I’ve been reading commentary about the President’s health summit last night and this morning and there seems to be confusion about what this was meant to achieve. Most everyone knows that bipartisanship was not going to suddenly break out yesterday, so what was the point? It seems clear to me that the summit was designed to help corral Democratic votes, first in the House for the Senate bill and then in the Senate for amendments through reconciliation.
Did it succeed? The biggest problem was that House Democrats from swing districts were too frightened by Republican opposition to vote. The summit did two things for them. First it redefined the debate from Democratic leadership against moderate Democrats to all Democrats against all Republicans. This appeals to moderate Democratic partisanship and helps motivate the Democratic base. Second it role played the Democratic-Republican issue debate at length, so individual members could see how it’s done. The President didn’t have to decisively win the debate, he just had to demonstrate that the issue is not a loser for Democrats. Given that no Republican votes are needed, that’s probably going to be enough to pass the bill.