Anticipation builds for health summit
By Ben Pershing
Maybe it's just because we Washingtonians don't get out much, but anticipation for Thursday's bipartisan health-care summit at Blair House is building to hyperbolic levels. To borrow the cliche before someone else almost certainly does, "the stakes could not be higher."
"Lights. Camera. Traction," USA Today ledes. "That's what President Obama will be seeking Thursday at a televised summit with Republicans and Democrats on his stalled effort to revamp America's health care system. The session, however, carries much broader implications. Whether or not Obama ultimately gets a health care bill through Congress, the effort could have practical and political consequences for years to come." Bloomberg writes that Obama "may be creating the best chance to push through his stalled health- care plan by summoning his political foes to a summit tomorrow. ... Obama's invitation to congressional leaders ... challenges Republicans to provide ideas for overhauling a medical system that accounts for 17 percent of the U.S. economy. It also gives Obama a televised forum to focus on popular parts of a measure that is generally opposed by Americans." The Los Angeles Times says that on the eve of the summit, "Democratic lawmakers are increasingly confident that they can resurrect their sweeping overhaul legislation after weeks of uncertainty about whether they could overcome the unified opposition of Republicans."
Politico breaks down the negotiations over the "optics" of the summit, including the GOP's demand that Obama sit at a table with the common folk rather than "lecturing" members from a platform. The Washington Post says: "The Republican summit strategy is twofold: to portray the Obama plan as radical and ruinously expensive, while reassuring a potential television audience of millions that the GOP takes the health-care crisis seriously and is prepared to address it head on." Jake Tapper notes the White House's challenge to the GOP to put forward a bill of their own, since "Republican lawmakers have offered a number of proposals in the House and Senate, but haven't yet identified one plan as the consensus plan representing the GOP." Jonathan Cohn criticizes House Republicans' method for cutting health costs.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the compromise measure "appears to face big hurdles in the House," and writes in a separate story on the "the persistent issue of abortion. ... If a final bill is to clear the House, Democrats will have to find a way to finesse the problem again. One idea being floated involves inserting more-restrictive language later into a spending bill." Ruth Marcus isn't sure the votes are there in the House, writing: "Maybe the president can pull this off. My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care -- not everything, but something significant -- will have evaporated, once again." The Hill writes the seemingly obvious: "After months on life support, the public option died Tuesday."
On the bright side for Democrats, Politico reports that reconciliation "is gaining acceptance among moderate Democrats who have resisted the strategy but now say GOP opposition may force their hands. The implications of the subtle shift among this small group of centrist senators could mean the difference between success and failure for health care reform -- giving Democrats a potential road map for passing a bill that had been left for dead after the Massachusetts Senate defeat." An excited Robert Reich says "it's time to pull the trigger" on reconciliation. David Leonhardt examines "the big lingering questions" on health care, outlining a potential bipartisan compromise measure before admitting that politics makes it unlikely to happen. Michael Gerson calls the Democratic strategy "psychologically understandable -- as well as delusional. ... At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted."
With all the focus on health care, you might have forgotten that Obama and his fellow Democrats have vowed to make fixing the economy their top priority in this election year. To that end, the Senate is expected to pass a $15 billion bipartisan job-creation bill Wednesday morning. Roll Call says "Senate Republicans are still seething over Majority Leader Harry Reid's strong-arm tactics, but Reid and other Democratic leaders say they feel vindicated by their ability to corral enough GOP votes to jump-start debate on their first job-creation measure this year." Reid is also "pressing to extend unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless through December as he and Republicans try to clear leftover Senate business," the Associated Press reports. But much is left to be decided. CongressDaily writes: "House Democrats want to pay for major spending on infrastructure and other job-creation measures with a new tax on the largest financial institutions, while the White House wants to preserve the tax for deficit reduction. A skeptical Senate might not even go along with a bank tax at all."
On Wall Street, "Commercial banks and high-flying investment firms have shifted their political contributions toward Republicans in recent months amid harsh rhetoric from Democrats about fat bank profits, generous bonuses and stingy lending policies," the Washington Post writes. At the same time, Bloomberg notes, "Obama will take his case for initiatives to encourage hiring and expand trade before almost 90 U.S. chief executives today as he works to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business." The Wall Street Journal says "Obama faces a delicate balancing act during meetings with business leaders this week, as he works to win corporate support for his battered economic agenda while maintaining his populist stance against Wall Street excess and business 'special interests.'" Steven Pearlstein is pleased that "there appears to be a good chance for a breakthrough" on financial regulatory reform in the Senate.
"SIREN," says Mike Allen. Why? Because "President Barack Obama's top advisers are quietly laying the groundwork for the 2012 reelection campaign, which is likely to be run out of Chicago and managed by White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions. The planning for now consists entirely of private conversations, with Obama aides at all levels indulging occasionally in closed-door 2012 discussions while focusing ferociously on the midterm elections and health care reform, the Democratic sources said." Speaking of those midterms, The Fix reports: "After a month in which Democrats had to respond to a series of surprising retirements and the loss of a special election race in Massachusetts, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) is playing a little bit of offense this morning with an appearance at the Monitor Breakfast."
At the Pentagon, the much-chronicled momentum behind a repeal of the "don't ask don't tell" policy may have slowed a bit. "The top generals from the Army and the Air Force expressed deep concern on Tuesday about moving rapidly to lift the ban on openly gay service members, saying it could make it harder for their forces to do their jobs while fighting two wars," the New York Times reports. AP says "The carefully crafted comments indicate reluctance among the military's senior ranks to act anytime soon. ... In the meantime, congressional Democrats are debating how to advance the issue. Some party members are reluctant to repeal the 1993 law, while others want an immediate moratorium on dismissals."
February 24, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Health Care , The Rundown
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