–updated throughout summit–
After over a year, it just now dawns on Pres. Obama that he should consider going smaller? That’s what the Wall Street Journal is reporting, even as the White House denies it. It’s the backdrop of the summit.
The larger Obama health plan has been in jeopardy since last month, when Democrats lost a Senate seat from Massachusetts and with it their filibuster-proof majority in the chamber. With many congressional Democrats spooked, the White House considered more-modest measures that would be easier to pass. As he was weighing his choices, Mr. Obama asked his staff to show him what a more modest policy might look like, and the plan to cover about 15 million people was the most promising, a senior White House official said. “He wanted people to look at what effect you could have on the overall problem if you have to go smaller,” the official said. – Obama Readies a Fallback Health-Care Proposal
Scaled – Down Plan Would Expand Insurance to About Half as Many People as Pending Bill Envisions
Notes on the summit are below, also via Twitter.
10:17 am: Obama talks about Malia being rushed to the emergency room; his mother diagnosed late with ovarian cancer. As for health care costs, “I think this concern is bipartisan. … Here’s the bottom line, we all know this is urgent. … This became a very ideological battle. I think politics… trumped common sense. … What I’m hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus not on just where we differ, but focus on where we agree. … When I look at the ideas that are out there there is overlap. …we posted what we think is the best blend of… the House and Senate… bills already passed. …”
10:22 am: “I hope this isn’t just political theater,” Obama continued. “I want to say again how much I appreciate everyone participating.”
10:28 am: Sen. Lamar Alexander, also a former governor, made opening remarks for Republicans, beginning that they believe everyone “should start over” on health care. “We want you to succeed, because if you succeed our country succeeds. … [...] …starting from a clean sheet of paper. … the mother of all unfunded mandates. … Our view, with all respect, is a car that cannot be fixed. … We’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t do comprehensive well. …”
10:49 am: Pelosi went political. Reid began talking about Nevada, then turned to go after Lamar Alexander, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Here’s a seating chart of the summit.
11:01 am: Starting with costs. “It is absolutely true that if all we’re doing is adding more people to a broken system…” this won’t be worth doing, paraphrasing what Obama said. “More than one-quarter of small businesses have recorded a premium increase of 20% or more just last year. …” Obama then talked about premiums going down 14-20%, Lamar Alexander interrupting him saying the Senate bill will actually make costs go up. Obama challenging Alexander on the facts. The first collision, however muted.
11:11 am: “The biggest post of gold is that we don’t incentivise prevention,” states Tom Coburn, a doctor. Coburn saying the food stamp program actually creates more diabetes than it prevents. Weighing in editorially for a moment, AMEN. Lifestyle choices and what we eat and our own responsibility is a huge part of health care that is rarely addressed. Another note, Republicans have a doctor weighing in, Dems do not.
11:15 am: One hour and 15 minutes in, who’s making the better points? Color me unimpressed with the Democratic case so far, with Republicans cemented in no, so it all looks same old, same old so far. What do you think?
11:24 am: Greg Sargent tweets, reading my mind: Is it too late to get Anthony Weiner to crash this party?
11:30 am: I’ve been over at HuffPost chatting with readers in the comments to a post I put up today on Rahm Emanuel. One of the readers, “ladyskeptik,” just said something very astute about Pres. Obama: “He has acted like the 101′st Senator instead of the President he is.”
11:45 am: “We don’t want to sit in Washington and mandate all of these things,” Rep. Paul Ryan weighed in. Continuing, “We want to de-centralize the system… …should people in Washington decide exactly how this works?”
12:15 pm: Kyl points to Washington, the nebulus boogieman, as the problem, with Obama interrupting and saying that’s tipping the scale, because everyone is mad at Washington. “Washington” is the excuse for doing nothing, having something else to blame when leaders have forgotten their job is to find solutions. Second Republican doctor, a vascular heart surgeon, Rep. Boustany weighs in. “The American people have spoken out very loudly and very clearly. They want us to take a step back. …” Asks how do you streamline paperwork? How do you promote choice and competition? An editorial comment here, the American people have already spoken on “choice and competition,” they want the public option. It’s just the Dem MAJORITY can’t get their act together to implement it.
12:30 pm: CNN’s Sanjay Gupta says tort reform money paid out in lawsuits “is relatively small amount of money… 2-3% of overall health care budget,” but “trickle down effect”, the effect on doctors, nurses “in the way they practice medicine changes dramatically because of the fear of lawsuits, and that number again as far as the cost of defensive medicine they say could be between $600-800 billion a year. So, collectively perhaps, but the devil’s in the details.”
12:31 pm: McCain speaking, brings up drug “reimportation.” Obama tries to interrupt, but McCain goes on. Excuse me, but who is the President here? One of the problems with Obama is that he doesn’t know how to use his own power and this is an example.
12:34 pm: SOUNDBITE OF THE SUMMIT… “We’re not campaigning, John. The campaign’s over,” Obama. McCain: “I’m reminded of that every day.” Insert laughter here, except for Obama.
12:45 pm: Rep. Eric Cantor comes with a visual aid, Dems’ voluminous health care bill, which Obama immediately acknowledged. Aide (DeParle?) talking to Obama during Cantor’s monologue, which Cantor noticed but kept on talking, with Obama clearly taking the lecture and not liking it. People not being able to keep the insurance they like Cantor’s point. Obama responds that 8-9 million out of around 300 million who would change health insurance would, according to the CBO, choose to get more and better insurance. Obama then criticizes Cantor bringing big bill in and the politics of it. We’d reduce prices if we didn’t have meat inspectors, same with drugs, but we don’t do that. We make decisions to protect consumers in every aspect of our lives, Obama reminds Cantor.
12:57 pm: Tweeted… Irony alert. The only cable network televising Rep. Louise Slaughter is FOX, who was actually in Congress during Clinton effort. #hcrsummit Best line from Slaugher came when she talked about a woman using her dead sister’s teeth.
–BREAK for a House vote – BACK @ 1:45 pm– “Buses outside,” says Steny Hoyer.
1:11 pm: A few minutes ago, cue Fox’s AB Stoddard: Republicans “brought their A team,” doctors, while Dems were “on their knees.”
2:15 pm: Sen. Harkin uses segregation on health care. “Pools” equals segregating people according to health status, he says. hmmmm…. Slippery slope. Obama interrupts.
2:24 pm: I’m sick to death of seeing MEN, MEN, only MEN. Too many men pontificating about health care, way too few women. Women pay more for heathcare and get screwed more often than men. Epic fail. Optics suck. Both parties are pathetic in this regard. Tweeted here, after Twitter choked.
2:37 pm: UGH. Woman finally up, but it’s Marsha Blackburn. Talks about delaying benefit goodies, means benefits denied. This is the biggest fail in Dem strategy. Delaying what Americans would like about healthcare reform. So, Blackburn scores one.
2:45 pm: Obama reminded us he was against mandate in 2008 and in he primaries, but he’s now for it. Too bad it’s a horrible idea without competition in the frickin’ bill, which the current concoction does not offer. Biden up now, talking about deficit and health care costs, “$919 billion on Medicare-Medicaid” now being spent. Medic!
3:00 pm: Biden talked briefly, then “hushed” himself. Congressman next to Rep Ryan swooned when he said the bill was “gimmicks & smoke & mirrors.” Remember: Ryan wants to privatize Social Security, and kill Medicare.
3:06 pm: “Do we believe in the CBO or not?” Rep. Becerra pointedly asks Rep. Ryan. “You know I believe that,” Ryan concedes.
3:25 pm: “The 800 pound gorilla” and “biggest unfunded liability” is Medicare, which will “go broke in 8 years.” Sen. Kent Conrad dispenses unpalatable medicine: “5% use 50% of the money in Medicare… the chronically ill.” Goes on to talk about pharmaceuticals working against each other that he shouldn’t be taken: “We’ve got chaos.”
3:33 pm: Mr. Boehner, master of the politically obvious. You can script this guy before he starts talking. “New entitlement program, bankrupt country…” Finally he gets to the abortion issue. It’s THE reason to “scrap the bill.” I love it when MEN talk about women’s self-determination. To summarize: Obama flicks Boehner off shoulder. Shorter O: You’re a gnat. Your talking points are nakedly obvious. AND you’re boring me.
4:12 pm: “I have doubts about whether Rep. are going to help you,” says Waxman. “We’re not making campaign speeches,” Obama snaps. Nice smack on one of your own, Mr. Obama. Traditional media tribe will love this one. See Chris Cilizza.
4:30 pm: GOP Rep. Barton just gave a backhanded smack to Pres. Obama, saying he would make a good “moderator” in the caucus. Pres. Obama is supposed to be LEADING. That, in a nutshell, encapsulates the Dem problems on healthcare over the last year, while nailing Obama’s presidential style.
5:28 pm: One thing is for sure, can’t imagine any Rep. handling a health care summit like Obama did today. McCain? Ha! Palin? …maybe Romney. Obama clearly seeing “procedural arguments” ahead in House & Senate; clearly giving an outside window of “6 weeks.” We’ll see. Will they get something passed?
–That’s a wrap–