Bipartisan Summit Could Help Nudge Health Care Bill
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
President Obama tried several ways this week to find some maneuvering room on health care. Today, he is releasing his own version of a health care proposal.
MONTAGNE: He'll talk about it with the nation's governors. Later in the week, Mr. Obama has scheduled a summit with lawmakers from both parties. The Senate's Republican leader says his party will participate in the event, which will be televised.
INSKEEP: Joining us now on the radio, as she does most Mondays, is NPR news analyst Cokie Roberts. Cokie, Good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Now, let's remember that Democrats passed bills in both Houses, the Senate and the House, but Republicans were totally opposed. They have the power to block what the president is now proposing if they stay united. So what's the starting point for discussions, here?
ROBERTS: Well, the White House has finally got a bill of its own. This is the first we've had of President Obama's health care bill. Now, apparently, it looks a good deal like the bill that the Senate Democrats put together with some modifications. It gets rid of some of those special treats for individual states that caused so much upset, and it includes, apparently, a - a rate - an ability to regulate rate hikes by insurance companies, something proposed by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
That is likely to be extremely popular with the American people, whether it flies with Republicans is another question altogether. But the president's essentially saying, okay, here's our plan. We're going to put it up on the Internet, so nobody can say that it's secret and in the dark of night. And he's saying to the Republicans, show up with your plan.
Now they've been very wary about this, but they don't think they can avoid showing up. The fact that the Democrats have been out there saying the Republicans are the party of no is clearly having some effect, Steve. I mean, we heard Senate leader Mitch McConnell yesterday. He had ready, chapter and verse, from President Obama talking about all the things Congress has done so far this year. So he's saying we do work together on what we consider good things. We just won't do a bill that most Americans hate.
INSKEEP: What are the odds they're going to be able to work together in an election year on television?
ROBERTS: It seems really hard to imagine that they will be able to. But, you know, it could - television could work one of two ways. Republicans and Democrats could just posture, or they could feel that their people are really looking at them and expecting them to come up with something and sit down and act like grown ups. And, you know, President Obama said in his radio address over the weekend what's been tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem. And I do think that that is something that the American people are looking to Washington and saying, well, can you? And who knows what kind of impact that could have.
INSKEEP: Cokie Roberts, the first lady was also talking about health, in a way, over the weekend.
ROBERTS: Yeah, she was very interesting. She really had her big public debut, in some ways, this weekend on a policy issue. She spoke to the National Governors Association, a very high-profile speech, and she also went on Fox News - not a place that's been terribly friendly to this administration. Talking to Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, he challenged her about whether she was creating another government program. She insisted otherwise.
(Soundbite of TV show, "Huckabee")
Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: This is not a government intervention. I mean, as you know, as governor, you know, this is isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.
ROBERTS: Now, of course, she was talking about childhood obesity, which she is determined to fight against.
INSKEEP: Well, Cokie, the governors that she was talking to, are they more pragmatic - if that's a fair way to put it - than Congress is?
ROBERTS: Oh, so much more so, Steve. And it's so striking anytime they get together. They're out there in the states solving these issues. They have to. They don't really have much of a choice. And the only ones that you see who are really posturing are the ones who are planning to run for president. And so they keep up the partisan rhetoric, but the rest of them sit down and get together and try to figure out ways to make things work. And as they go to the White House today - excuse me - they are likely to say look, you should be talking a great deal more to us about these problems. We're out there solving health care, while you're here talking about it.
INSKEEP: Analysis, as we get every Monday morning, from NPR's Cokie Roberts.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.