By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
House Republican Leader John Boehner has the opportunity to dominate the upcoming healthcare summit in a way that drives home the point that there is, in fact, a bipartisan aspect to the healthcare legislation currently stalled in Congress.
Lost in the debate over whether the Democrats could assemble a coalition of 60 votes to pass the bill out of the Senate is the fact that the real stumbling blocks to what Obama wants are the members of his own party. Support for the healthcare bill is not bipartisan—but the opposition most assuredly is. That includes not only the 39 Democrats who eventually voted against the bill in the House but the members of the U.S. Senate—like Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Mary Landrieu—whose support had to be bought with pork. And it includes the nearly two score House Democrats who agreed to vote for the bill only after strong language blocking federal dollars from being used to fund abortions was added at virtually the last minute.
President Obama has invited a polarized delegation to meet with him at Blair House next week. The Republicans who have been invited oppose the bill while the Democrats largely support it. Given that he has the opportunity to add four members of Congress of his choosing to the discussion, John Boehner has the opportunity to break the tie—but only if he is willing to be bold and creative.
As part of his delegation, Boehner should ask Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak—the author and force behind the pro-life amendment added to the House bill but missing from the Senate version—and one other Democrat who voted against the bill in the House to join him on his side of the table when meeting with the president.
Obama and the Democratic leadership are approaching the meeting as a matter of addition. To come to the table, reportedly, with a draft bill and with the intention of adding enough things the Republicans want to get the bill through Congress. It's an arrogant approach, one that typifies what the American people are saying over and over that they don't like about Washington.
Boehner and the Republicans, however, want to start the discussions all over again. To begin anew, to work with the Democrats to formulate a targeted approach to healthcare reform that preserves what is best in the American system while addressing the problems posed by a cost curve that appears headed out of control. By inviting Democrats who do not support the Obama plan to attend the summit, Boehner will make obvious what White House policymakers should already understand: More Americans now oppose the president's plan for healthcare reform than support it, including a substantial number of Democrats.