Health Summit Yields Stalemate
Special Report - March 1, 2010
After a seven-hour televised meeting between select groups of Republican and Democrat members from both chambers of Congress, and President Obama Thursday, both parties remained largely unmoved from their original positions regarding nationalized healthcare. While Republicans argued that it was impossible for them to agree to a bill that they had no input in drafting, and that healthcare negotiations must start with a clean slate, Democrats, lead by President Obama, insisted that negotiations must be over the current bill. The much-advertised “Healthcare Summit” took place at the Blair House on February 25.
After President Obama unveiled his own proposal earlier in the week, participants at the summit focused on three versions of healthcare reformthe House’s, Senate’s, and president’s. Two of the threethe Senate and presidentinclude federal funding for abortion. Only the House proposal maintains the current federal policy that prohibits federal funding from paying for or covering abortions.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave a lucid explanation of the Republican objection to the president’s healthcare package: “The difference is this: We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this... We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that. And that's the big difference we have.”
Regardless of the disagreements that senators and congressmen repeatedly presented yesterday, the President expressed hope in his closing remarks that, “in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time, we could actually resolve something."
Because the House and Senate have passed differing versions of a healthcare bill, the leadership of both chambers and the administration must decide whether to push either the House or Senate bill through the other chamber or to draw up a compromise bill that combines elements of the current proposals or start from scratch.
At the end of the day, having come no closer to agreement, President Obama implied that if Republicans continued to object to the current bill, Senate and House Democrats would pass a healthcare bill using the complicated “Reconciliation” procedure. Reconciliation would allow the Senate to block a Republican filibuster without the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the bill, which they do not have since Scott Brown became the junior Republican senator from Massachusetts last month.
According to a February 23 Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans are opposed to using reconciliation to push a bill through, in contrast with only 39 percent approving of the reconciliation maneuver. According to Rasmussen, 56-58 percent of voters oppose the public option bills now being discussed.
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