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If the summit fails ...

This isn't a very encouraging plan:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly said Democrats' messy negotiations soured the public. The White House now hopes that a better, more public process will boost public support and give congressional Democrats enough confidence to pass the bill, using a parliamentary procedure that requires just 51 Senate votes.

So far, congressional Democrats have been reluctant to take that course. If that fails, the White House hopes the summit will lay the groundwork for a modest bipartisan bill that would fall far short of Democrats' original goals, but would give the president and his allies a success to show voters this fall.

Really, Lucy? You promise you'll hold the football still this time?

By Ezra Klein  |  February 9, 2010; 12:02 PM ET
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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

~~~~~emily dickinson meets charles schultz

Posted by: jkaren | February 9, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, isn't the whole point of this summit to A) hopefully hammer out some kind of compromise, and B) if A doesn't work, at least show the public that the President has tried his best to meet the Republicans half-way and has explained the important provisions of the bill, giving the House of Reps enough cover to pass the Senate bill and a reconcilliation sidecar?

I'd be happy to add some conservative pet issue to the bills to ensure passage and turn the public opinion around, but if this last-ditch effort doesn't work it's time for the Democrats to just...hmmmm, I'm trying to think of something that sounds tough but isn't gender specific..."man up" doesn't feel right with so many female legislators, and I'm trying to avoid genetalia-based phrases these days.

Posted by: MosBen | February 9, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Which is less likely at this point?

That Republicans will negotiate in good faith in an effort to create a bipartisan plan?

Or that *anything* will be sufficient to give spineless Democrats the confidence to pass a bill?

Posted by: cog145 | February 9, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Shorter Obama:Hey Republicans if you can get the summit labeled a failure by you know not giving me a compromise the bill's dead! Now aren't you ready to negotiate?

Posted by: endaround | February 9, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, are you sure that the expressed "White House hope" was voiced by someone at the White House and was not an inference of reporter Laura Meckler, based on past ambiguous statements? It lacks even anonymous attribution, as in "a senior White House official". I've emailed Meckler asking for clarification.

Also, note that the claim is that if the effort to get *Dems* to pass the Senate bill plus reconciliation fails, the scaled-back bill is the next plan. That's different from suggesting that this is Plan B if getting Republican buy-in fails.

Posted by: sprung4 | February 9, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I think a big part of the idea of the summit (and the two week breather that takes place before the summit) is to allow 50 Senate Democrats (Joe Biden breaks a tie) to wrap their minds around the political consequences of Plan B (start over and scale it down to almost nothing). That outcome is so unpalatable for so many reasons that Plan A (pass the damn bill) is now a near certainty.

The Republicans are already helping out. Their "ransom note" set of demands to even attend the meeting makes it very clear that the opposition's only objective is to pull away the football at every opportunity.

The prospects for final passage of comprehensive HCR in the coming weeks became immensely better the moment that Obama announced the summit strategy.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Republicans should be wary of a meeting and seek to make it as fair and nonpartisan as possible. Democrats want this outside appearance of bipartisanship to rebuild trust with the American people that hated the Democrats' obstruction of democracy in HCR (payoffs, threats, closed doors).
That's fine, but you read in liberal blogs and editorials (including Obama's campaign manager) that they need to "remind the public how much they don't like Republicans" and the incessant claims of the "party of no". And the recent speeches by Obama have been very partisan.
It's clear that Democrats don't want to rebuild trust with the Republicans they turned away months ago, they want to use them as props for ridicule and abuse.

Posted by: cprferry | February 9, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Uh-huh. Who's this reporter got on the phone at the White House? This summit seems to have a lot more to do with the new White House media strategy than any newfound faith in bipartisanship.

Posted by: philogratis | February 9, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm just too Machiavellian for American politics. I assumed all along this was Obama's way ot painting the Republicans into a corner. They'd refuse to negotiate, and he could then jawbone the reluctant Democrats into ironing out the differences between the House and Senate bills and jamming them through, saying all the while the Republicans were given an opportunity to participate, but refused?

Leave everything the same--same atmosphere, same numbers of votes for each party--but replace the three key players with Lyndon Johnson, Mike Mansfield, and Carl Albert, and this would have been done weeks ago.

Posted by: dlk117561 | February 9, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, this is the first time the Republican leadership has been brought into a high profile policy summit like this. Earlier, the Democrats thought they could just role the Republicans because they were the new "permanent majority". The House totally left the Republicans out and rolled them with their superior numbers.

You can rightly say that Max Baucus was the exception to the Democrats view on this. But he was smarter than the rest of them. He knew that to do anything this big, he needed to have a bipartisan coalition. Baucus was right all along. It was Reid, Pelosi and Obama who were pushing and pushing.

Look where we are now. Bearing down on a big election and with nothing to show on this major issue. This should have been worked out between Republican and Democratic leadership, at a table like this, months ago.

The Democrats tried it their way, and failed, and now the whole enterprise is looking like it could fail. They screwed up big-time.

Posted by: lancediverson | February 9, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Nah, Baucus is the only reason the Republicans matter at all. The Democrats really COULD have rolled them if Baucus didn't waste everyone's time (and President Obama's approval ratings) with his summer-long Gang of Six nonsense.

This is a market-based bill that incorporates a bunch of Republican values (while flatly rejecting core Democratic priorities). But of course the GOP doesn't want to vote for it. More involvement in the process wouldn't have helped that.

The current "process" argument is just window dressing for the larger goal of obstruction. And just like last summer, Obama and the Dems are trying to meet them halfway. And just like last summer, these attempts are going to fail.

The whole point of moving on this so quickly was to give Dems TIME to recover from the inevitable sleaziness that passing legislation in Washington now requires. The longer they delay some end to this stupid saga, the more it's going to hurt them at the polls.

Posted by: NS12345 | February 9, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see Democrats act less bizarre than they have been for the past few weeks and move aggressively on health care. Republicans will, of course, fight this tooth and nail. They know that if the Democrats actually pass a health care bill, this would be a political catastrophe for the Republican party. They know full well that passing health care would, once it's done, quickly be seen as grandiose, hugely popular achievement and would position the Democratic party as the party of the middle class for many years to come.

Posted by: opinionpieces | February 9, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse


So you think it was a good idea to pass on a party-line vote an mandate that every individual in this nation buy health insurance or be fined?

Remember, this was an idea that even candidate Obama opposed when he defeated John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. He did not support this idea in the election with Senator McCain.

Your really think the Democrats would have been well served to pass something so very radical and new and not given the impramateur by the people in an election as a health insurance mandate without any cover from the Republicans or conservative Democrats?

I think that would have been very politically bad for Democrats and very unlikely to hold up during the 4 years until the full plan became operational. Legislation created in such a way usually swiftly gets repealed.

Posted by: lancediverson | February 9, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

"The whole point of moving on this so quickly was to give Dems TIME to recover from the inevitable sleaziness that passing legislation in Washington now requires. The longer they delay some end to this stupid saga, the more it's going to hurt them at the polls.
Posted by: NS12345"

You say that as if the sleaziness on health care reform started after Baucus refused to rush the bill through committee. When it started well beforehand.

The political payoffs and threats may be part of Washington, but the parties involved (included Pres. Obama) had their hands dirty well before they were forced to.

Posted by: cprferry | February 9, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Face it Dems, Ben Nelson and the unions put the kiss of death on the House and Senate Bills. Quit hoping Obama resuscitates them and pray he comes to the table with a plan so compelling in it's brilliance and simplicity that it instantly captures the imagination of the public and all parties are forced onto the bandwagon.

Sounds snarky, I know. But he might be able to do it, and it's what he ought to be aiming for rather than a Jesus and Lazarus redux.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 9, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I think that when all is said and done, the real flaw in the way the Dems proceeded with HCR was to not huddle up as a party sufficiently before the process started. Baucus began working on HCR back before the '08 election, but evidently nobody sat Leiberman, Nelson, Lincoln, etc. down in a room and said, "Ok, here are the basic principles of what we want to do. We're going to need everybody onboard with this, so what do you guys need so we can avoid embarrassing public fights?" If the Dems hadn't spent so long searching for 60 votes they'd be in a lot better shape.

Posted by: MosBen | February 9, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse


Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!

Posted by: keilprti1 | February 9, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"Remember, this was an idea that even candidate Obama opposed when he defeated John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. He did not support this idea in the election with Senator McCain. " Posted by: lancediverson

That is correct, lancediverson. Candidate Obama opposed a mandate.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 9, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

While Republicans have been IN FAVOR OF four or five major things in the bills, and we live in a system that only works by "compromise." But don't let consistency intrude!

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | February 9, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The White House a "success"? Why is Rahm still driving this?


Posted by: toshiaki | February 9, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I think I'm starting to understand why he's doing it this way. Obama has two options; protracted political war with the GOP until November, effectively starting the campaign now or he can maintain his position as the fair, reasonable manager of the government; a guy in between the Dems and the GOP. These summits and so forth re-cast the political background as one where the Dems propose stuff and the Republicans say "no" But what if the Republicans propose stuff? Well, so far what they propose tends to be outrageous if the Ryan budget is any indication. My guess is that Obama looks forward to more of such "proposals."
The risk on the downside is that unengaged voters see failures at bipartisan consensus as a failure of Obama and of the Dems and that the Dems' base gets more ticked at all this bipartisanship.
But a year long fight with the GOP probably hurts the Dems as much with indies and demoralizes the base just as much.
It's the job of Congressional Dems to call out their GOP colleagues for being obstructionist. It's White House's job to put McConnell and Boehner on the same stage as the President so that the American people can say "Oh, wait a minute..."

Posted by: phillycomment | February 9, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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