President Obama has called for honest, bipartisan negotiations to produce legislation that will show America the way out of its current health care crisis. But as far as Thursday’s White House summit on health care is concerned, he’s still operating by Chicago rules. He wants Republicans to meekly submit to his team’s plan rather than honestly inviting them to join him in building a bipartisan plan from the ground up.
Led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, the GOP has made one request of the president in the weeks leading up to the summit: that everyone concerned start over again from the beginning, that they agree to drop the legislation pending in Congress in lieu of making a fresh start in which all sides will have input. On Monday President Obama revealed how unwilling he is to move toward the GOP, by introducing yet another massive proposal that not only reinforces many of the elements of governmental intrusion into the health care economy that the Republicans have already rejected but, in the words of several commentators, “doubles down” on what the Democrats in Congress have already thrown up for consideration. Perhaps that was the lesson he drew out of his recent trip to Las Vegas, but it’s not a good strategy for Washington. It is not negotiation in “good faith” so much as it is as an effort to force the Republicans to deal.
It’s a desperate gambit, and one that is not likely to work.
As Megan McArdle wrote yesterday in The Atlantic, in order for the new Obama bill to have a chance, Pelosi has “to persuade someone (probably a Blue Dog) to vote for it, who already voted against it. Progressives have been making the almost-plausible argument that the public is going to treat a vote for the House or Senate bill as a vote for final passage, so Democrats might as well go ahead and pass the thing. But their best argument totally falls apart for those who originally voted “no.” But Pelosi, as McArdle acknowledges, is three votes down from where she was when the House passed the health care bill the last time – by a margin of three votes. There is now no margin left, and that’s before taking the abortion issue into account. The new Obama bill not only doesn’t contain any of the House or Senate provisions to prevent tax dollars from funding abortion, but it actually includes a monthly “abortion premium” fee. This affects the political calculations related to the bill’s potential passage.
A number of Democrats, following the lead of Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak, have said they are unwilling to vote for any health care bill that lacks tough anti-abortion language. As McArdle puts it, “If you lose many of the Stupak folks, then the bill's done; there is not a snowball's chance in hell that you are going to persuade any significant number of the prior ‘no’ votes in the Democratic caucus to throw their careers on the pyre of Democratic health care ambitions.”
Knowing that, the Republicans should not grovel before the insistent majority, but should instead put up a strong defense of their own position. This should include paid media campaigns for the benefit of the folks back home to let the voters know the GOP actually has a number of ideas that will successfully address the problems that currently exist in the health care system without destroying it, as Obama’s new proposal would do.
Independently, several pro-life organizations like Let Freedom Ring are planning to do likewise. We will measure public support for the single-purpose health care reform proposals put forward by various GOP members of the House and Senate, especially those originating in the Republican Study Committee under the leadership of Dr. Tom Price. Yes, Dr. Price, Dr. Gingrey, Dr. Broun, Dr. Boustany and Dr. Coburn are among 12 physicians who are Republican members of the House and the Senate. -- compare that number to the 5 physicians who are Democratic members of Congress -- itself an intriguing contrast.
Even though the structure of the so-called summit is designed to produce anything but an honest negotiation, Republicans can still win by refusing to submit to demands to sign onto the latest iteration of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi health care takeover. Some Republicans may refuse to participate at all as a matter of principle. Others may walk out when it becomes clear to any observer that the exercise is rigged. Those remaining should stand strong and refuse to submit to the iron fist of Rahm Emanuel that lies within the velvet glove of President Obama.
Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring, a public policy non-profit that promotes Constitutional government, economic freedom and traditional values at www.letfreedomringusa.com.