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Optimism About the 113th Congress

That would start with a new GOP approach to health care reform — acknowledging that Obamacare is a reality, and working with Democrats to make it work by financing its implementation and adjusting the law to make it better. How about a deal that would start with malpractice reform to reduce defensive medicine — and in return, Republicans would work with Democrats to take a new look at the 30-hour threshold for companies to provide insurance to employees, a new look at whether the penalties for not getting insurance are high enough, and engage in serious bipartisan discussions of better ways to keep down health care costs.

And how about a fresh look at a few areas that got ridiculously politicized, such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board? Contrary to the overheated rhetoric, the IPAB is like a base-closing commission, a group of independent experts that can only recommend a set of cost-saving provisions for Medicare, with Congress able to accept, refine or reject — but if Congress rejects, it must come up with its own plan to save the same amount.

Next, how about revisiting compensation to health plans for early counseling on end-of-life issues, something that saves immense family heartache even as it reduces unnecessary last-ditch costs that can extend lives by days while also extending pain and suffering?

Next, we could use a new approach to infrastructure, starting with what should be a bipartisan embrace of the smart, market-oriented ideas of Reed Hundt and Blair Levin in their new e-book “The Politics of Abundance,” focusing on public-private partnerships to enhance dramatically the knowledge network and the power network to create jobs and jump-start the economy, while transforming our energy base and making us more competitive.

There are many other areas where cooperation and compromise would win kudos from most Americans.

That approach is more likely to come from the Senate to start with, but there is no reason why it cannot happen on many committees in the House.

One cautionary note, on which I will soon write more: Getting from here to there in the Senate will require careful thought and adept maneuvering over the filibuster. Change is coming, inevitably. But it will be much better if that change can come, as it did in 1975, with buy-in from members of both parties. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., among others, has been exploring ways to get real reform in that fashion. I believe it can start with eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed, but it has to go further. But even here, there is room for hope, if not optimism.

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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