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The first reaction I had when I read that President Obama has finally invited Republicans to the White House to talk about health care was “What took you so long?” The next thought I had was whether he’d insist that some of their ideas be included in a health care bill. Anything’s possible but I’ll stay skeptical until there’s proof that this isn’t just a presidential photo-op.

The Feb. 25 meeting’s prospects for success are far from clear. GOP leaders demanded Sunday that Democrats start from scratch, and White House aides said Obama had no plans to do so.

“If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio also threw some jabs while accepting Obama’s invitation. He said he was glad the White House “finally seems interested in a real, bipartisan conversation,” adding that Americans have rejected “the job-killing, trillion-dollar government takeover of health care bills passed by the House and Senate.”

Considering the fact that the Democrats’ special interest groups fought for the public option in the Democrats’ bill, I don’t see how a bill passes if it has a number of provisions in it that the Republicans must insist on. The Democrats’ special interest allies will fight against lawsuit abuse reform, which the Republicans must insist on being part health care legislation.

Republicans must insist on that as proof that these negotiations are serious. In fact, the Republican negotiators should present President Obama and congressional Democrats with specific language for lawsuit abuse reform. Republicans should play hardball in insisting on this provision because the American people overwhelmingly support lawsuit abuse reform.

President Obama is already laying out a few pre-conditions for the negotiations:

Asked if he was willing to start from square one, the president said he wants “to look at the Republican ideas that are out there. And I want to be very specific. ‘How do you guys want to lower costs? How do you guys intend to reform the insurance markets so people with preexisting conditions, for example, can get health care?'”

President Obama knows that greater competition and less governmental interference will lower costs. That isn’t opinion. It’s historical fact.

When Rush Limbaugh talked about his stay in a Hawaiian hospital after suffering chest pains, he told America that whenever a patient pays for the bill himself, hospitals offer a substantial discount to those patients because they don’t have to deal with insurance companies or government bureaucrats. That isn’t unique to that specific hospital either. That’s true at every hospital in America.

I’m more than a little skeptical of President Obama’s statements. When he visited the House Republicans’ retreat 2 weeks ago, President Obama said that he’d read Paul Ryan’s health care plan and knew what was in it. If President Obama was telling the truth that day, then he’d know that Ryan’s Patients’ Choice Act (PCA) legislation addresses insuring people with PECs:

SEC. 202. REQUIREMENTS.
(4) LIMITATION ON PRE-EXISTING CONDITION EXCLUSIONS- The State Exchange shall ensure that health insurance coverage offered through the Exchange meets the requirements of section 9801 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in the same manner as if such coverage was a group health plan.

President Obama’s statements this weekend lead me to believe that his complimenting Paul Ryan were more for effect than they were sincere compliments.

The PCA is the result of Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Devin Nunes, Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Richard Burr investing their time and their intellect. It’s a good faith effort to reform health care. Having interveiwed Paul Ryan and knowing how serious a man Tom Coburn is, there’s no reason for me to think that this is anything but serious legislation whose goal is to fix what’s broken in the health care system while keeping what’s right with the system intact.

Another reason why I’m skeptical that President Obama isn’t serious about bipartisan health care reform is because he can’t afford to differ with his special interest allies:

White House officials said Sunday that Obama does not intend to restart the health care legislative process from scratch. Many liberal groups and lawmakers want congressional Democrats to use all the parliamentary muscle they have to enact the measure that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, employing rules that could bypass GOP filibusters to make changes demanded by House Democrats.

I’ve said many times that universal health care is the Democrats’ Holy Grail. Achieving that would put eternal smiles on their faces. This White House statement further adds to my skepticism:

A White House statement Sunday said Obama repeatedly has made it clear “that he’s adamant about passing comprehensive reform similar to the bills passed by the House and the Senate.”

“He hopes to have Republican support in doing so, but he is going to move forward on health reform,” the statement said.

In other words, his invitation is just another opportunity for him to talk bipartisanship while acting in a totally partisan way. There’s nothing in that quote that says bipartisanship. The only message emanating from that quote is ‘It’s all about hardball partisan politics.’

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without Harry Reid’s quote on bipartisanship:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “we have promoted the pursuit of a bipartisan approach to health reform from day one.”

That’s hilarious. Obviously, Sen. Reid thinks of bipartisanship as locking Republicans out while Max Baucus, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel combined the Finance Committee’s bill with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill. Sen. Reid might think that voting on a bill without letting any senator read the bill is an exercise in bipartisanship. (I’m betting that Nevada voters will tell Sen. Reid that that isn’t their picture of bipartisanship but that’s another story.)

This is a test of President Obama’s seriousness and sincerity. If these negotiations aren’t serious, he’ll pay a hefty price for it in terms of credibility. If people reach the conclusion that his words are meaningless, they won’t trust him. Once that’s gone, everything is an uphill fight.

Personally, I think this is a political ploy aimed at attracting independents. I don’t think it’s a serious attempt at bipartisanship because the Democrats’ special interest allies can’t afford for it to be a serious attempt at bipartisanship.

That’s why these negotiations will fail.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

One Response to “Real Negotiations or Presidential Photo Op?”

  • Walter Hanson says:

    Gary:

    I got an idea for a bill and it can fit on this web post.

    In the United States any company or individual can buy a health care policy with no mandates at all.

    Wow what a simple and easy bill. You think Obama and the Democrats will want to support something to revolutionary.

    Walter Hanson
    Minneapolis, MN

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