Tuesday, February 09, 2010

To go or not to go???

So the President has invited Congressional GOP leaders to attend a summit in two weeks to help get health care back on track.

There's a lot of hemming and hawing on the right about this. Let me give you my 45-second take:

1. Go--but you better go prepared. Which includes. . .
2. Expect the President to change the rules as the event unfolds. This is a trap, plain and simple. Which isn't to say the GOP shouldn't be there--just that we should not expect anything other than a trap, and should plan accordingly. Expect that the "understanding" of the ground rules prior to the event will not necessarily reflect the actual event. The GOP "leadership" has 2 weeks to learn the ins and outs of the substantive arguments on the table AND the agreed-upon rules to the meeting; the Dems have 2 weeks to game the rules to maximize the optical impact for their side (understanding of the issues is secondary to those who make the rules). Our side has the tougher task, even if they. . .
3. Are very clear about a few things, to the point of even putting it in an opening statement and releasing that statement to the media well in advance of the event. No matter where the conversation goes, keep hitting back to these very digestible points. Those things should be:

a) Health Care reform is not the People's priority--it is the President's. And honestly, Mr. President, we've got more important things to talk about (like jobs, "rights" for terrorists, and did I mention jobs?). And if the Dems state that people are dying and that changes need to take place now, simply ask where is that urgency in any of the bills considered to date? Where is it stated that any CARE is going to change the day after the bill is signed? Lack of urgency in the legislation betrays any urgency in passage of the legislation--and reference the stimulus if you must. (In fact, please do!);
b) Have you, Mr. President, reviewed the proposals offered by the GOP? Have you asked Pelosi to review the proposals?
c) All the Dem proposals require increased revenue from the taxpayer base--how can you allow this, Mr President? Bottom line is that any person paying more for their health care (which of course includes all the people that might get stuck with a "mandate") OR having their insurance change for the worse while paying the same (or higher) rate as a result of any bill is an effect that we can ill-afford in the current economic reality;
c) Where is tort reform? We'll know you, Mr. President, are serious about health care reform when all options are on the table; we have studies that show tort reform can save 8- or 9-digits per year off the deficit starting immediately--why is this not part of the package? To put it as plain as we can: we will not vote for any bill that does not INCLUDE significant Tort reform--period;
d) The continuous repeating of the "tons of money saved by cutting down on inefficiencies of Medicare" needs to stop now! Cut back on the inefficiencies immediately--you've been President for a year and your party has had control of Congress for three years. If there's any savings to be had in current government-provided programs, why haven't you realized that already? Are you incompetent--which really says a lot about how this health care reform will be implemented--or are you simply stating something which you know is impossible to realize? Either way, Washington has not shown a penchant for gleaming Medicare efficiency dollars back into the Treasury--and we won't believe you will start until you SHOW us a track record of success in that arena;
e) Refuse to even talk about either the Senate or House bills, or anything that Reid and Pelosi throw together in the interim. If the GOP hasn't participated in a Congressional bill, it has no place at this "bipartisan" meeting. If the President mentions "his" bill, ask him to present it, ready for publication to the major media. In the absence of a bill from the White House, if the President wants a bipartisan effort, that effort needs to start with a clean slate and a finger-wagging from the President to Reid and Pelosi about the corruption of their earlier efforts. Obama at least tacitly approved of their tactics--if he wants to start anew, he needs to set the tone. Disgust over the health care proposals was AT LEAST as much about process as it was about specifics--and you, Mr President, own that process as much as anybody else at the table.

4) Just because the President will want to limit the participants doesn't mean we have to accept without negotiation. Get Ryan and Gregg in the room! If they are not allowed, make sure that point is made every which way til Tuesday--what kind of bipartisanship is the President interested in if he won't even allow all the voices to be heard?

And as was written somewhere else--probably HotAir--it sure would be nice if one of the GOP's legislators would remember to ask probing questions of the President. Make him committal while the GOP remains non-committal (except on Tort reform); make him state his priorities, not just in vague pie-in-the-sky terms but in specifics (coverage for illegal aliens, for example); in short, take advantage of the cameras and a supposedly two-way conversation and make him talk off-script for a second. Remember: we WANT to engage on every topic under the sun. We are not the party of "no"--we're the party that can stand up and say "not that way" when the way proposed is wrong. And we have alternatives to what the current Congressional leadership is offering--what a great way to get those ideas heard!


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