Previewing the Health Summit - Post Politics

Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 14, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post White House reporter Scott Wilson takes your questions about what to expect from Thursday's health-care summit and discusses the rest of the latest political news.


Scott Wilson: Hey everyone. Glad you're all here, should be a lively day on the eve of the health care summit. And the Senate just passed the jobs bill. So let's get to it.


Charlotte, N.C: Scott, exactly when is the summit supposed to begin. Curiously, I've seen nothing and which CSPAN channel, online services will cover it? Thank you.

Scott Wilson: I can do this one: 10 a.m. CSPAN has announced it will be doing it "gavel to gavel." (CSPAN-3 on TV, and CSAPN radio live throughout.)


Florissant Valley, MO: Morning, Scott. What if, during the Health Summit exchanges tomorrow, the Republicans say something like, "Gee, Mr. President, if you would only consider backing a tort reform element in this package, we'll consider meeting you half way," and then Obama says, "Fine, I'm on board: let's do it." Would the McConnell faction say, "Oops, didn't mean it" or would they be backed into a PR corner? Is such a scenario even remotely possible? Thanks

Scott Wilson: This is the question that most interests me, and it seems to me that this would be the big one - tort reform. It's No. 1 on every list GOP lawmakers recite when asked for their ideas. And it forces Obama to go against an important constituency in his own party. But if he accepted it, seems like the GOP would have a tough time renouncing the bill, calling the summit a stunt, etc. I have heard nothing specific on whether he is going to offer this, but there's a sense the White House needs to offer something or else it will look like just cover for eventual reconciliation. What do others think?


Alexandria, Va.: Thanks for doing this Mr. Wilson.

Axelrod et al have argued for weeks that the polls show a large majority of Americans opposed to the House/Senate bills only because the public "doesn't understand" the legislation and that the public will love the law after it is passed and explained properly.

Most of the provisions of the new law would not begin to kick in until after the 2012 election. To a cynic it can appear that the West Wing wants to be able to claim a "victory".

Based on your reporting, how badly do you think use of the reconciliation procedure in the Senate would "poison the well"?


Scott Wilson: A mix of good questions here. On the first, Axelrod has a point in that when polls ask whether the public supports the health care bill (bills), a majority says no. When asked on specific component parts, the numbers go up. They do want to claim a victory, but have been unwilling to pare back the bill to its most popular elements just to get one -so far. And reconciliation would anger GOP lawmakers (and some Democrats, too) but the White House believes the well is fairly poisoned already and that the public would largely forget the manner in which the legislation is passed if it is successful policy. That remains to be seen.


C-Span 3, REALLY???: I don't know too many people who have access to C-Span 3. Are they not going to provide a live pool feed to other networks?? FWIW, we will be streaming the AP feed, but we won't know how comprehensive that will be until later today.

Scott Wilson: C-SPAN is the only one that has announced (that I know of), but certainly others will cut in and out, at least. White House website will likely be streaming it, and see below, we'll be streaming AP also. If you want to see it, there will be a way.


Arlington, Va.: The Republicans have been very successful at voting against everything proposed by the Democratic party and then blaming them for getting nothing done. Why would a healthcare summit that starts with a healthcare reform bill that received no Republican support change anything? Also, do you think the Democrats will consider voting for the bill under reconciliation rules if they can't break a filibuster?

Scott Wilson: Second part first: Yes, I believe Democrats are ready to go to reconciliation if a bipartisan bill cannot be worked out. On the second, let's make this a question for everyone else: What should the GOP give on? What should the White House offer?


Anonymous: I read with interest today's article about Wall Street campaign donations now going mainly to Republicans (the L.A. Times carried a similar article a couple of weeks ago). The article said the investment banks, etc. had been supporting Dems more, but referred mainly to the Obama election campaign. What has been the long term tendency? Will the Republicans continue to portray Obama as being too soft on the Wall Street investment firms who helped precipitate the current financial crisis, while at the same time accepting more and more donations from those same firms? I think they might just get away with it. Wall Street shifting political contributions to Republicans

Scott Wilson: Dan Eggen, the writer of that terrific piece, is standing next to me. He says financial sector giving has historically trended GOP, but ebbs and flows with the party in power (and Demcoratic inroads in the northeast have prompted more financial sector giving to the party in recent cycles.) On the political questions, the Wall Street shift to GOP is a boon for Obama and the Democrats, who have been hammered for being too generous to Wall Street - from the left of the Democratic party to the far-right of the conservative movement. Now they have the kind of empirical proof Obama likes - if Wall Street likes us so much, how come they are giving to Republicans now?


Pittsburgh: Any notion yet of how many recess appointments (and other executive signings) President Obama seems likely to make, in order to relieve some of the GOP blockages?

Scott Wilson: Not really. He obviously made no recess appointments during the recess last week, after some of the blockages were cleared. He's got a bunch of nominees left, though, so we'll see where he goes if the Senate holds them up.


New York, NY: What is the likelihood that the five Republican Senators who voted for the jobs bill will vote for the President's version of the health care bill?

Scott Wilson: Not good, but maybe there are other GOP alignments out there now that cracks have appeared in the party-vote discipline. The question though is why break ranks if the White House doesn't offer something new - ie, offer to accept a new GOP idea or two?


Chicago: I read somewhere that "everyone" will have to buy insurance. How is that possible? People who are out of work will never be able to afford it. It seems the man we voted in as President, a real person for the people, has lost touch with the people. What happened in the last year?

Scott Wilson: This is the "individual mandate," which Obama opposed in the campaign and favors now. The reason for the change is that, in terms of policy, you can't do universal health coverage (and the cost savings that is suppose to bring) unless it's in there. But, indeed, a sharp shift by the president.


Palm Harbor, FL: Do you find it interesting that not too long ago Scott Brown was the darling of the right but now, suddenly he is a "traitor" because he supports President Obama's jobs bill (which incidently passed the Senate according to a WP story)?

Scott Wilson: Not that surprising, really (and I'm guessing you're being a bit rhetorical there.) Sounds like a Democratic president I know, adored by the left in the campaign and now disappointing many of them by escalating the war in Afghanistan (which he said he would do), among other things. People, particularly hard partisans, hear what they want to hear. Didn't Brown say he wasn't going to be a lock-step Republican?


Alexandria, Va.: I think the R's should offer nothing that the President might take. They should just say no.

Scott Wilson: Is this a Democrat or a Republican talking?


Williamsburg, VA: Scott--"Chicago" asked about people out of work who couldn't afford the mandatory health insurance. You didn't mention that such people will receive subsidies that will cover the cost, for those out of work.

Scott Wilson: Good point here, there will be subsidies for people out of work. I must have missed that part of the question. I read it just as wondering why people are being forced to buy insurance after the president opposed that idea during the campaign.


Anonymous: Maybe this is what Axelrod is talking about: Newsweek, last week: As you may know, Barack Obama has proposed a plan to change this country's health care system. From what you have seen or heard about what he has proposed, what is your OVERALL opinion of Obama's health care reform plan -- do you favor it or oppose it?"

Favor 40

Oppose 49

Unsure 11

...(questions on each main feature")...

"Now please think about the proposals I just described to you. ALL of these proposals are included in Barack Obama's health care reform plan. Having heard these details, what is your OVERALL opinion of Obama's plan -- do you favor it or oppose it?"

Favor 48

Oppose 43

Unsure 9

After 10 months of "debate", that seems pretty pathetic. Do you think our political discourse could be more productive? How? The public's take on "the president's proposal"

Scott Wilson: First, to the final questions, everyone should read the Washington Post. That would improve our public discourse (and so many other things.) Seriously, yes, this is one of the recent polls that I alluded to earlier.


Las Cruces, NM: The GOP should accept the HCR bill if real tort reform is included; trial lawyers should be demonized equally if the Dem's are going to base their political playbook on demonizing insurance companies.

Personally, I don't think tort reform will be very effective in driving down costs but, despite BHO's assurances, neither will the HCR bill as a whole. Perhaps Mitch should guarantee GOP votes if the White House admits publicly that their assertions about bending the cost curve are lies just like Palin's death panel charge.

Scott Wilson: One opinion...


The question though is why break ranks if the White House doesn't offer something new : Er, so that 122 people don't die every day because they lack heath insurance? Or maybe so 700,000 people don't go bankrupt because they get sick?

BTW 500,000 of these have health insurance, but they have rotten policies which the Republicans would allow to get rottener.

Scott Wilson: Here's another opinion, but I need some GOPers out there. The chat room is loaded with Democrats right now (not that there's anything wrong with that, but some balance would be good.)


Re: Tort reform: I thought tort reform was already in the bill?

Scott Wilson: Some "pilot programs" to study tort reform...


So chips and big drink..: are on!

Any hope that actual NEWS will be made? Inside the room, that is.

Re: affordable health care legislation in this Come to Jesus, Big Tent meeting.


Scott Wilson: Let's leave it at this - a call for a summit party...My guess is there's a chance for news, let's hope so anyway. Thanks to everyone for joining today. Lot of fun. See you soon.


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