Policy Documents

As Expected, Obama's Summit Changes Nothing

February 27, 2010

At the Blair House summit Thursday, President Obama and his allies were repeatedly challenged on the specifics and the broad aims of his health care package. Again and again, the supporters of government-run health care could not justify their approach - the creation of a massive government entitlement program at a time when we are already struggling to meet our current commitments. The inability of the president and his top allies - the people who crafted this bill behind closed doors with special interests at their side - to justify their positions after months of work on this legislation is jarring indeed.

The American people deserve to know why the leading supporters, who cannot make the case for this bill or form a response to independent studies which detail its high cost and uncertain ends, are so willing to consider extreme and extraordinary political tactics to jam it through. America needs health reform, but it must be the right reform - we cannot afford to enshrine a massive mistake, even if that takes starting from scratch.

A few notes worth reading from other sources:


  • “…Democrats are no more certain of getting health care done after the summit than they were before.  The seven-hour session did little to change the underlying dynamics of the debate. … Gallup polls going in showed the public didn’t favor Obama’s bill and also opposed the reconciliation process
    – and it’s hard to picture how the summit changed those results.” (Politico)
  • “After more than six hours of extraordinary debate on Thursday over health care policy, President Obama had not won over any of the Republicans, and he seemed to end the day largely where he started, with little choice but to try to rally his Democrats to act on their own.” (The New York Times)
  • “According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic.  He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low.  He did neither. White House aides and the president himself said he was going to press Republicans for how their plans would work, but he did that only twice -- and mildly.  There was no put-up-or-shut-up moment." (Slate)
  • “But in this case, the tie goes to Republicans, according to operatives on both sides of the aisle — because the stakes were so much higher for Democrats trying to build their case for ramming reform through using a 51-vote reconciliation tactic.” (Politico)
  • “…[I]t seems likely that the public will react to what they heard from the Blair House meeting much as they have to the months-long debate in Congress: by agreeing in larger numbers with the Republican view that the bill the Democrats are pushing is hopelessly flawed.” (NRO)

Moving forward, the House Democrats have already signaled they will attempt to press ahead with the reconciliation strategy -- which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday "no one was talking about" -- according to this report from The Hill:

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), suggested that the House may pass the Senate bill before any other action is taken -- a key concession to Senate Democrats.

"The choreography gets a little complicated here, but the House will present a reconciliation bill," Miller said during an appearance on MSNBC. "It will be based on many of the principles that the president put forth to correct some of the problems the House and others have had with the Senate bill."