Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny report that the White House is coming to terms with the fact that leading Republicans have no interest in negotiating in good faith on health care:
Republicans have used the Congressional break to dig in hard against the overhaul outline drawn by Democrats. The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, Jon Kyl of Arizona, is the latest to weigh in strongly, saying Tuesday that the public response lawmakers were seeing over the summer break should persuade Democrats to scrap their approach and start over.
“I think it is safe to say there are a huge number of big issues that people have,” Mr. Kyl told reporters in a conference call from Arizona. “There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill.”
The White House has also interpreted critical comments by Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican negotiator in a crucial Finance Committee effort to reach a bipartisan compromise, as a sign that there is little hope of reaching a deal politically acceptable to both parties.
Now of course the question is whether the White House is really so naive that they didn’t realize this would happen. Maybe they were. Or maybe the plan was simply to give the GOP enough time and rope for them to make it clear that the White House really and truly did make an effort to put a bipartisan process together, but the Republicans were just more interested in obstruction. If so, this may prove to have been a clever plan. Or it may prove to have been dumb. Barack Obama’s approval rating was considerably higher two months ago than it was today. Achieving just Democratic Party unity on a health care plan isn’t easy, but it’s made a lot easier when you have a super-popular president cracking heads than when you have a president who’s of just about average popularity.
Meanwhile, I think there’s still a real question about Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Progressives have very little practical leverage over those two since they’re both super-popular and have a proven ability to beat back challenges from reasonable candidates like Tom Allen and Chellie Pingree. On the other hand, their good reputations back home really do depend on them breaking with the GOP leadership. And unlike most other Republicans, they’re also not vulnerable to pressure from the right. Snowe in particular seems to be politically untouchable and can pretty much do whatever she wants. But what does she want?