THE WEEK THE DEMS’ HEALTH PLAN COMES TOGETHER?…. On Friday, the White House released invitations to its health care summit, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 25. There was, as we talked about on Saturday morning, an important hint in the text of the invitation.
“Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package,” the materials read, adding, “It is the President’s hope that the Republican congressional leadership will also put forward their own comprehensive bill to achieve those goals and make it available online as well.”
This certainly made it sound as if there will be a completed Democratic proposal in place by the 25th, which would be quite a breakthrough, since there is no completed Democratic package right now. Is that really the plan? Ezra Klein reports this morning that this is, in fact, what officials have in mind.
I spoke to the White House over the weekend and they indicated that the president’s package will not be a new White House plan, but a compromise between the House and Senate bills. That is to say, the White House expects that the House and Senate will have a compromise plan by February 25th.
That would represent quite a breakthrough. It’s unclear what, exactly, would be in the compromise package, or when the deal will be complete, but the effort itself is encouraging. Indeed, it suggests the White House is taking more of a hands-on approach, which makes a deal that much more likely.
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are in an awkward position. The invitation to the summit encouraged GOP officials to “put forward their own comprehensive bill … and make it available online as well.” Jonathan Cohn summarized the significance of the request.
Republicans want to make this event — and, indeed, this whole debate — a referendum on the Democratic health care reform plan. Obama wants to make this a referendum on what to do about the nation’s health care problems, with each party putting forward its ideas. And it looks to me like Obama will get his way.
If the Republicans don’t post a plan, everybody will see that the GOP isn’t serious about health care reform. If the Republicans do post a plan, they’ll have to defend it.
And they can’t, because their plan isn’t any good.
It’s one of the main reasons Republicans are so outraged at the idea of meeting at the summit with two competing plans. For Obama, the pitch seems pretty straightforward: “Both sides will bring a proposal to the gathering, where we’ll get together and talk about them.” For the GOP, that’s a disaster in the making — the Republican plan is absurd, and looks even worse when both approaches are scrutinized side by side.
The GOP is feeling increasingly antsy about the summit. That’s a good sign.