Republicans Performed Beautifully at Health Reform Summit

The minority party took advantage of the platform Democrats offered them.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Here in Washington, we're getting high winds, but unlike New York and Philadelphia, no snow, so life went on as usual yesterday. I had PTA meetings and carpools to drive, a meeting on fundraising for Children's Hospital; like most people, I wasn't able to sit and watch the entire seven hours of coverage of the healthcare summit. But I did listen to it on the radio and have seen video clips, which is probably about average for most of us. People I've talked to seem to be engaged and paying attention to this right now. 

In my last column, my advice to Republicans was to come "loaded for bear," and marshal their best arguments about what the GOP stands for and why Republicans are not just the mindless obstructionists that Democrats portray them to be. They did that beautifully. Having Sen. Lamar Alexander speak was a great choice. And here's a clip from the star of the day, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan. It's worth watching (only about six minutes long). Jack Kemp and Bill Buckley would have been proud.

When the Republicans were deciding whether to accept the president's invitation to join him at the summit, the right was full of pundits warning that this was a "trap." Ed Morrissey over at responds to all the trappers: How many of the television networks would have carried Paul Ryan's statements had he made them alone on the steps of the Capitol? None. Instead, Republicans took advantage of the platform given them by the Democrats and may have convinced a few snowed-in independent New Englanders of the merits of Republican ideas. Morrissey quotes the positive reactions in the press. Here's a typical quote, from CNN "Live" yesterday:

CNN's GLORIA BORGER: "The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart." And: "They took on the substance of a very complex issue. … But they really stuck to the substance of this issue and tried to get to the heart of it and I think did a very good job." "They came in with a plan. They mapped it out."

What happens next? It looks like Democrats are moving forward anyway, which is a big political risk. According to this survey released yesterday from Gallup, those polled said that if an agreement is not reached between Democrats and Republicans:

Americans by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin oppose rather than favor Congress passing a healthcare bill similar to the one proposed by President Obama and Democrats in the House and Senate. By a larger 52 percent to 39 percent margin, Americans also oppose the Democrats in the Senate using a reconciliation procedure to avoid a possible Republican filibuster and pass a bill by a simple majority vote.

As House Minority Leader John Boehner asked yesterday in a well-written op-ed laying out the Republican position for readers on America Online, "Who is listening to the American people? Americans want Washington to scrap this job-killing government takeover of healthcare and start over with a step-by-step approach that will lower healthcare costs. That's not the 'Republican' view. It's the view of the American people. " He's right.