Thursday, February 11, 2010

Republicans snub Obama on health summit

House Republican leaders were recently invited to attend a White House summit on health care reform, in an attempt by President Barack Obama to bridge the gap between GOP proposals and Democratic bills that have passed Congress.

The invite by Obama came after Republican leaders repeatedly asked for both more transparency in the reform process as well as more involvement in implementing true bipartisan reform.

Obama responded to those criticisms by pointing out that many of the GOP's plans for reform have already been adopted by the administration and by Democrats in Congress. But in a show of goodwill, he issued the invite to Republican leaders to demonstrate he was committed to ending partisanship and opening up transparency.

So what was the reaction of House Republican leaders when Obama had invited them to an event that would feature Republicans and Democrats working together in front of the American public? They said, "No thanks!"

In fact, they made a list of conditions that had to be met in order for them to even appear. In a heated letter to Obama's chief of staff, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated that they wouldn't meet with Obama unless both bills in Congress were scrapped, with the promise that reconciliation (a parliamentary rule that allows the Senate to bypass the filibuster) would be off the table for passing legislation. The public option would also have to be dropped.

The president has, rightly, rejected the demands, stating that bipartisanship doesn't work that way.

Several Republicans have begun insisting that the gesture of goodwill from Obama is nothing more than an attempt to get a good photo op while he secretly works for reform behind closed doors. But how would that work? If he can pass it without Republicans, why make it appear to the American public that he's bipartisan when weeks from now he'll show the American people that it was all a lie? It doesn't make much sense -- politically or practically.

The Republicans' concerns are unfounded. And even if Obama were to meet their demands, what then? When the negotiations begin, where do they go from there? Capitulation isn't the answer, and Obama knows it. If he has to use other means to pass health care reform, he will. So it would actually behoove the Republicans to take him up on his offer now while it's still on the table. If they don't, then they lose out on the chance to help make historic reform, a move that might haunt them for political generations to come.

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