What’s Behind the President’s Health Care Summit?

President Barack Obama’s February 25 health care summit, where he will appear on TV with Republican leaders, has been hailed and assailed as yet another gesture towards bipartisanship. But the summit is really a delaying tactic. It’s a decoy, something shiny to keep the chattering classes entertained while Congressional Democrats wheel and deal furiously behind the scenes.

At this point, there are two ways forward, and neither of them require Republican support. The first option is for the House to pass the Senate health care bill as written—but with the understanding that the Senate will later fix certain contentious parts of the bill through reconciliation. The second option is for the Senate to pass the reconciliation fix first and the House to pass the bill later.

Someone has to go first

Art Levine of Working In These Times diagnoses a severe case of paralysis on the left: Nancy Pelosi is willing to entertain the first option, but labor leaders like Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, want the Senate to go first because they don’t trust the Senate to fix the bill later. Nobody wants to go first, but somebody has to. If neither the House nor the Senate takes the initiative, reform will fail by default and Americans will continue to suffer.

If the Democrats are going to attempt reconciliation, they need a plan to steer the legislation through the Senate. While everyone else is talking about the summit, procedural experts are probably huddling with leadership, nailing down the details.

Obama’s ‘Waterloo’

Everyone knows that Obama isn’t going to pick up any Republican votes, summit or no summit. The House bill got 1 Republican vote, the Senate bill got 0. Quite simply, Republicans want health care reform to fail. No Republican president since Richard Nixon has attempted comprehensive health care reform. In opposition, Republicans have been intractably opposed to reform because they’re afraid the Democrats will take credit for it. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) famously said he wanted to “break” Obama by making health reform the president’s “Waterloo.”

Health care reform in the media

Meanwhile, as Monica Potts notes in TAPPED, the media seems to be bending over backwards to treat the Republican’s pro forma suggestions as serious proposals for reform, even though the Congressional Budget Office has already analyzed the plan and determined that it will leave millions uninsured without lowering costs. The health care bills as written are already chock full of Republican proposals, like eliminating the public option, easing restrictions on buying insurance across state lines, allowing people to band together in insurance-purchasing coops.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones worries that the upcoming summit will just give the Republicans more free airtime to spread falsehoods about “government controlled health care.”

Voices of the uninsured

This week, The Nation is publishing the stories of some of the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans: An uninsured woman who was diagnosed with throat cancer last month; a father with a severely disabled son who is about to hit is $5 million lifetime insurance benefit cap; a single mom on the verge of medical bankruptcy; and many others.

In other news

Dr. Gabor Maté, the official physician of Canada’s only supervised drug injection site, talks about the science of addiction and his new book with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

Todd A. Heywood reports in the Michigan Messenger that American Family Association of Michigan is doubling down in the dying days of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Not only do they want to ban gays from the military, they want to re-criminalize homosexuality.


This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

photo credit: thanks to ragesoss via flickr
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger


Roger R.
Past Member 8 years ago


Catherine O Neill

Obama has been shamed into doing this!! He just thought we were all going to be Sheep & just follow him. IMO he's a narcissist!!

Roger R.
Past Member 8 years ago

Said in the Washington Examiner a YEAR AGO:


Audrey L.
Audrey L8 years ago

It is so amazing, the Republicans wanted this and wanted it televised now they are against it. Party of NO is a party of JERKS

Mary A.
Mary Alexander8 years ago

Micheal left me a comment and I agree with him totally. I will be looking forward to this summit. I still feel that Medicare should be for everyone. Health Care for everyone!!!!

Joshua I.
Joshua I8 years ago

Maybe you should consider this issue from a different perspective. Imagine what would happen if the USA suffered an 9.0 earthquake, at the New Madrid fault line, that left Memphis, TN and St. Louis, MO looking just like Haiti; and, imagine what would happen to all those who DIDN'T have healthcare. The death toll of all those who have NO healthcare will be extreme, and the hospitals will be so overwhelmed that the USA will be burying millions of people in mass graves just like Haiti did to 200 thousand of its people. Most of all, this catastrophe can be prevented if certain people will try to evolve into human, and stop reversing the process.

Michael Oreilly
Michael O8 years ago

Health care is a basic human right - not a for-profit endeavour. The sooner we realize this, the better off we will all be.

Leanne B.
Leanne B8 years ago

How can you not judge the moral compass of a country by how they do or don't care for their own citizens and especially it's Veterans. This is the ugliest side of our capitalism! Things that sustain a society's existence maybe should be government controlled and not privately owned. Enron and the game they played with our electricity here in California is the perfect example. They cared not about the people needing that power running the oxygen or anything else that was needed to sustain a life. Health care is a must for all and can only make our country stronger in the long run. Single payer and the same coverage our Representatives have would be perfect!

Marilyn K.
Marilyn K8 years ago

The Republicans are playing a political game at which they are extremely proficient. They do not want the Democrats to get credit for anything that might benefit the citizens of the United States. They have nothing to offer the citizens and no interest in doing so as long as they are taken care of. They stand for "All Glory and No Work".

Seth E.
Seth E8 years ago

Obama said it himself in the State of the Union, the Republicans must stop saying "No" to EVERYTHING unless they can prevent an effective counterproposal.

There should be no need for Democrats to have a majority in order to enact legislation to help the people because ALL politicians, regardless of party, are supposed to be beholden to the people that elected them and not to their friends and corporate donors. If they act in the interests of their constituents, there could be a coalition majority to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen, thanks to the power of the dollar to sway opinions.