Today, Congressional Democrats and Republicans at the invitation of President Barack Obama will come together for what has been billed as a bipartisan health care summit. The American people expect that this will be an opportunity for their elected representatives to sit at the same table and find a way forward, together, to address a top national concern all televised live on C-SPAN. The president himself said that participants would discuss all the best ideas to develop a health care reform plan.
It has become disappointingly clear, however, that the White House is more interested in playing politics than in fulfilling its promise of bipartisanship.
This week, the president released a plan crafted behind closed doors that could be rammed through Congress using a partisan maneuver called reconciliation. Under the reconciliation process which was not meant to be used for major legislation restructuring one-sixth of our economy the president would be able to proceed without the support of any Republicans or even the moderates in his own party.
This approach not only torpedoes the spirit of a bipartisan summit, it is nothing more than a repeat of last years attempt to push through an unpopular and far-reaching health care bill on a strictly partisan basis. That plan was soundly rejected by the American people as they learned about all the sweetheart deals like the Cornhusker Kickback and other provisions that would have raised premiums, raised taxes and cut Medicare.
Unfortunately, it doesnt seem like the White House or Congressional Democrats are listening.
Far from a meeting of the minds, this summit is shaping up to be little more than a photo op to unveil the White Houses latest backroom deal.
We do not need more of the same old Washington tricks; we had enough of that approach last year. Instead, we need a fair and honest effort to find solutions that improve the health care of Americans while not raising their insurance premiums and subjecting them to increased government involvement in their health care decisions.
My Republican colleagues and I understand the concerns of many people in this country who lack adequate health insurance or worry about the rapidly rising cost of health care. We know that finding workable solutions to our current problems will require all of us to work hard in a truly bipartisan way.
Real bipartisanship means abandoning all attempts to ram through the same unpopular package of ideas, cobbled together behind closed doors, using the most partisan political tactic. Even Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), the most senior Democrat in the Senate and one of the authors of reconciliation, has said that he opposes using that process to push a health care bill.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.