White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (at left) is said to have concluded that the Republicans had made "a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes." According to the Times' report, Emanuel believes that the Republican leadership has elevated the defeat of President Obama's health care proposal to the level of "a strategic decision," one that "is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day."
If so, that's not going to go down well with the Blue Dog Democrats. And it's only going to confirm the worst fears of some of the folks who packed Town Hall meetings around the country the last couple of weeks. But no longer worried about needing to negotiate away the centerpiece of its health care plans, the White House has little to lose.
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The Republicans probably can thank a couple of their own for precipitating the confrontation. On Tuesday, Senator Jon Kyl told reporters during a conference call that Democratic concessions still wouldn't be enough to win Republican support for "a trillion-dollar-plus bill." His Senate colleague, Charles Grassley, last week angered Democrats when he repeated the false allegation that the Obama plan would create government-sponsored "death panels." Grassley, who is a negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee, also said in a subsequent interview with MSNBC that he'd vote down any health-care reform bill coming out of the committee if it did not have wide support from fellow Republicans. "I am negotiating for Republicans," he said. "If I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a good negotiator."
The White House finally got the message. Loud and clear. Game on.