Ok, it might not win any awards, but to coin a phrase, it is “must see TV!” Tomorrow, the President is hosting legislators from both sides of the aisle in a last ditch effort to save his health care reform bill. To be fair, until this week, he didn’t have a health care reform bill. The President had set out some guidelines for what he wanted in the bill and let Congress have at it. After months of deliberations, both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of health care reform, which were vastly different from each other. As a result, there has been no progress on passing either of them.
Now the President has submitted his version of health care reform to Congress and tomorrow, he will moderate a nationally televised roundtable discussion with members of both houses of Congress and members of both parties. To me, this is a historic meeting. I can’t remember in my lifetime, this kind of policy debate which has directly involved the President and being seen live on national television! It should be riveting, if you like that sort of thing. I do.
When it comes to debate, more is better. Until now, most of the negotiations on reconciling the two versions of the bills has been done behind closed doors, in spite of the President’s promises to air the debates on C-SPAN. This is an opportunity for those who care about the future of health care in this country to check it out.
Republicans have been loathe to engage during this process. After all, they are absolutely powerless to stop the Democrats from doing anything. Before the election of Scott Brown in January, the Democrats had a super-majority in the Senate and overwhelming numbers still exist in the House. Including the Republicans in this televised roundtable, while noble, is pointless. Hopefully the Republicans will take the opportunity to advance their agenda to a national audience. Many in the Republican party have been warning Congressional leaders to stay away from these discussions as it may be a trap by the President to blame them if he still has trouble passing his agenda. I have more faith in the American people than that. People know that the Republicans simply do not have the ability to stop the Democrats from passing whatever they want.
So tune in tomorrow. Take a look at democracy in action. These are your representatives. It’s a good chance to see what their ideas are about how you will be able to access the greatest health care in the world. Even a Canadian Premier came to the US when his government health care didn’t offer him a solution to his heart problem that he liked. Instead, he flew to Miami to have his heart repaired. Hopefully, we will all still have that option after tomorrow.