Blakeman: Healthcare Summit is DOA

Sunday, 21 Feb 2010 10:03 PM

By Bradley A. Blakeman

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The Democrats just don’t get it. The American people don’t want what they are selling, no matter how it is packaged and spun.

After all, what good is “affordable healthcare” if you don’t have a job to pay for it?

President Obama recently said, after the devastating defeats of Democrats in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, that jobs will be his No. 1 concern, as well as getting the greater economy healthy and reducing the deficit.

So, what is the president doing? Is he having a jobs summit? No, he is having a healthcare summit. The president just doesn’t get it.

The Democrats came to power convinced that they could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They created a crisis on healthcare, when America faced an honest-to-goodness crisis on the economy, the worst since the Great Depression.

After coming to power and controlling all branches of government with high majorities, Democrats did what they wanted, instead of what America needed. They forced through a stimulus bill that no one read, promising that if it passed, unemployment would not exceed 8 percent nationally.

Everyone knows the stimulus was an utter and complete failure. Unemployment nationally still hovers around 10 percent, and it tops 16 percent in many urban areas.

But, despite an ailing economy, and political setback after political setback, Democrats just cannot let healthcare go. The president does not have the ability or the power to push back on the most liberal members of his party. As a result, his party will suffer greatly come November.

It should be noted that, to date, Republicans are not the ones who have thwarted the passage of healthcare; the Democrats have failed themselves.

The Democrats now are talking about using reconciliation to pass their healthcare bill. Reconciliation is a congressional procedure that allows a difficult budgetary bill to pass without the possibility of a filibuster. Without the threat of filibuster, the Democrats, who already control both Houses of Congress with high majorities, can silence their own rogue members and those of the minority.

Republicans need to show up at the president’s healthcare summit, but they need not be “window dressing” or “wall flowers.”

The leadership of the Republican Party in the House and Senate should confront the president at his summit in a respectful and forceful way.

Here is what they should say:

“Mr. President, we the members of the Republican leadership of the House and Senate are here today out of respect for you and your office and to engage constructively on the many issues regarding meaningful healthcare reforms. We would have preferred to have been called together to discuss job creation, deficit reduction and national spending. You yourself, Mr. President, have stated that your number one priority needs to be jobs and the health of the greater economy, and we concur with your assessment. It is our hope that you will engage with Republicans in that regard sooner rather than later.

“Mr. President before we begin our work, we would like to know whether it is your intent to use reconciliation to proceed with an eventual healthcare bill?”

If the president will not give a commitment NOT to use reconciliation as a means to pass healthcare, then Republicans need to walk out of the meeting.

The American people want their government to be responsive to their needs and concerns. Right now, their most immediate concern is being gainfully employed and having peace of mind that the greater economy is healthy and robust.

The Republicans’ job is NOT to make bad Democratic legislation better. Their job is to stop bad legislation from being passed and to offer alternative legislation and policy that is in keeping with what is of most concern to the people.

The Republican mantra needs to be job creation, deficit reduction, budget discipline, tax reduction, and a strong national defense. If Republican stay true to those principles, they will be wildly successful. If they don’t, they won’t. Good governance is good politics. It is just that simple.

Bradley A. Blakeman, who was deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04, is a politics and public policy professor at Georgetown University and president of Kent Strategies LLC.

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