Among President Obama’ opening remarks at the Health Care Summit: “I hope this isn’t political theater.” We waited to see…
The Republicans sent in their health care experts first, not their leadership. Senator Lamar Alexander set the standard for a clear, succinct and straightforward presentation – a standard the Democrats simply could not match. He focused on points that both sides of the aisle were agreed upon – something the President himself did to wrap up the session – albeit underlining the areas where Republicans have pushed back.
He gave life and meaning to the proceedings when he threw down the gauntlet on a key Constitutional point:
He asked Democrats to drop their determination to push the bill through via the reconciliation process and to jointly begin again. If not, he said all that would be discussed thereafter would be irrelevant.
Reaction to this was as expected:
CNN’s senior correspondent, Candy Crowley made the MSM move from reporting to editorializing in her “tweet:”
oh dear lamar alexander says if pres. won’t scrub current hcare plan, vow not to jam through..nothing else today will mean anything. whoa
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate, Majority Leader Reid. Injected heavy doses of bipartisanship in their follow up remarks. Pelosi evoked the ghost of Edward Kennedy yet again. Reid was especially sharp when he characterized Senator Coburn, a medical doctor, as a senator engaging in a filibuster. Later it was discovered that the Democrats had taken the lion’s share of the time allotted. It remained for the President to demonstrate bipartisanship for is party – it’s lonely at the top.
Six hours of debate about what is at stake did provide more clarity on the issues for the average citizen. Also made clear was the dynamic that has brought the government to a point of gridlock – gridlock that will not easily end.
Pelosi pointed out that the Republicans had had a year since the first summit to help devise a bipartisan plan. Pelosi has a bad memory. When you are intent upon creating something behind closed doors, that is not a good fit with a public debate on the issues.
The President’s summary remarks took us back to the current stalemate. He assigned blame to Republicans for stalling progress in their refusal to embrace insurance reform relative to pre-existing conditions and by not wanting legislation to extend coverage to millions more people. He was emphatic that he will not go with their step-by-step approach. It will be all or nothing. He ended with the alternative that if agreement could not be reached in a month, then the voters would decide in November.
However, the President did leave the door open for use of the reconciliation process. It is a hallmark of the Democrats’ thinking that their measures could and should be passed by a simple majority vote. In doing so, they would be going against the mechanism the founding fathers inserted into the Constitution to slow debate and process to protect the voice of the minority and to make people think about what they were doing. Here is the point at which this whole business truly became the theater of the absurd.