After Republican Scott Brown was elected into the US Senate in January, President Obama acknowledged that his health care reform bill could die on Capital Hill. As many Democrats looked to the White House for guidance about how to keep the bill on a forward path, President Obama seemed less than optimistic about the bill’s passage. At a fundraising event, the President stated “it’s very important for us to have a methodical, open process over the next several weeks, and then let’s go ahead and make a decision.”1 This statement was miles away from his previous exclamations of “Yes we can.”
Part of this open process to which the President referred was the creation of a bipartisan health care summit. Republicans and Democrats alike, with health care experts in tow, will bring their best ideas forward and discuss them publicly in a televised summit scheduled for February 25. The format of the summit will be opening remarks by the President, comments from a Republican leader and a Democratic leader, and a 4-topic discussion that will be moderated by the President. The topics to be discussed are insurance reform, cost containment, expanding coverage, and the impact of health care legislation on the deficit.
Both parties, however, have their reservations about this format—the first of its kind. Republicans are concerned that the summit is a thinly disguised political trap—meaning that they do not want to be viewed as the party of “no” in an election year. Democrats, who were unable to pass a bill even with no interference by Republicans, are also skeptical that this will lead to a passable bill.
A total of 37 lawmakers have been invited to attend the event—20 Democrats and 17 Republicans. Twenty-one of those attendees are the top leaders of the House and Senate and of committees with jurisdiction over health care legislation. The top 4 leaders were then told to each invite 4 other lawmakers.
As it stands, Republicans and Democrats are far apart in their approaches. More than 30 million uninsured Americans would be covered under Democratic legislation, whereas only 3 million uninsured Americans would be covered under a House Republican plan. Both parties recognize a couple areas of common ground, which are reforming the medical malpractice system and finding ways for consumers to shop for health coverage across state lines.
1. Werner E. Republican response mixed on invitation to President Obama’s health care summit. StarTribune. http://www.startribune.com/politics/84295842.html. Published February 13, 2010. Accessed February 23, 2010.