In talking to a number of aides on both sides of the aisle about Thursday's bipartisan White House healthcare summit, one thing seems clear: no one is suffering from high expectations.
Just talked to a Dem aide who was in the strategy session earlier for House and Senate Dem summit attendees. The aide said Dems agreed to be "more in listening mode" than full-on debate mode. Dems will point up some items they say are similar to provisions Republicans have embraced: cutting waste, fraud, & abuse; and state-based medical malpractice reform (tho Obama/Congressional Dems would merely fund a study). Dems will say they're prepared to press forward, if it looks like no common ground can be had.
One attendee, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, seemed as if he was going in with a seriousness of purpose and with ideas Republicans might support. "I plan to highlight fiscal issues, cost containment."
Republican aides say they don't expect much, if anything, to be new, and they certainly don't expect any minds to be changed. One senior Senate GOP leadership aide told Fox, "This isn't a negotiation. This is a photo op...People have made up their minds on healthcare already." The aide said that included Republicans, Dems, and most of the American people.
Republicans are expected to stick to their "step by step approach" --- echoing their oft-repeated "no 2,700-page bills for us" line.
The GOP aide wondered out loud, though, who would be the traffic cop? "Who's going to stop (House GOP Leader) John Boehner from talking? (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi? This is going to be a free-for-all. And you can bet, if someone wants to talk about job creation, they're going to talk about job creation."