Boustany sees areas of agreement with Obama?

BOUSTANY SEES AREAS OF AGREEMENT WITH OBAMA?…. It’s been largely lost in the shuffle, but Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany (R) delivered the official Republican response to President Obama’s speech on health care reform last night. The congressman’s remarks were forgettable, but the bottom line was straightforward enough: Boustany wants the majority to throw away all the progress they’ve made on reform and start over with a more Republican-friendly package.

“Most Americans,” the Republican said, “wanted to hear the president tell Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the rest of Congress that it’s time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality.” The rest was fairly predictable, and most of it was wrong.

Today, however, Boustany had a very different message. Brian Beutler reports:

Maybe President Obama’s health care speech yesterday did have an impact on Republicans. For instance, earlier this afternoon, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) told MSNBC “of course there’s common ground. There is plenty of common ground.”

“In fact,” he said, “I would venture to say that we agree on about 80% of the issues right now. It’s just a matter of hashing out those few areas where we disagree, but there’s really not been that kind of real discussion, and it needs to happen.”

This is a little bewildering. Just last night, Boustany, in a prepared, written speech, said policymakers need to “start over” from scratch. About 12 hours later, Boustany believes Democrats and Republicans already agree on 80% of the entire reform initiative?

If the GOP agrees that four-fifths of the Obama-backed vision is entirely agreeable, why have they spent the last several months telling Americans it will destroy the country? For that matter, if Boustany thinks four-fifths of the Obama-backed vision is something he can support, why should the majority party agree to “start over” now?

That said, assuming Boustany meant what he said today — by no means a safe assumption — it seems like the foundation for renewed optimism. A leading GOP voice on health care reform announced on national television today that the Democratic reform package is 80% acceptable to Republican lawmakers. That’s great news. Now, what kind of compromises are GOP officials prepared to make on the other 20%?