No need to ‘start from scratch’

NO NEED TO ‘START FROM SCRATCH’…. Republican critics of health care reform don’t have a plan of their own, but they’re amazing when it comes to message discipline.

Congressman John Kline urged President Obama to take the proposed health care bill off the table Saturday and “start from scratch,” if he wants a bill passed anytime soon.

“There are things we can agree on, and things we can’t,” Rep. Kline said in a conference call with reporters, explaining Republicans are willing to sit down and compromise if the President will come to the table without the proposed bill HR3200.

Since June, GOP leaders have side-stepped constructive ideas, an alternative plan, and a willingness to consider even modest concessions, and have instead gone with the same message: we need to “start over.” Hit the “reset button.” Give up on the unprecedented progress policymakers have already made and “start from scratch.”

As a substantive matter, all of this is quite foolish. (A bill will pass sooner if Congress starts over? Huh?) Rhetorically, though, it’s an effective line — Republicans aren’t trying to kill necessary reform, the argument goes, they just want the majority to scrap all of their ideas and “start over” with a more Republican-friendly approach to the issue. It makes the GOP seem more interested in a solution, and less interested in obstructionism.

In reality, the opposite is true, but that’s what makes it good rhetoric — it appeals to those who’ve been led to believe the reform proposals under consideration are a mess and those who believe the White House wants to do “too much, too soon.” So, Republicans say it ad nauseum, substituting the request for anything meaningful.

But here’s the thing that makes Kline’s request especially problematic: this week, Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany (R) delivered the official Republican response to President Obama’s speech on health care reform. The next day, Boustany announced that congressional Republicans “agree on about 80%” on what the president is proposing on reform. He added that there are only a “few areas where we disagree.”

It leads to an obvious question: if Republicans are already on board with four-fifths of what Democrats have in mind, and four-fifths of the congressional committees have already approved reform measures, why in the world should the president take the House proposal off the table and “start from scratch”?