Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Abandon Bipartisan Ship!

President Obama invited Republican congressional leaders to a televised discussion on health care reform two weeks from this Thursday (February 25), and even though they've suggested interest in it, they insist that the President isn't going to get bipartisanship if he insists on sticking to the provisions in the current health care bills that passed the House and the Senate. Obama spoke out on the issue today, citing that the Republicans in the Senate have been using parliamentary rules to delay and obstruct bills from passing; thwarted in December in their attempt to stop a health care bill from passing in that chamber, the Republicans can now stop any legislation pieced together from the two health care bills that have passed (hello, Scott Brown!). He's made it clear that bipartisanship, as far as health care reform is concerned, does not mean the Democrats giving up everything they support to allow the Republicans to have everything they want. Indeed, that isn't bipartisanship - it's the George Walker Bush agenda!
With health care and other issues as mired in Washington politics as Washington itself now is in snow, Obama seems to have found an opening to make the Republicans offer a positive alternative to the Democratic health care plan or risk being seen as gumming up the works. It's a risky gambit; the voters see large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and don't know or care about parliamentary or procedural rules, and they don't understand how much legislation has actually been passed by one or both houses of Congress if the President can't get the opportunity to sign any of it. This strategy might work, though. Republicans are being forced to be proactive on an issue they would prefer not to even discuss. If they have something to offer in the health care debate and offer it in good faith, it's time to do it now. Obama may be at a nadir in his presidency, but he's capable of reversing course at any time.
Hopefully, the time is now.

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