Monday, February 8, 2010

Obama to meet Party Leaders to discuss Health Care Reform on C-SPAN

During the pregame show for the Super Bowl, CBS's Katie Couric interviewed President Obama and the topic of health care came up. President Obama, in a gesture of bipartisanship, announced that he wants to meet with leaders of both parties to "go through systemically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward." The Democrats had the votes last year to pass health care reform without a single Republican vote. Now President Obama wants to meet with Republican leaders to find a way to pass a key piece of legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said today, "If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill" (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35296874/ns/politics-health_care_reform/). While I doubt that Democrats will be okay with starting over at square one, Sen. McConnell does have a point.

Much of what is in the Democrat health care bills will not achieve the desirable outcome of lowering costs and reducing premiums. It will be interesting though on February 25th when President Obama sits down for a 4-hour discussion on health care. This time it will be on C-SPAN. The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts stirs the pot a bit as his major platform item was to stop the Democrat health care bill. Why this is a strong indication to the Obama Administration is that Massachusetts only has about 14% of its citizens registered as Republicans. That means that Independents and Democrats voted for Brown thus sending a message to Washington on the health care issue. Some may see the 4-hour discussion as a publicity stunt or grand standing by Obama; I rather look at it as an opportunity for Republicans to get their message out on reforming health care.

By extending the bipartisan olive branch Obama can score points with the American public after the backlash from closed-door negotiations with Democrats that lead to special provisions for Nebraska and Louisiana. At the same time though, it could be his Waterloo as it gives Republicans an opportunity to one up the president and have their ideas displayed for all to see. The move to have it televised is a smart move by the president, especially since he campaigned on allowing all negotiations and debate to be aired on C-SPAN. My hope is that they will streamline the bill that calls for the creation of at least 35 new agencies to watch over reform. Do we really need more agencies? Does government need to get bigger? Perhaps the white elephant will get discussed during this meeting and we will see movement to eliminate entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.