With or without you

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU…. The stated goal of the White House summit on health care was to have a conversation. President Obama wanted to talk with lawmakers from both parties about areas of agreement and disagreement. He may have even held out some hope that Republicans would show more flexibility than they’ve been willing to consider thus far.

But now that the forum has come and gone, there can be no doubt that the White House intends to move forward with its plans for a comprehensive health care reform package.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted an item last night, reiterating how the president perceives the state of the debate. Pfeiffer highlighted the merit of the Democratic proposal, rejected a conservative approach to regulations, and said “a problem this big cannot be addressed incrementally.” He added:

[W]hile the President appreciated the participation and input of everyone today, he doesn’t think we can just scrap a year’s worth of work and start over. The millions of Americans that are suffering can’t afford another year-long debate. There’s too much at stake.

In effect, yesterday was about both sides asking the other a fundamental question. Obama’s question for Republicans was, “We’re offering a bipartisan, comprehensive package built around principles you claim to support. Are you willing to work with us?” Republicans came with their own question: “Will you throw out all the work you’ve done and promise to let us kill reform with a filibuster?” Both sides have the same answer to the competing questions: “No.”

The difference is, Democrats are the governing majority, and the party’s leaders see no reason to make Republican satisfaction a prerequisite for success.

Indeed, the president said as much during his closing remarks yesterday afternoon.

“[W]hat I’d like to propose is that I’ve put on the table now some things that I didn’t come in here saying I supported, but that I was willing to work with potential Republican sponsors on. I’d like the Republicans to do a little soul-searching and find out are there some things that you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the preexisting condition issue.

“I don’t know, frankly, whether we can close that gap. And if we can’t close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward.”

As Greg Sargent explained, “Whether Obama and Dems will succeed in passing reform on their own is anything but assured, to put it mildly. But there’s virtually no doubt anymore that they are going to try.”

Christina Bellantoni added, “Obama’s statement and Democratic reactions after the summit were the clearest signal yet that the majority party is charging ahead and abandoning attempts at bipartisanship.”

Dems were, of course, given no other choice. Republicans oppose health care reform.

With that in mind, Democrats have two short-term goals: crafting a final package that can (1) get 218 Democratic votes in the House; and (2) get 51 Democratic votes in the Senate. And those head-counting efforts are already well underway.