The Hand of Bipartisanship

One maxim of politics in the almost 30 years that I have been around the Congress is that it is always easy to urge the other party to be bipartisan, but not that easy to actually forge a deal between the two sides on major issues of the day.

And that’s certainly been true with health care reform.

Too often, the political dictionary description of compromise is, “An action where the other party simply accepts your legislative goals,” instead of real dealmaking.

Today, the President will meet with House Republicans in Baltimore, where they are holding a special retreat to talk about their legislative goals for the year.

On Wednesday night in his State of the Union Address, Mr. Obama again made clear that he wants to work with the GOP.

“We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together,” the President said to applause.

I asked several Republicans after the speech what they thought of that offer, and almost everyone of them rolled their eyes or acted like they didn’t believe the President’s words.

“The deeds so rarely matches the words,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who all but laughed at the idea that Democrats would suddenly start real negotiations on health care.

Meanwhile, it became even more apparent yesterday that the President’s State of the Union Address did very little to spark momentum on health care in the Congress, as more moderate Democrats said Mr. Obama should have offered up some kind of bipartisan plan for the way forward.

“I think the President should have been more clear,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who was happy to talk about policy instead of the weird story of the four men who were evidently trying to disable her office phones in New Orleans.

“I’m hoping in the next week or two, he will be more clear.”

There were rumors yesterday of Democrats coming up with plans in February on health reform.  Nothing would surprise me.  Those kind of efforts are certainly going on.

Whether they can actually put the Medical Legislative Version of Humpty Dumpty back together again is a different question.