There’s that 80% figure again

THERE’S THAT 80% FIGURE AGAIN…. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D) got together yesterday for a forum on health care policy in their home state of Virginia. By all accounts, it was a civil gathering in Richmond.

Cantor was pressed, however, on a couple areas of interest.

Richmond resident Ben Ragsdale demanded to know how Republicans were going to expand access to healthcare if they have only a four-page list of bullet-points as their plan.

“What is your substantive proposal to meet these real everyday problems that people have? Where’s the beef?” Ragsdale asked, triggering applause from the crowd.

The telegenic GOP lawmaker said Republicans and Democrats agree on 80 percent of fixing the nation’s healthcare system, but could not show the crowd a detailed plan that has been endorsed by House Republicans.

Cantor earlier this year said House Republican leaders would release an alternative healthcare plan, but have not done so yet.

There are two interesting angles here. The first is the constituent’s very good point — there’s still no Republican health care plan. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters in July that GOP lawmakers were putting “the final touches on our bill,” which, he said, would hopefully be available “soon.” That was 61 days ago, and no one’s heard a peep about their bill since.

Cantor said yesterday that a bill is on the way. I seriously doubt that.

The second, though, is Cantor’s claim that Republicans already agree with 80% of the Democratic reform proposals. That’s exactly the same line Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany (R), the Republican who delivered the official GOP response to President Obama’s speech on health care reform, took a couple of weeks ago.

The standard Republican talking point is that Democrats need to scrap all of their work, start over, and make GOP lawmakers happy from now on. But the next question remains obvious: 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 Democratic policymakers “start from scratch” or “hit the reset button”?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.