Last week was a flurry of mixed messages on healthcare reform, first with sources telling Greg Sargent that the White House supported the reconciliation fix for healthcare reform. Then another administration source told HuffPo's Sam Stein "that no such signal was being sent."
Meanwhile, Sherrod Brown complained that Obama's involvement has "dried up," with Al Franken and Bernie Sanders reiterating that message directly to Obama adviser David Axelrod, pressing him for more leadership from Obama. Rounding out the week, a report in Saturday's Times on Thursday's leadership meeting with Obama suggested that Pelosi again "rejected continued pressure from the administration simply to pass the Senate bill and send it to Mr. Obama for his signature," an approach that Pelosi has reiterated just can't happen. At the same time, Obama told the DNC that
I’m not gonna walk away from health reform. I’m not gonna walk away from this challenge. I’m not gonna walk away from any challenge. We are moving foward. We are moving forward.
How he's intending to move forward emerged as a real head-scratcher: yet another bipartisan summit.
“I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” Mr. Obama said in the interview from the White House Library.
Mr. Obama challenged Republicans to attend the meeting with their plans for lowering the cost of health insurance and expanding coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Republican leaders said they welcomed the opportunity and called on Democrats to start the debate from scratch, which the president said he would not do....
When asked by Ms. Couric if he would agree to discard the bill and start over, the president said he would not. The starting point, aides said, would be with the proposals that passed the House and Senate.
While Obama is stressing that he won't start over from scratch, he's leaving room for "scaling back the scope of the legislation in hopes of drawing more support for a health care plan." A vain hope, if indeed he's really thinking there's Republican support out there to be had. Both Boehner and McConnell are already approaching this summit as a restart on the whole process. The experience of the past year should be enough to convince anyone other than David Broder that Republicans would actually play a part in passing any kind of reform.
Perhaps this nothing more than an elaborate set-up to expose the depth of Republican obstructionism and, as Greg Sargent speculates lay the groundwork for passing the bill through reconciliation by providing them cover. But a more straightforward, and quicker, path would certainly be providing the leadership the Senate seems to be craving and help push the reconciliation fix through.