PENCE ON THE GOP’S APPROACH TO COMPROMISE…. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) appeared on “Hardball” yesterday, and Chris Matthews asked a reasonable question in response to Pence’s stated willingness to “compromise” with the White House. “What compromise would you say ‘yes’ to on health care? What compromise? Tell me the package; give me the main details.”

The exact wording of Pence’s initial reply was, “Well, look, you know, I was, uh, yeah, yeah, look, uh.” He went on to say (twice) that he was pleased to see the president express support for allowing consumers to buy insurance across state lines.

In other words, Pence’s idea of compromising with Democrats is highlighting a provision that’s already been in the Democratic health care plan for months.

Indeed, if Pence, one of Congress’ dimmest bulbs, was paying attention to the substantive details, the president actually explained pretty well how the Democratic proposal incorporates the GOP idea in a way that actually works.

It’s the difference between ideas that sound good and ideas that work well. Republicans focus on the former; Democrats actually think about the latter.

For Pence, the idea sounds simple: just let consumers pick policies from across state lines. But there’s no real analysis behind the bumper-sticker approach to problem-solving.

Chris Matthews didn’t know enough about the issue to engage Pence, but Matt Yglesias explained why this is more difficult than it sounds: “Right now, health insurance is regulated at the state level. That means that if you want to sell insurance in California, you need to develop an insurance policy that’s compliant with California’s insurance regulations. It might be a better idea to instead regulate health insurance at the federal level, and say that if you want to sell insurance in the United States of America you need to develop an insurance policy that’s complaint with America’s insurance regulations.

“Pence’s proposal, however, is that one revenue-hungry state should cut a deal with insurers — move your headquarters’ to Sioux Falls (or just bribe enough state legislators) and we’ll let your lobbyists write whatever lax regulations you like. Then next thing you know everyone is ‘allowed’ to buy this unregulated South Dakota health insurance and no other kind of insurance policies are available. This is what’s been done with the credit card industry and it’s the model that Pence wants to extent to health insurance.”

It’s why President Obama and congressional Democrats have approved the concept of buying across state lines, but have mandated minimum standards to prevent the so-called “race to the bottom” problem Mike Pence doesn’t acknowledge.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.