President Obama kicked off his bipartisan health care reform summit at the Blair House this morning by urging lawmakers to focus on the areas where they agree. “I think this concern is bipartisan,” he said, but during the fall debate on the bill, “politics, I think, ended up trumping practical common sense.” He said he hoped to reach some consensus. But when Lamar Alexander asked him to promise not to “ram” the bill through with reconciliation, Obama left the door open, saying the “gulf” between the parties might be too wide
Alexander, opening for Republicans, urged Obama to start over. “We want you to succeed, because if you succeed then our country succeeds. But we would like you to change direction.” Talk then turned to cost controls, and regulations. Republicans objected that Democrats wanted to mandate too many restrictions on the plans that would go in the government exchange. Obama said that was a substantive disagreement, but that they wanted to ensure decent coverage. “You can always get cheaper insurance if it has really high deductibles,” he argued. It would also allow productive inter-state competition.