Would the White House present its own bill?

WOULD THE WHITE HOUSE PRESENT ITS OWN BILL?…. Last summer, the White House explicitly said that when it came to health care reform, it would gladly allow Congress to write the legislation itself. President Obama would establish the vision and lay out the principles, but let lawmakers do what lawmakers do. The Clinton White House presented its own bill in 1993, and the Obama team agreed it was probably a mistake.

Indeed, a month ago, when reform was poised to be a historic success, Obama’s specific decision on this point was seen as a shrewd and wise move.

Quite a bit has changed since then. The House has its bill, which can’t pass the Senate. The Senate has its bill, which apparently can’t pass the House. There have been talks about striking a compromise deal, but the discussions have gone nowhere.

Would these circumstances lead the White House, left with limited options, to produce its own bill in advance of next week’s bipartisan summit? Maybe.

With the House and the Senate still at loggerheads over their health care bills, the White House hinted on Tuesday that President Obama might post his own bill on the Internet before the bipartisan health care summit he is planning for Blair House next week.

In the nearly a year since Congress began debating a health care overhaul, Mr. Obama has yet to make his own priorities explicit…. During a news conference last week, Mr. Obama said he envisioned posting a merged House-Senate bill that would address his goals of controlling costs and expanding coverage. […]

But Mr. Obama may be running out of time. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked Monday if the president would simply post his own bill if the House and the Senate cannot come to terms.

“Stay tuned,” Mr. Gibbs said. He declined to elaborate.

Well, what an interesting response.

The White House has said it intends to “post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package” in advance of the Feb. 25 talks. By all indications, that meant finding a compromise deal between the House and Senate proposals.

But I’ve talked to some staffers on the Hill today who sounded exceedingly skeptical that this was a realistic goal, and said there had be no meaningful progress on inter-chamber talks of late. To have a final Democratic package ready for Thursday — or even earlier, since the plan would have to be online for a while in advance of the summit — House and Senate leaders would already have to be very close to finalizing a deal. By all indications, that’s simply not the case, at least not yet.

Maybe hints of a White House proposal are intended to give the House-Senate negotiations a kick in the pants; maybe the White House believes those negotiations are a dead end and sees a new reform bill as the most promising way forward.

But nine days before the summit, it seems just about everything is still in flux.