Is Health Care Summit “Political Gamesmanship?”

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Concerns are rising on Capitol Hill that the upcoming televised health care summit proposed by President Obama is more of a publicity stunt rather than a sincere effort to a forge real bipartisan health care plan.

In a statement issued late Saturday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) says Obama is coming to the Feb. 25 summit with a health care deal already finalized which makes the meeting nothing more than “political gamesmanship.”

“A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Boehner said in a statement. “ We now know that instead of starting the ‘bipartisan’ health care ‘summit’ on Feb. 25 with a clean sheet of paper, the president and his party intend to arrive with a new bill written behind closed doors exclusively by Democrats — a backroom deal that will transform one-sixth of our nation’s economy and affect every family and small business in America. 

“They will then engage a largely handpicked audience in a televised ‘dialogue’ according to a script they have largely pre-determined.  They will do this as a precursor to embarking on a legislative course that Democratic congressional aides acknowledge has also been pre-determined — a partisan course that relies on parliamentary tricks to circumvent the will of the American people and engineer a pre-determined outcome. 

“It doesn’t sound much like bipartisanship to me.”

The “parliamentary tricks” he’s referring to is the Democrats’ plan  to use budget reconciliation rules which would allow them to enact their grossly unpopular health care reform by a simple majority in the Senate, rather than with the 60 votes they need to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Last week, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told the media that the president will not rule out using reconciliation, but insists that he’s sincere in wanting to hear Republican ideas.

However, Republicans say the only way to prove his sincerity is by scrapping the current plan.

“If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate,” said Boehner and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor in a recent letter to White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support. Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.”

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