What can Obama trade?
In Roll Call, Norm Ornstein games out Thursday's health-care summit:
Here is my suggestion for how the summit and its aftermath might go. First, the president could explain the core components of this plan in ways that will reassure Americans that this is no wacky or extreme venture. Second, there could be ample opportunity for Republicans to offer their ideas, including discrete ones like Pawlenty’s and comprehensive plans like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s. Have a lively exchange of views.
And then follow the summit with a statement by the president to this effect: “I said at the House Republican retreat that I welcomed constructive Republican ideas for health reform that would make a better, fairer and more effective health care system. There were several outlined today. I am going to incorporate many of them into my plan, including better malpractice reform and ways to reduce defensive medicine, more choice for empowered individuals through Health Savings Accounts and the ability for people to buy insurance across state lines — but with federal minimum standards so we do not get the race to the bottom that we experienced with credit cards. I will add more resources and leeway for Medicare to gather and provide data and measure outcomes.
“As soon as I can get such ideas translated into legislation, I will give a new, revised and scored bipartisan plan to Congress and ask Harry Reid to schedule a vote in the Senate. I will ask Republicans to support the new plan — or at minimum to allow an up-or-down vote and not engage in a united effort to filibuster the bill.”
This is, I think, the consensus expectation for Thursday's summit. But one complication: The White House has not communicated with congressional Democrats on any serious concessions. There is no secret plan for adding tort reform to the bill, or for plugging an expansion of health savings accounts into the exchanges. Any serious concessions, of course, will provoke a reaction on the Democratic side. Tort reform that really hits trial lawyers will probably lose a couple of votes. Trial lawyers are major Democratic donors, and some of them are even serving in Congress.
But none of these additions are likely to gain any Republican votes. Nor will they shut off a Republican filibuster. So if Obama tries to add these ideas just to look bipartisan, he's liable to lose more votes than he gains, and he doesn't have many votes to lose.
Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty.
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