Is Obama Playing Poker With Health Care Summit?

What’s the White House plan for the bipartisan health care reform summit it will hold on February 25? Do President Barack Obama and his aides really believe they can hammer out some grand compromise with the obstructionist Republicans and then speed to the finish line and enact health care reform legislation? Not really. In his column, David Corn observes that the summit was probably designed as a twofer. It’s a bluff:

Obama and his aides must be hoping to win the sideshow battle over that ever-pressing question, who’s really bipartisan? After all, he is inviting the opposition to present their ideas — which will make him look accommodating. But he will note, as he did on Tuesday, that the existing Democratic bills did incorporate a few Republican proposals and that the GOPers have tried to put up a concrete wall regarding the legislation he favors. The goal: to use a bipartisan gathering to highlight GOP obstructionism.

And it’s a useful distraction:

This bluff is also filling time for Obama. Right now, parliamentarian experts for the House and Senate Democrats are attempting to figure out how this reconciliation strategy could work. (Trust me, it’s complicated.) So not much else is happening — especially with Snowpocalypse I and II hitting Washington the week before a week-long congressional recess.

As the Obama White House has observed in the past, when there’s a lull in that sour legislative process, the foes of the president’s health care overhaul get a good opportunity to fire away at it. The health care summit proposed by the White House is sort of a placeholder. It provides journalists and the politerati something to write, talk and argue about — Exhibit A: this column — and prevents the emergence of a void that would benefit the opponents of Obama’s initiative.

Will the summit work as bluff and placeholder? Corn writes: “The health care summit can buy [Obama] some time, while House and Senate Dems craft their endgame. Yet he could soon run out of bluff. Then he’ll just have to play the cards he has.”


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