Health Summit Fails to Reach Compromise

After seven hours of discussion, President Obama and key Congressional leaders failed to reach any compromise at Thursday's health summit.

The conversation at times sounded like campaign pitches and at other moments exposed the frustration felt by all the lawmakers involved in passing health care reform.

Republican lawmakers used language such as "government-run health care" when describing the current bills in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders said the lives of many Americans are on the line and they cannot afford for Congress to scrap the current legislations and start over as Republicans demand.

At the end of the day, what was seen by those who watched the live TV coverage of the summit is the deep partisan divide and the unlikelihood of a compromise being reached by the two parties.

"Throughout the day, participants talked past each other to such an extent that the summit was closer to a molehill of familiar stump speeches," said Robert Schmuhl, a political scientist at Notre Dame and author of Statecraft and Stagecraft, according to USA Today.

At one point in the discussion, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) brought up the issue of federal funding of abortion in health care reform.

"For 30 years we have had a federal law that says that we're not going to have taxpayer funding of abortions," Boehner said. "This bill, that we have before us, for the first time in 30 years allows for the taxpayer funding of abortions."

President Obama did not offer a response to this issue and the subject did not come up again.

Pro-life groups have stated they cannot accept any health care bill unless it explicitly bars the use of tax-dollars from paying for elective abortions.

"The plans offered by the Democrats and the president have been unpopular with the American public," commented Ashley Horne, federal issues analyst at Focus on the Family Action, "because they contain provisions that raise the cost of health care for most Americans and fund abortion with federal dollars."

Because the summit produced no apparent change in the health care debate, it is expected that the Democrats will use "reconciliation" to advance the bill. Reconciliation is a political maneuver that bypasses the 60 votes needed to end debate and instead only requires a majority of the votes. The danger of reconciliation, however, is that the party that uses it is accused of partisanship and ignoring the dissenting voice.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, has condemned the idea of Democrats using reconciliation on the health care bill.

"It's a one-sided tactic that rejects bipartisanship and is a maneuver that is intended to deal with minor budgetary issues – not major policy initiatives like massive health care reform," Sekulow wrote on his online "Trial Notebook."

Sekulow is calling on Americans to sign a petition on the ACLJ website protesting the use of reconciliation on the health care bill.

Health care reform is Obama's top domestic issue and he has hinted that he is willing to be accused of partisanship in order to pass health care reform.

"The question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something?" Obama said during the meeting. "And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for."

Democrats are trying to pass a massive bill that would expand coverage to an additional 30 million people. If passed, the bill would be the largest change to the nation's health care system since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.