Taking Pulse of Obama’s Health Care Summit

Bipartisan talk-a-thon carries healthy dose of political risk but potential rewards for both parties, pundits say

By DANIEL MACHT
|  Tuesday, Feb 9, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 AM PDT
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Will President Obama's latest attempt at bipartisanship succeed?

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President Obama, hoping to push his stalled signature domestic initiative across the finish line, has called for a half-day televised bipartisan health care summit Feb. 25 in Washington to hash out differences with his critics on Capitol Hill.

Republican congressional leaders accepted the invite, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed skepticism of any breakthroughs. Pundits argue the talk-a-thon carries a healthy dose political risk but also potential rewards for both parties:

  • “Senate Republicans may or may not come to the table with a comprehensive proposal,” writes David M. Herszenhorn on The New York Times’ Prescriptions blog. "And even if they pull one together, it’s not clear that the Congressional Budget Office would have time to do the cost analysis that would allow for a fair, apples-to-apples comparison with the Democrats’ legislation.”
     
  • Igor Volsky, writing for liberal blog ThinkProgress, argues the summit sets the stage for Obama to show he’s “taken his steps towards bipartisanship” – and Republicans should meet him halfway. “If they still insist on starting over, they’re effectively taking themselves out of the process and giving the reins to the Democrats,” he writes.
     
  • Over at the conservative National Review, Daniel Foster blogs that Republicans should “reveal [the summit] as the dog-and-pony show it truly is.” With opposition to the Democratic bill coming from such “veto-players” as Senate Republicans and moderates, Blue Dog Dems and “the American People most of all,” Foster sees the summit as a signal of “how few options” Democrats have left.
     
  • The summit is a winner for President Obama and Republican lawmakers both, argues Matthew Continetti for the conservative Weekly Standard. “By engaging Republicans, Obama will look bipartisan. By bringing Republicans and Democrats together, he will appear above the fray,” he writes. “Meanwhile, the Republicans have several weeks to focus their message, craft an alternative … They also have the advantage that, from the public's point of view, their ideas will be fresh.”
     
  • Republicans just might “game Obama,” blogs John Walker for the progressive FireDogLake. A GOP health care solution “does not need to be great, be workable, or hold together very well under scrutiny as long as it looks reasonable during the meeting,” he writes. “Their success will depend on making the current bill look as bad as possible, while also appearing like they are promoting reasonable solutions that Democrats are refusing to consider.”
     
  • Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Asspciation writes on Politico’s Arena blog that compromise shouldn’t have to be so hard to come by. “Look, if Leno and Letterman can get together in the best interest of ‘what's funny’ you would think that Congress could get together to save lives, reduce costs and improve health access for our citizens,” he writes.
     

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