Published February 22, 2010
The Democrats just don’t get it. The American people don’t want what they are selling no matter how it is packaged and spun.
After all, what good is “affordable health care” if you don’t have a job to pay for it?
After his party suffered devastating electoral defeats in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, President Obama declared that his number one concern would be jobs and improving the health of the economy and reducing the deficit.
So, what is the president doing? Is he having a “jobs summit”? No, he is having a “health care summit.” The president just doesn’t get it.
The Democrats came to power convinced that they could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They created a “crisis” on health care, when America faced an honest to goodness crisis on the economy, the worst since the Great Depression.
After coming to power and controlling all branches of government with high majorities, Democrats did what they wanted, instead of what America needed. They forced through a stimulus bill that no one in Congress even bothered to read, promising that if it were passed our national unemployment would not climb above 8 percent. Everyone knows the stimulus was an utter and complete failure. Unemployment nationally still hovers around 10% and in many urban areas it tops 16 percent.
But, despite an ailing economy, and political setback after political setback, Democrats just cannot let health care go. The president does not have the ability or the power to push back on the most liberal members of his party and as a result his party will suffer greatly come this November.
It should be noted that to date, it has NOT been Republicans who have prevented a health care reform plan from being passed; it is Democrats who have failed themselves.
Democrats are now talking about passing their health care bill using a parliamentary maneuver called “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is a Congressional legislative process that allows a difficult budgetary bill to pass without the possibility of a filibuster. Without the threat of filibuster the Democrats who already control both Houses of Congress with high majorities can effectively silence their own rouge Members and those of the minority.
Republicans need to show up at the president’s “health care summit” but they can’t be part of an effort aimed at “window dressing” and they also can't be wall flowers at the party either.
The leadership of the Republican Party in both the House and Senate should confront the president at his summit in a respectful and forceful way.
Here is what they should say:
Mr. President, we the members of the Republican Leadership of the House and Senate are here today out of respect for you and your office and to constructively engage on the many issues regarding meaningful health care reforms. We would have preferred to have been called together to discuss job creation, deficit reduction and national spending. You, Mr. President, have specifically stated that your number one priority needs to be on jobs and the health of the greater economy. We concur with your assessment. It is our hope that you will engage with Republicans in that regard sooner rather than later.
Mr. President before we begin our work, we would like to know if it is your intent to proceed with some form of a health care bill utilizing reconciliation?”
If the president refuses to rule out using reconciliation as a means to pass health care reform, the Republicans need to walk out of the meeting.
The American people want their government to be responsive to their needs and concerns. Right now their most immediate concern is being gainfully employed and having piece of mind that the greater economy is healthy and robust.
The Republicans job is not to make bad Democratic legislation better. Their job is to stop bad legislation from being passed and to offer alternative legislation and policy that is in keeping with what is of most concern to the people of the United States.
The Republican mantra needs to be job creation, deficit reduction, budget discipline, tax reduction and a strong national defense. If they stay true to those principles, they will be wildly successful. If they don’t, they won’t. Good governance is good politics. It is just that simple.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University. A frequent Fox Forum contributor he is president of Kent Strategies LLC.