Refusing to take ‘yes’ for an answer

REFUSING TO TAKE ‘YES’ FOR AN ANSWER…. OK, so Republicans want health care reform to be shaped entirely by their ideas. But would they tolerate a plan that includes some of their ideas? Apparently not — the existing proposal already does that.

Ezra Klein highlights an often-overlooked point this morning, noting that a surprising number of Republican proposals have already been incorporated in the reform plan pending in Congress. The Republicans’ “Solutions for America” page lists four planks — purchasing insurance across state lines, pooling customers together to lower prices, encouraging state innovation, and developing new malpractice systems — and literally all four are included in Democratic proposals.

On Sunday, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell responded to Barack Obama’s summit invitation by demanding Obama scrap the health-care reform bill entirely. This is the context for that demand. What they want isn’t a bill that incorporates their ideas. They’ve already got that. What they want is no bill at all. And that’s a hard position for the White House to compromise with.

Now, some of you are probably reading this and thinking, “Then why is the White House going to bother with a bipartisan summit in a couple of weeks? If Republicans refuse to be reasonable, what’s the point of reaching out?”

I’m not unsympathetic to the concern. The existing Democratic plan gives Republicans a great deal — no public option, no Medicare expansion, no “government takeover,” a huge reduction in the long-term budget deficit, and a wide variety of GOP ideas that have been incorporated into the plan. Republicans insisted Dems had to move to the middle with a centrist plan, and Democrats did exactly that.

And yet, the GOP refuses to take “yes” for an answer.

So what’s there to talk about on Feb. 25? If the summit is really about striking a new compromise, this would seemingly be pointless. But if the summit is about delving into these plans, exploring what is and isn’t in the proposal, and making it clear for all to see that Republican ideas have been considered — and in several instances, embraced — the gathering has the potential to change public attitudes and score a key public-relations victory.

Indeed, I can imagine a scenario in which the president spells all of this out explicitly — writing out which provisions are included that make Dems happy, which provisions are included (and excluded) that make Republicans happy, and declaring the whole package a triumph of bipartisan compromise. The GOP will still almost certainly balk, but the result will give Democrats cover and put Republican intransigence on full display.