pass it on to us through his new BFF Katie Couric. This presidency brings not the politics of institutions and time-honored ways. It brings instead, as Johns Hopkins professor Fouad Ajami has written recently, the politics of charisma “ ... in a manner akin to the way politics plays out in distressed and Third World societies.” This new initiative is the perfect expression of that. Brought to us on big screen, intruding uninvited into our living rooms, invading our personal and family lives when we are watching a football game.


Frank Askin, professor of law at Rutgers University, said:

Probably not, but it's a smart political move. He has got to hold the Republicans' feet to the fire and keep exposing them as the party of No. It should also help strengthen the backbone of wavering Democrats.


John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

As the Obama phenomenon continues to lose strength, there won't be much interest in reviving his healthcare proposal. This is a plus for America. Some in our country are even beginning to realize that government healthcare has usually been the first major step toward totalitarian control.
 
Healthcare in deep trouble? Yes. Cap-and-trade a fizzle? Yes. Huge deficits suddenly being recognized by many as a crime against today's children? Yes. The next big hurdle Obama and his friends will try to negotiate (with help from socialists in both Houses of Congress) will be granting amnesty for the millions of illegal border-crossers. The John Birch Society will be working to defeat this as well.