One year and one month into his presidency, and after an ugly and drawn-out birth and passage of two different bills in the House and the Senate, Barack Obama finally released a detailed plan for healthcare reform. Lacking a government-run insurance option that would be available to anyone regardless of age or health, the plan is far from what most Liberals and Democrats were hoping for but will still manage to provide coverage for an estimated 31 million of the roughly 45 million Americans without health insurance, a vast improvement over the status quo. To discuss his final push for reform, Obama invited members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to a summit at Blair House in Washington, D.C. In the end, the summit was a microcosm of the entire healthcare debate so far: utterly pointless pleas for bipartisanship from Democrats, with lies, distortions and horrifying ideas from Republicans.
Obama, in his particular style, opened the summit with anecdotes, both his and others’, that reaffirmed how urgent and necessary healthcare reform is to many people. Then he tried to find common ground with the Republicans, noting that several Republican senators have brought up problems with the current healthcare system, decrying the partisan and ideological battle that the national discussion of healthcare has devolved into.
What Obama has repeatedly failed to notice is that no Republican will ever vote for a reform bill introduced by the Democrats, even if such a bill consisted entirely of tax cuts. Republicans have made it their mission in Congress to do everything in their power to obstruct the Democrats’ legislative agenda, and have refused to compromise on virtually every major piece of legislation advanced by the Democrats in the 111th Congress. This was the very same problem Obama faced when he passed the stimulus package last year. He and congressional Democrats preemptively caved to the Republicans by inserting $288 billion worth of tax cuts in a $787 billion stimulus bill, even though tax cuts have been shown to be the least stimulative measure a government can take. What did they get for it? Not a single Republican vote in the House, and just three votes in the Senate, one of which was from Arlen Specter, who is now a Democrat.
It’s been the same story with healthcare reform. Even as he was negotiating with Democrats last summer on behalf of Senate Republicans, Sen. Charles Grassley uncritically repeated the outlandishly false claim that the government would be setting up so-called “death panels” to determine who would live or die near the end of their life. It’s no surprise then that not a single Senate Republican voted for the Senate bill, and the only Republican vote in the House came from an extremely liberal district in New Orleans.
The healthcare summit was more of the same. Sen. Lamar Alexander opened the summit for the Republicans by calling on Democrats to scrap their plans entirely and start over, and falsely stating that premiums for the same coverage would skyrocket under Obama’s plan. With an opposition like this, why would anyone compromise?