Alliance only way reform will succeed

Freedom New Mexico

President Barack Obama has invited congressional Republicans to participate in a bipartisan televised summit on health care. It’s about a year late.

Will such a meeting reflect a realistic understanding of what has turned so many of the American people against the different versions of health insurance reform that have passed the House and Senate,or will it be simply a public-relations gesture? It is difficult to tell at this point.

The president has tried hard to blame the lack of progress on reforming health care on congressional Republicans. But the failure is a failure of presidential leadership that occurred within the Democratic Party, with Republicans as uninvolved bystanders — sniping from the sidelines, but powerless to affect the outcome.

Our constitutional system is so designed that a large-scale comprehensive approach to any issue requires a broad consensus. President Obama, seeing large Democratic majorities in Congress swept into office with him, apparently assumed his victory was for his ideological approach more than a rejection of President George W. Bush and Republican irresponsibility. So he entrusted his signature first-year issue to extremely partisan House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The leaders came up with bills that failed to command the support of moderate Democrats, let alone Republicans. President Obama never took command of the process to direct it toward genuine consensus. He assumed that growing opposition to the bills reflected disgust with the process and a failure of persuasion rather than opposition on substance.

If President Obama is serious about a bipartisan approach, he should scrap the bills that have passed the two houses and start from square one.

Republicans have said they want to address rising health care costs before expanding government involvement. They are likely to propose allowing insurance to be sold across state lines, allowing individuals, as well as corporations, to get a tax break for buying health insurance, eliminating some costly coverage mandates, and reforming the legal system to reduce malpractice lawsuits.

If such proposals get equal consideration with Democratic proposals, a modest compromise might emerge. Otherwise the exercise looks like window-dressing.