There is politics and there is policy.
On the policy front what we saw today was the same exchange of the old talking points we have watched for a longtime. No progress was made toward any kind of health care bill. That is no surprise--this was never going to be the place to fashion any kind of compromise.
At the end the President asked the Republicans if it was worth it to spend another month or six weeks trying to come to some agreement. I am glad he did that. I am not optimistic but a "yes" from the Republicans would be the right answer for the country.
On the political front this was a win for Republicans because it was a draw. Granted, they have a very thin health care agenda but all they had to do was hold their own over the course of the day. Politically, if not on policy, they did that. No minds were changed in the room and likely none out in the country. The left will still say get on with passing this, those on right will say kill it, and the majority of critical swing voters will still be concerned that the Democratic bills are going too far too fast in the face of the Great Recession. This is the biggest reason I don't hold out a lot of hope there will be a lot of Republican willingness to come to the table--at least before the November elections.
Ironically, this "bipartisan summit" may have just increased the political cynicism in the country because it went off so predictably.
Most importantly, I don't see the President and the Democratic leadership having accomplished their real goal: To "stiffen the spines" of the moderate Democratic votes they need to ram their health care agenda through using reconciliation rules.
A week from now, I expect the polls will still show only about the same 40% approval rating for the Democratic health care agenda and the moderate Democrats won't have the political cover they need to vote for a reconciliation strategy.
Unless the President gets a positive response from the Republicans on his offer to spend a few weeks trying for a bipartisan bill, it will be on to "Plan B" for the Democrats.
Recent post regarding "Plan B":
Obama to Uneasy Democrats: Please Walk the Plank for Me But If It Doesn't Work Out Here's Plan B
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