Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pre-Existing Conditions

The House GOP leadership is balking at coming to a healthcare summit being hosted by President Obama.

Leading House Republicans raised the prospect Monday night that they might refuse to participate in President Obama’s proposed health care summit if the White House chooses not to scrap the existing reform bills and start over.

In a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) expressed frustration at reports that Obama intends to put the Democratic bills on the table for discussion at the Feb. 25 summit.

“If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate,” Boehner and Cantor wrote.

Obama proposed the half-day summit on national television Sunday, but in their letter, the two GOP leaders offer their suspicion that the president is not serious about opening a bipartisan negotiation on health care.

” ‘Bipartisanship’ is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support,” Boehner and Cantor wrote. “Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means.”

I suppose it would be pointless to point out to Reps. Boehner and Cantor that “bipartisanship” also doesn’t mean saying that you’re willing to be bipartisan if that means the only way you’ll participate is if the White House meets your demands. That’s not how it works, either.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the White House knew all along that this would be the response from the GOP. In fact, I’ll bet they were counting on it; they called the Republicans’ bluff and Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor folded. (They also went back and reviewed the video of the House Republican retreat when Mr. Obama played them like a Stradivarius. They don’t want that to happen again.) Now they’re going to go ahead and convene the summit, put it on TV, leave a row of empty chairs for the Republicans, and leave the floor to the president to explain that his bill already incorporates a bunch of Republican ideas and still they refused to participate.

Okay, fine; be that way. It will give the White House yet another opportunity to lay out the entire bill and let the public see what’s in it, and it will also let them say that they gave the Republicans a chance to work with them and listen to them, but they set all these pre-existing conditions that are meant to accomplish only one thing: kill the bill entirely.