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Thursday’s day-long, televised health care summit at Blair House in Washington may make good political theater but few expect anything substantial to emerge from the posturing by Democrats and Republicans.
President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership of Congress need progress on health care to revive a stalled legislative agenda but they face steadfast opposition from Republicans and an American public that is far from sold on the proposed $1 trillion health care “reform” bill that provides little immediate relief from escalating costs for medical services.
The summit is high-risk drama for Obama, whose sky-high popularity from a year ago is rapidly disappearing into the political mist. Democrats need progress as well to try and salvage control of Congress. Republicans see the summit as a chance to cement recent political gains on a wave of public dissatisfaction.
Both sides appear unwilling to budge.
Democrat Chris Dodd challenges Republicans to “either join us or get out of the way.”
GOP Senate Leader Mitch McDonnell responds that “it’s nearly impossible to imagine a scenario under which we could reach an agreement.”
Which leads political strategists from both sides to shake their heads and wonder what their parties hope to accomplish.
“Health care reform is a runaway train looking for a place to derail,” says one Democratic consultant. “The crash is inevitable.”
Some say it is time to put up or shut up.
“It may involve hand-holding or holding of noses, but either you buy into the idea of health-care reform that transcends everything else you want to do, or you seal its fate,” Freshman Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly told The Washington Post. “On our side, the time for haggling is over. The question is: Do you want this, or do you want nothing?”
The summit starts at 10 a.m. Eastern time and will be carried live on C-SPAN. Cable news channels will also feature coverage of the summit through the day.