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Tango for one

Mark Mardell | 05:15 UK time, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The president's speech is the "final act" in healthcare reform, according to the White House. But I have a feeling that the president's latest speech will be more mood-setting theatre than a climax to this long-running drama.

He's written to Republican leaders saying that they have more in common with his Democrats than many think, and that he is looking forward to working with them to complete what he calls a historic achievement.

He tells them that they, the Republicans, had raised good ideas at last week's televised health summit. He's exploring four of them. They are: fighting fraud by under cover investigations, investigating alternatives to suing doctors for malpractice, paying doctors more for Medicade (health care for the poorest) and more health savings accounts.

I doubt this will temp anyone to change their vote. They are concessions, an attempt at compromise. But the big divide remains. The president believes that controlling insurance companies' costs, obliging them to insure everyone, whatever their medical circumstance and making health insurance virtually compulsory are all vital. The Republicans don't.

One Republican has been swift to reject any deal.

"I don't know if we should be insulted or humored at the president's feeble attempts to incorporate Republican ideas into his latest health care proposal," said Paul Broun from Georgia adding:
"Snooki, from the Jersey Shore, has more substance than President Obama's offer."

For the uninitiated Jersey Shore is an Big Brother style reality TV show and one of the stars Snooki is not considered to be one of the world's great intellectuals.

As they say, it takes two to tango, and this looks as if it is going to end up as a solo effort.

So beyond this rather doomed offer what is today about ? Last week Obama suggested that the American people would understand if this was decided by a simple majority vote. ABC suggests he won't get much further today and won't use the words "budget reconciliation", the device Democrats are likely to use to get round Republican plans to fillibuster.

All this suggests it will be left to briefers to make the way ahead clear when, according to some, House and Senate Democrats can't even agree who gets first bite of the cherry.

The president's aim must be to the win people over to his plan, but the longer it drags on, the more bickering there is, the more damage is done to his image.


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