Congressional Republicans and Democrats have converged on the White House for a day long summit on healthcare reform with President. If you thought that the Republicans would learn from the beating that Obama gave the House GOP when he spoke to them at their retreat a few weeks ago, you were wrong. Republicans are still sticking to their talking while letting the president make the case for healthcare reform.
Obama opened the day with the hope that this event designed to be political theater would not become political theater.
So far, so good, let’s see what the GOP’s new strategy is courtesy of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN):
Alexander said, “Now, you have presented ideas. There’s an 11-page memo—I think it’s important for the people to understand that there’s not a presidential bill; there are good suggestions and ideas on the web. It’s a lot like the Senate bill. It has more taxes, more subsidies, more spending. So what that means is, when it’s written, it will be 2,700 pages, more or less. It will probably have a lot of surprises in it. It means it will cut Medicare by about half a trillion dollars and spend most of that on new programs, not on Medicare and making it stronger, even though it’s going broke in 2015. It means there will be about a half trillion dollars of new taxes in it. It means that for millions of Americans, premiums will go up, because when people pay those new taxes, premiums will go up, and they will also go up because of the government mandates. It means that from a governor’s point of view, it’s going to be what our Democratic governor calls the ‘mother of all unfunded mandates.'”
For good measure, Alexander threw in a let’s start over again talking point, “Our view, with all respect, is that this is a car that can’t be recalled and fixed, and that we ought to start over. But we’d like to start over.” The problem with repeating the same talking points is that the other side knows what’s coming as evidenced by Harry Reid’s opening remarks.
Reid said, “It’s obvious, we heard it. Our Republican friends oppose our legislation, and that is your right, but also it becomes your responsibility to propose ideas for making it better, so if you have a better plan for making health insurance more affordable, let’s hear it. If you have a better plan for making health insurance companies more accountable, let’s work on it….”
The healthcare summit has been a trap for Republicans, but it is a trap of their own creation. As soon as they decided to stick to their talking points, they played right into President Obama’s hands, because the issue being debated today is healthcare, but the larger political subtext is the obstructionism of the Republican Party.
Obama and the Democrats are laying the groundwork for an electoral strategy to the frame the Republicans as the Party of no ideas. We have all heard this before. The difference is that Obama and the Democrats have set out to expose the Republicans on day long national television.
If the Republicans were smart they would have at least shown up today willing to pay lip service to the notion cooperation, and maybe put a few new ideas on the table, but if Republicans were smart, they would be Democrats, so I was probably expecting too much from them.
Be sure to check out our live healthcare summit chat at 4:00 PM ET today.