- Listen, people, it's early.
, right now. (Washington Senator Patty Murray scored an invite, and mentioned it on her Facebook page
yesterday—will she bring up the public option, as many of her Facebook fans want her to?)
8 a.m.: We're now an hour into this multi-hour event, and opening statements are just wrapping up. Which, Obama pointed out, is not surprising in a room full of elected officials. The biggest flash-point so far has been the question of whether reconciliation will be used to move the health care bill forward. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said something this big, something that affects 17 percent of the American economy, shouldn't be moved through reconciliation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out, in his opening statement, that Republicans have been huge fans of reconciliation in the past—for pushing through tax cuts for the wealthy, for example. President Obama responded by suggesting they all focus on substance instead of process.
Zzzzzzzzzzz. However! There was a notable president vs. senator argument over premium costs. The question: Would health care reform reduce them or increase them, and what did the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office say about all this? Ezra Klein
Did the Congressional Budget Office find that premiums costs will go down? Lamar Alexander and Barack Obama just had a contentious exchange on this point, so it's worth settling the issue: Yes, the CBO found health-care reform would reduce premiums. The issue gets confused because it also found that access to subsidies would encourage people to buy more comprehensive insurance, which would mean that the value of their insurance would be higher after reform than before it. But that's not the same as insurance becoming more expensive: The fact that I could buy a nicer car after getting a better job suggests that cars are becoming pricier. The bottom line is that if you're comparing two plans that are exactly the same, costs go down after reform.
Meanwhile, what role is Sen. Patty Murray going to play in this discussion? Will she be "framing" a particular issue, as several Democratic senators are being asked to do? Spokesman Eli Zupnick e-mails:
She is there to listen, contribute to the discussion, and make sure that the perspectives of Washington state families and small business owners are being represented.
10 a.m.: And that's the end of hour three (out of six). Right now there's a break so that the pols can stuff some food in their mouths before gabbing for three more hours, and so that some House members can go appear for a quick vote on Capitol Hill.
This is turning out to be a pretty dull gathering. So what's the end-game? Obama's got to have a deeper strategy than just boring us all to death with bipartisanship theater
for hours on end, right?
After a brief period of consultation following the White House health reform summit, congressional Democrats plan to begin making the case next week for a massive, Democrats-only health care plan, party strategists told POLITICO.
A Democratic official said the six-hour summit was expected to “give a face to gridlock, in the form of House and Senate Republicans.”
Democrats plan to begin rhetorical, and perhaps legislative, steps toward the Democrats-only, or reconciliation, process early next week, the strategists said.
11:30 a.m.: We're back from "lunch," and hearing about loss ratios and rapacious insurance companies and deep philosophical differences and so on. Commenter Max Solomon says:
i can't wait till all the old men start carb-crashing an hour into the afternoon session. when they nod off on-camera, hooo, the fun TV will have!
12:20 p.m.: Hang in there, Patty.
1:40 p.m.: Patty Murray gets a chance to speak, and spends most of the time relating an anecdote about a health care nightmare in Washington State. These kind of anecdotes from back home not in short supply today. So, with apologies to the people involved in Murray's anecdote, I tuned it out.
My ears did perk up when she mentioned the phrase "public option." That answered my question from above—and, as far as I can tell, it was the first time anyone at this summit has used the phrase all day. But Murray didn't demand a public option, or lament its fading from the discussion of the possible in D.C. Instead, she just presented it as something some people want, and then moved on to other subjects.
2:30 p.m.: Over! Jesus.