From Karl at Hot Air:
It’s not a trap; it’s a joke:
President Obama said Sunday that he would convene a half-day bipartisan health care session at the White House to be televised live this month, a high-profile gambit that will allow Americans to watch as Democrats and Republicans try to break their political impasse.
Republican leaders said they welcomed the opportunity and called on Democrats to start the debate from scratch, which the president said he would not do. (Emphasis added.)
Indeed, the New York Times told us this was a joke before it was announced:
In his rallying cry to a crowd of cheering supporters on Thursday, Mr. Obama described, in the clearest terms yet, his vision of how to enact comprehensive health legislation: House and Senate Democrats would resolve their differences and decide on a “final bill.” They would then invite “our Republican friends to present their ideas.” The president would convene a meeting of Democrats, Republicans and health care experts to debate the proposals, in plain-spoken terms, for the benefit of the American people. (Emphasis added.)
This line is confirmed today by lefty bloggers like Ezra Klein:
In conversations today, the White House was quick to emphasize a couple of points. First, they’re not starting over. Legislation has already passed the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. That’s not to be taken lightly, and the White House isn’t taking it lightly. “The President has made it clear that he’s adamant about passing comprehensive reform similar to the bills passed by the House and the Senate,” one official said.
Having the GOP in for a debate after Democrats draft a “final bill,” similar to that virtually universally rejected by Republicans is absurd, which ought to be among the main points Republicans make if — as appears to be the case — they choose to attend.
Although Hugh Hewitt wants the GOP to make specific policy points in the conference, they might be better served focusing on the questions of partisanship and process that have consumed the Democrats recently. Their opening statement ought to detail the number of times Pres. Obama chose to meet with the GOP leadership on healthcare reform last year (probably countable on the fingers of one hand) as opposed to the Democrats (more than once a week at times). They could point out that the Democrats’ bills contain none of the policy priorities Hewitt mentions. But what they really should do is ask Obama to promise — right there on TV — to veto any bills related to healthcare passed through the budget reconciliation process. If Obama is truly interested in passing a bipartisan bill, he cannot support efforts to ram an unpopular bill through without Republican support, outside the normal legislative process. The only way that Obama can force Pelosi and Reid to act in a bipartisan manner is to promise he will veto any bill passed through, or as a companion to, budget reconciliation.
Of course, Obama will never do that — but his refusal to commit to a bipartisan process will be out in the open, as opposed to hidden, where it is now