While the news reports after the recently concluded health care summit largely trumpeted the failure of the two parties to reach agreement, the reality is actually a lot more complicated and even encouraging. The fact of the matter is that the Blair House event ultimately demonstrated a substantial amount of agreement between the two parties and the possibility of achieving a bipartisan agreement relatively quickly.
Reports indicate that the president is finally coming to grips with the fact that the American people just don’t support the comprehensive reform package that passed the House and the Senate. And regardless, it will be quite difficult for the president to gain enough support from election-nervous lawmakers on his package. Reportedly, the White House has drawn up alternative legislation – a “Plan B” -- that’s more limited in scope, covering about 15 million uninsured and only making modest expansions to the public insurance system.
This is a positive development. It means that the president is willing to reconsider some of his commitments and is adjusting his expectations to the political realities of the country. However, to be successful he can’t just be appending some of the Republican ideas to a bad bill. He needs to truly follow a plan B that takes the best elements of both sides and incorporates them into a new. In doing so, there’s no reason why this can’t quickly become the President’s “Plan A.”
Schoen, who played a key role in the Clinton White House, gives advice that sounds almost identical to what Republicans want on health care. Of course, without this plan, the Democrats either fail or pass a totally partisan health care bill. In case of the first, the Democrats are totally screwed in November. In case of the second, the Republicans run a national campaign to repeal health care reform and the Democrats are even more screwed.