Health Care Reform Summit Live Blog
[ALL TIMES MOUNTAIN -- so I don't have to do math.]
8:43AM I came in at about 8:30, just in time to see Lamar Alexander quote de Tocqueville, praise LBJ, and tell President Obama they needed to "start over" on health care. Then Nancy Pelosi came on and said we have a moral responsibility not to pass on a huge debt to our children, and I immediately regretted not having made a very large pitcher of bloody marys. And made it with grain alcohol.
8:44AM Harry Reid is telling a sob story. Which is eerily like Dr. Seuss writing erotica.
8:58AM I'm pretty sure that every time Obama goes into Lecturing Professor Mode, he loses a voter. And right now, he's not just lecturing, but lying -- the CBO said his "plan" can't be scored, because it's too vague. And yet he's promising 15-20% reductions in premiums.
9:02AM "Rather than argue with you in public about it..." said Lamar Alexander to the President. Then why did you show up, Lamar? "We're gonna be here all afternoon," said Obama. This is gonna kill me.
9:06AM Tom Coburn is speaking, and of course he's a medical doctor. And he's rightly pointing out that government already distributes 60% of health care -- and does so in the worst possible manner. Obama's bill is more of the same.
9:08AM You've got to respect Coburn, but when he talks about government going after fraudulent spending, that's like hiring Ted Bundy to manage campus security.
9:10 Again from Coburn: -- government creates diabetes through food stamps and school lunches. By all means let's put the lunch lady in charge of liver transplants.
9:15AM What Steny Hoyer won't say: Your health care provisions will change. His won't.
9:33AM If this summit is supposed to give HCR some momentum, I don't see it working. Although it might just reduce medical costs after all -- it might be weeks, maybe even month, before political junkies need to buy another bottle of Unisom.
9:42AM I missed the speaker's name, up getting a cup of coffee, but he makes an excellent point -- by federally setting insurance standards and prices and mandating purchases, you've eliminated competition. Completely.
9:48AM Chuck Schumer says your doc can get paid four grand by sticking his head in the door. Maybe under your plan, Senator.
9:51AM Michelle Malkin tweeted, "Sen. McConnell notes: Dems=52 minutes. GOP=24 minutes." This isn't a summit -- it's a lecture.
10:00AM Yes, I really did just hear the President explain that his plan would give you fewer insurance choices, and then define that as "a benefit."
10:03AM I missed this bit that ran before I got started, but Nancy Pelosi claims this bill will create 400,000 jobs, "almost immediately." See the video on RCP.
10:06AM Senator Clyburn complains that people have trouble "navigating" the current system. For your entertainment, here's a map of the new system.
Feeling better yet?
10:11AM If there are to be no caps on payments from insurers and very hard caps on payments to insurers, then how are costs going to be cut? And where will the extra money come from? Just askin'.
10:12AM Boustany says he wants to simplify things. See the 10:06AM entry above.
10:17AM Maybe it's just me projecting, but the President doesn't look like he wants to be there today. He's spending lots of time slouched, chin on hand. Bored. Maybe even a little resentful.
That's no way to sell an unpopular bill to a dubious public.
10:20AM First, the President set an August deadline for his health care bill. When that slipped, it became Labor Day. Then Christmas. Now... like, whenever, dude. And he complains that he can't even get the senators to stay on the clock today?
10:26AM I zoned out there for a minute. Was George Miller saying his cleft palate has acne children?
10:31AM "We're not campaigning anymore. The election is over... we're supposed to be talking about insurance." That was Obama, addressing John McCain like a child. People with that dismissive attitude will soon be running the entire health care industry, if Obama gets his way.
10:40AM Cantor is good, but I wish he'd just lay it on the line and say, "This IS a takeover."
10:44AM The arrogance. "Nine or ten million Americans" might be forced to change plans, Obama admits. But that's "out of 300 million." As I said last week on this takeover -- you can't make an omelet without screwing some chickens.
10:47AM Full-bore lecture mode. I honestly don't know how Obama expects to move his bill forward when almost every critique earns his condescension.
10:49AM "We insure ourselves by making sure we insure somebody else." To paraphrase: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
That sounds familiar somehow.
10:54AM Louise Slaughter reminds us that she was here for the Clinton health care takeover debate, back in '93. I think it's past time that Ms. Slaughter returned to New York.
10:57AM Break time so House members can take a vote. Back in 45 minutes.
11:19AM While you wait for recess to end, check out two of this week's three Trifectas on PJTV. On the first one, Scott Ott, Bill Whittle and I look at the insanity of the politics behind the bill. On the second one, we look at the insane practicalities.
11:31AM Just seen on C-SPAN: The President determining which of our arguments are "legitimate." Thank you so much for your help, sir.
11:59AM They can't get back from recess on time (did kickball go extra innings?), but they promise not to create any waiting lines at the free clinic where your specialist used to have an office!
12:07PM Mike Enzi just demonstrated that the claim of "400 Republicans amendments" to be pretty much a big fat lie. Besides, most amendments have little to do with a bill -- they're usually earmarks and trifles. The real meat is in the bill itself, and the Democrats gave the Republicans zero input. Although from watching this thing unfold today, I'm not so sure more cooks would have made the soup any better.
12:10PM Tom Harkin hits the "we agree on a lot" talking point, then goes into a constituent sob story. Lather, rinse, repeat.
12:13PM Harkin: "What I'm saying Mr President and others, is this all hangs together." No thanks, Senator -- in this case I'd rather hang separately.
12:17PM "The more people in the pool, the cheaper it is for everybody." Harkin is a treasure trove of hilarity today, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor. Is it cheaper for young people who only need or want catastrophic (or no) insurance, to be thrown into the same pool with the sick and elderly? Well, no. What Harkin wants to do is enlarge, radically, the transfer of wealth from the young (and typically poorer) to the old (and typically) richer. Why won't the Republicans grab this obvious point and poke the Democrats in the eye with it?
12:23PM Bam! There it is. Obama just outlined how he's going to get us all into the same "pool," using the "turn the heat up slowly" method. In other words, we're not getting a single payer system -- but our kids will.
12:25PM Stop the presses! Jay Rockefeller claims insurance companies want to make money. Can we please get someone to fact-check his ass?
12:30PM Good grief! Rockefeller just said "we'll be watching you" if you don't buy his health insurance. Has he no idea how that sounds to a typical American?
12:40PM Obama: "Each family with health insurance... is picking up $1000 for everyone without insurance." And they'll pay even more (with less choice) under this "reform" bill. Where's the appeal?
12:44PM Joe Biden finds something they all agree on: His hair plugs are ridiculous.
12:48PM Reading the body language, I'm not sure Obama has ever hated Biden more than he does right now. Unless there's a tie, Biden doesn't even get a vote on this thing -- and he keeps going on and on and on.
12:50PM Biden on Medicare: "It's and entitlement," and "it exists."
12:54PM Paul Ryan is reading the riot act. Too many facts coming too quickly. If anyone looks good today, even grading on a curve, it's Ryan and Cantor and... that's about it.
12:55PM "Hiding spending does not reduce spending." That's Ryan, and it's your takeaway line today.
12:57PM Wow. Who's got this on TiVo? I need a screen grab of something. Sometime around 12:56PM Mountain C-SPAN showed Obama just glowering at Ryan. I mean, a real if-looks-could-kill moment. Just brutal. No... wait... not "just" brutal. It was also quite revealing.
1:05PM Every time I catch Obama with his chin on his hand, it relieves my boredom just a little bit. But, boy, it does add up.
1:14PM Grassley makes the excellent point that just because Congress says they'll cut spending today, doesn't mean they won't reinstate the spending tomorrow. Of course, I used about 18,000 fewer words than Grassley -- but I'd really like to get to the drinking soon.
1:15PM Grassley: "I don't see any future Congress having any more guts than we do."
1:22PM Conrad reminds us that sick people spend a lot more money on health care. Again, we're going to need a fact-checker on his ass.
1:27PM Good for John Boehner -- he called it a "takeover" and didn't apologize.
1:33PMJim Cooper says Americans wonder how Congress behaves when the cameras are off.
1:45PM Dick Durbin thinks that anyone who suffers from malpractice should get whatever... well, he doesn't say. Presumably, whatever a jury is willing to award. That'll cut costs.
1:49PM Apparently, the President wasn't too fond of Grassley's remarks, either. Enjoy the view UTNOPOTUS. (Up The Nose of the President of The United States.)
1:56PM Barrasso: White House's own actuary says health bill will cause 20% of all hospitals and clinics to go underwater.
1:59PM "It's my heart, it's my life." YES! I said to Bill Whittle and Scott Ott in our virtual "green room" before taping Trifecta on Wednesday, that if the GOP didn't bring up the Canadian premiere coming here for heart surgery, then this whole thing would be a waste. Glad Barrasso did it.
2:00PM "They're not premieres of somewhere, sultans of anyplace." That's our golden orator in action.
2:02PM Obama points out that members of Congress are in the top income bracket. What wrong with this picture?
Also, Waxman is on. And I can't drink. Right now I'm looking at my keyboard the way Obama looks at Paul Ryan.
2:08PM It's in my contract that I don't have to watch or listen to Henry Waxman while sober. Blogging will resume just as soon as he's finished speaking, two or three forevers from now.
2:13PM Shorter Peter Roskam: This bill's so bad, even President Obama can't sell it. Followed by, "this isn't a prop -- this is the Senate bill!"
2:21PM Since he's retiring, Chris Dodd would like to remind that his health care coverage is way better than yours. And so is his pension. As is his quaint Irish cottage.
2:28PM Joe Barton: Texas has gained 18,000 doctors and lowered malpractice insurance premiums by 27% since instituting malpractice reform in 2003.
2:32PM Please, no cruel jokes about Ron Wyden's lisp. His speech therapist died recently in a tragic spittle accident.
2:37PM Democrats agree: "American health care is the best. It's also malicious, unfair, and bankrupting us." OK, then.
2:41PM Patty Murray: "Americans are in a box... and passionate about the public option." That's one big commie shipping crate.
2:50PM I do wish Dingle would stop his pathetic suck-up routine. If this is the big finish, this big bill is finished.
2:55PM OK, that's all I can take. Give me a couple minutes to write the wrap.
2:57PM Wait... one last thing before the wrap. Nancy Pelosi promises that insurance companies will exist on the playing field of the American people.
Does that even mean anything?
3:00PM Yikes. The President says he's going to go on for ten more minutes. Should I go ahead and write the wrap-up, or listen some more? It's been a long, long day, folks...
3:03PM Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you did just hear a Democrat praising Wal-Mart's business practices.
3:06PM Free markets for Wrangler Jeans = good, says the President. Free markets for insurance = "race to the bottom."
3:07PM Just a second thought on the 3:06PM post. If some things are just too important for liberty, then what's liberty for?
3:14PM Every extra second the President speaks, I stomp on a kitten.
3:15PM Seriously, I thought the President was supposed to address the big themes -- think, Reagan, Clinton -- and not address every little detail. This is not inspiring. This is pure hectoring. And it's not going to get public opinion to budge.
3:18PM "What I'd like to propose is... the Republicans do a little soul searching." That's not a proposal.
3:22PMHere's the wrap.
Not many people are watching this thing today, and not many more will pay it much mind. But the summit will get some nice media spin, and public support for two unreadable bills will rise. A little. For a few days. And then... nada.
The Republicans brought their A-game today (I'm grading on a curve) and the Democrats brought their sob stories. And the fact remains that most people are pretty happy with their health care and very mindful of their wallets -- which is why talking dollars today was a smarter move than talking emotions.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I sense a trap.
Anakin Skywalker: Next move?
Obi-Wan Kenobi: [smiling] Spring the trap.
Fortunately the Republicans did just that. And if what we saw was supposed to be a trap, it was set by one of the Spy vs Spy guys.