Health care summit: Democracy in(action)

“We’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over.” President Obama to Sen. John McCain today at the White House health care summit.

If you can take the time, here’s a link to video of today’s intense, partisan, maybe even historic, made-for-TV President Obama-Congress health-care  session in Washington D.C. today — plus a link to live video. And here’s a link to the Washington Post’s live blog from the White House discussion.

For anyone who cares about how our government operates — should be all of us, right? — it’s really an extraordinary, if wordy, event, with the President, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, squaring off against Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and John McCain, along with Rep. Paul Ryan, among others.

Personal view: You gotta give Obama credit for standing in there, all day. Whether his new plan has any chance of passing — a somewhat dubious prospect right now — the president  is out there fighting for his proposal. In the end, however, nothing changed and the political gamespersonship moves toward whether the president and his party will try to force the plan through Congress without Republican votes.


Did anything change today? Probably not. But the debate continues … that is, if anyone wants it to. The Times of London today had a very funny story that just watching this endless talk could be damaging to Americans’ health; or as the Drudge Report summarized it, “Obama Bores Republicans into Submission.”

Here’s our Editorial for Friday’s Sentinel on the summit:

Do Republicans want to see President Obama be able to pass some sort of health care reform?
After Thursday’s rather extraordinary, televised “summit” on health care featuring the president and Republican opposition — probably not.
After 7 1/2 hours of discussion, presidential lecturing, frayed tempers, wonkish facts and figures, posturing and grandstanding, it’s unlikely Republicans will feel any additional pressure to fix health care.
By the end, Obama seemed to accept there won’t be any bipartisan consensus on health care and that if wants his plan, then he’ll have to ram the legislation through Congress with no Republican votes — a procedure that would override the need for 60 votes in the Senate and could create a political backlash.
Obama’s health care proposal, similar to legislation approved by the Senate late last year, pre-Massachusetts election, was pretty much deemed DOA earlier this week in terms of getting 60 votes in the Senate.
And there’s still a feeling the administration may still be willing to accept a more modest plan closer to what Republicans want, without many of the costs and trade-offs in the current mammoth plan.
The administration knows a majority of voters do not support Obama Care, at least as they have come to understand it, even if there is support for reform — because the current system is broken, costs are spiraling, and millions of uninsured Americans need to be covered.
Many people are convinced Democrats just want government to take over health care — and that the spiraling deficit will grow worse, while premiums go up.
Obama’s latest plan has been criticized for having more taxes, more public subsidies and even fewer cost controls than the Senate bill — while still granting the kind of favors to special interests that have sunk the Senate plan.
On the left, the lack of a public option has angered many of the president’s most fervent supporters.
Obama and Democratic leadership in Congress hope voters will see Republicans as obstructionist, unwilling to come up with their own meaningful alternatives.
But will the president take a smaller plan and then be able to count it a political success? One signal that he might came during Thursday’s session when Obama said he wants to change how the United States deals with medical malpractice lawsuits — long a Republican argument for why health care is so expensive.
But after Thursday, that’s a long shot. The administration will have to decide whether pushing their plan through with no Republican votes will end up costing Democrats too many votes in November.

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2 Responses to Health care summit: Democracy in(action)

  1. RobtA says:

    Cut to the chase: What’s in it for ME? Nada.

  2. disabuser says:

    Most people didn’t see it and probably won’t, although I’d recommend watching it on one of C-SPAN’s rebroadcasts or video stream. I thought parts of it were useful. But how people who run the media handle what was said will weigh heavily on its potential value of the summit to the country. This could provide a good opportunity for explaining many issues that citizens need to understand. The level of public understanding around the difficult choices and trade offs implicit in health care reform is still quite low.

    Unfortunately the news media contributes to that in being mostly all about the political contest around health legislation while doing much less to help voters with the kind of understanding needed to make good decisions regarding health reform policy.

    There’s no doubt that some participants were all about the underlying political battle. The political stakes in the outcome of legislation could indeed be high. I think it would be useful to identify the kind of contribution, or lack of it, of different participants made. Some were serious. Some were fairly gratuitous political rhetoric. The party leaders in the Congress were generally in the latter camp.

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