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The golden-ticket holders

Curious who's getting an invite to Blair House for the big health-care summit? Well, wonder no more. The White House has released the congressional guest list.


Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Republican leader
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), majority whip
Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Republican whip
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Finance Committee
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), majority leader
Rep. John Boehner (Ohio), Republican leader
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), majority whip
Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), Republican whip
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), ranking member of the Education and Labor
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chair emeritus of the Energy and Commerce Committee

This seems like too many people to get anything done. And where are the good-faith folks who'd actually have something interesting to say? Ron Wyden's not on there. Jay Rockefeller's not on there. Even Olympia Snowe's not on there. They've left off the people who know the most about the subject and would be likeliest to cut a deal. Obviously, that's not an accident: The guest list would swell dramatically and there'd be more hurt feelings. But in confining this to leadership and committee chairs, something will be lost, too.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 12, 2010; 5:12 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: How a dumb idea becomes a law
Next: Will health-care insurance save your life?


Worse and worse. Not only does it seem like they have no clue, they seem to have anti-clues.

Posted by: AZProgressive | February 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

If the President really wants to shake up Washington, he will invite those who have something to contribute and who are able to imagine different options regardless of position. Those invited might or might not include leadership. Let's go with talent--not rank.

Posted by: tomheuerman | February 12, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

What is this bill text that Rahm Emanuel refers to in the invitation letter, just the Senate bill?
"Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package. This legislation would put a stop to insurance company abuses, extend coverage to millions of Americans, get control of skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reduce the deficit.
It is the President’s hope that the Republican congressional leadership will also put forward their own comprehensive bill to achieve those goals and make it available online as well."

Posted by: kkrahel | February 12, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

By all means.
Let us negotiate with Chuck Grassley.
This seems a most promising and novel strategy.

Posted by: adamiani | February 12, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

They should have invited Scott Brown and pinned him down on his statements that he (1) favors universal coverage but (2) not any of the ways to pay for it.

That would demonstrate the idiocy of claiming the Massachusetts special election was a referendum on health care reform.

Posted by: edwardlahoa | February 12, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Five bucks says that Scott Brown will be there since each side gets to invite 4 more people.

Posted by: StokeyWan | February 12, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

You've got to be freaking kidding me

Posted by: ab13 | February 12, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

+1, adamiani

Posted by: etdean1 | February 12, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

There sure are some rank "members" in there.
[adjective, -er, -est.
2. producing an excessive and coarse growth, as land.
3. having an offensively strong smell or taste: a rank cigar.
4. offensively strong, as a smell or taste.
5. utter; absolute: a rank amateur; rank treachery.
6. highly offensive; disgusting: a rank sight of carnage.
7. grossly coarse, vulgar, or indecent: rank language.
8. Slang. inferior; contemptible. ]

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | February 12, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

So, I realize that (a) Budget people aren't going and (b) the GOP hasn't necessarily rallied around the "Road Map," but I really wish Paul Ryan were going. He clearly knows this subject - just read his interview with Ezra (pols usually don't hold their own against wonks). To be clear, I don't agree with his proposal, but at least it is thougtful and does have significant budgetary impacts on deficits and debt. Would have been nice to see him there because he would probably raise the most forceful and potent questions against Obama. And in my mind, pushback and critical thinking that goes beyond typical GOP boilerplate would be healthy.

Posted by: gocowboys | February 12, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

This list shows Obama is not serious about seeking an open discussion of health care. The Republicans will offer no constructive ideas, other than tort reform. The Democrats will merely support what has already passed their respective houses of Congress. The "summit" will be a public relations stunt.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | February 12, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

There's always the chance that Wyden, Snowe, etc will be among the 4 members that each congressional leader can bring along. From the letter:

"The President would like each of you to designate an additional four Members to attend the meeting and be available to participate. It is also important that each of you have one staff member specializing in health care policy in the meeting."

Posted by: johnpfranklin | February 12, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to play the role of Carnac the magnificent here about this summit and healthcare reform:

1. Nothing will come from the summit, except a mountain of platitudes about how all these people recognize something needs to be done.

2. The current bills will both die of political starvation, and this silly summit is a pretext for it.

3. This will lead to a pissed off Democrat base, and a Republican House.

4. Nothing of any real substance will get done between now and 2017.

Alrighty. Have a good weekend. Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 12, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

i just got off of the phone with the blue cross- anthem person to see if this increase i just got is really real. i still cant believe it.
i sure hope that they can get some kind of health care reform passed, that will help someone.
go we, by the grace of G-d.

Posted by: jkaren | February 12, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

You forgot to include this part of the letter:

"...the President is inviting the most senior House/Senate bipartisan leadership, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the committees that oversee health insurance reform legislation in both chambers...The President would like each of you to designate an additional four Members to attend the meeting and be available to participate. It is also important that each of you have one staff member specializing in health care policy in the meeting."

It seems like along with the committee members and leadership of both parties, 4 additional members can attend, as well as one staff member that knows what they're talking about.

So it doesn't seem like this is as cut off of "good-faith" people as you portray. And "too many folks?" Congress is made up of over 500 people. I think 20 or so participants is pretty small given the size of the body.

Posted by: Emma6 | February 12, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

daaaaaamn! (hows that for a comment of the day? lol) but really, they NEEDED to have wyden & snowe at the least!! dangit!

Posted by: schaffermommy | February 13, 2010 3:35 AM | Report abuse

"What is this bill text that Rahm Emanuel refers to in the invitation letter, just the Senate bill?"

That's the $64,000 question. Whatever text the White House posts must represent something that Democrats are prepared to pass, otherwise the summit itself is an empty exercise.

One might fairly assume that the goal is a text that represents a combination of the Senate bill and a sidecar budget reconciliation package (amending the Senate bill to address the major concerns in the House). The major question is still whether an agreement can be reached on language that will lead to 50 Senators plus Joe Biden voting to approve the language in a reconciliation package, and thereby allowing a majority of House members to be comfortable passing the Senate bill.

If the text that the Democrats release in advance of the summit does not appear to reflect that such an agreement is already in place, then I don't think summit negotiations with Republicans will matter, it will become a debate over the merits in the details of legislation that has no chance of passage.

What happens (or does not happen) in advance of the summit is ultimately going to be more important than whatever happens during the summmit.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 13, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps one reason the White House chose not to invite more of the "good-faith" Republicans is to avoid being accused of stacking the deck in their favor.

As much as I hope that there will be a constructive back and forth on the issues, this event is probably as much an attempt at making Republicans look uncompromising as it is brokering an actual deal. Thus, inviting the obstinate Republicans probably serves the administration's goals a little better.

Posted by: dbackes | February 13, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

""inviting the obstinate Republicans probably serves the administration's goals a little better.""

This is an awfully good point. I do wonder how Republicans will act in front of the cameras when the forum is not one in which there are rules-based norms as there are on the House floor nor the format of a "talking heads" show where the goal is to get out as many talking points soundbites as possible. I'm skeptical of the "film the negotiations" things, because I don't think we should turn official government business into a reality show, but I do wonder if it could affect our public perception of how the government works: are Boehner's talking points going to be credible when he's on camera talking with Obama like a normal adult (if that's what he's like behind closed doors)?

Posted by: tyromania | February 13, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

what happened to the idea that healthcare economists would be there too? All we have here is a bunch of politicians whose talking points on either side will push their agenda (one way or the other). Exactly how will this solve anything other than political polling?

And also the fact that Dems are repackaging their previous reform proposals for this public consumption does not make it bipartisan. Bipartisan is actually taking ideas from Republicans and doing them (selling across state lines would be a nice start). Before you say it won't work realize that about 10 years ago for example BCBS in PA started selling their products in NJ under a seperate entity called Amerihealth. BCBS of NJ did the same thing in NY under the name Horizon Healthcare. Empire BCBS of NY set up in NJ under the name Wellchoice. If insurers weren't forced to set up a brand new seperate shop in a state costs would come down.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 14, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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