Healthcare summit reaction: Useful, but not a game-changer
After Thursday's healthcare summit, reaction from both sides is positive, but Democrats still likely to proceed without Republican support.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Republicans say they remain opposed to Obamaâ€™s proposed healthcare overhaul, while Democrats vow that they will rally their party to push it through Congress â€“ if necessary, via special budget rules that allow them to proceed with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Yet all involved said the seven-hour chat fest, held at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House proper, was worth doing. The tone was at times combative, but the talk was surprisingly substantive and laid out the philosophical differences between the parties on this important issue like little else has in recent months. (For more Monitor coverage of the healthcare summit, see here.)
â€śI think it was good to have that conversation. I think it was good for the American people,â€ť said Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona on Friday in an appearance on ABCâ€™s â€śGood Morning Americaâ€ť.
Senator McCain, the GOPâ€™s presidential candidate in 2008, said that Republicans would be willing to work with Obama on such measures as ensuring insurance coverage for those with preexisting health conditions.
At the same time, McCain indicated that his party wants to start over with a clean sheet of paper, rather than work with the existing healthcare reform bills â€“ a position thatâ€™s anathema to Democrats. And McCain warned Senate Democratic leaders that to proceed via the special budget rules, known as â€śreconciliation,â€ť could be dangerous. (For a Monitor explanation of reconciliation, see here.)
â€śThere are areas that we can agree on, but to go to the 51 votes, instead of the traditional 60 in the United States Senate, will have cataclysmic effects,â€ť said McCain.
Key Democrats, on the other hand, indicated that they would press forward with the bills they have.
â€śIâ€™m glad the president did this. It was a good exercise. I hope it leads to the two sides coming together,â€ť said Senate majority leader Harry Reid in a YouTube question-and-answer session following Thursdayâ€™s meeting.
Senator Reid indicated that he felt that, in a nation as rich as the United States, access to healthcare should not be in question. Even the poorest criminal defendants get free lawyers, said Reid.
Healthcare â€śshould not be a privilege,â€ť he said.
Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said that, for all the discussion, few votes were moved.
â€śI do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700 page bill,â€ť he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed: â€śIâ€™m not overly optimistic we would get Republican votes for the bill, but that doesnâ€™t mean we couldnâ€™t incorporate some of their good ideas into legislation, would they put some on the table,â€ť said Representative Pelosi following the meetingâ€™s close.
As to next steps, Obama indicated that there should be some space for further discussion â€“ perhaps a few weeks, perhaps a bit more than a month. But after that, the Democrats will forge ahead â€“ with or without Republican support.