At first it seemed like a great idea. President Obama, fresh from good reviews for his appearance at the House Republican retreat two weeks ago, invited Republican leaders to Blair House in Washington for negotiations on a health insurance reform bill. But the essence of negotiation is in its definition -- "to deal or bargain with another or others." Or, to quote an old song lyric: "You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little." We know what the president is willing to take, but what is he prepared to give?
The glory of love (the title of the song from which the above lyric is taken) is in giving and taking, so why isn't the story the same for political negotiations? For one brief shining moment it appeared politicians might actually do something that benefits the country. Polls show a majority of the public reject "Obamacare," which is actually Reid-Pelosi-care. The president has submitted no bill. After raising hopes that a compromise might be had, the president on Tuesday met with Republican leaders for two hours and told them his core concerns remain nonnegotiable. So what's to negotiate?
In the White House briefing room, the president said, "Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all of the things that (Republican leaders) believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in or want." OK, but since the president and his party control all three branches of government it is fair to ask them to go first.
Some of the president's goals closely resemble Republican objectives: lowering health-case costs and expanding coverage to the uninsured. The problem is the president and the congressional Democratic leadership wants to expand government controls and raise taxes, while Republicans favor an approach tilted toward the free enterprise system.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. In it they noted that legislation to "opt out" of Obamacare has been introduced in 36 states. Boehner and Cantor want the nation's governors and state legislators to be invited to the president's Feb. 25 health care "summit." Even the Virginia State Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has passed a measure protecting individuals from being compelled to purchase health insurance.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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