One of the things I've endeavored to point out is that if "bipartisanship" is a quality that can only be measured in terms of a final vote count, then the health care reform bill will likely not be considered "bipartisan."
But if the quality of "bipartisanship" refers to activities like making legislative concessions, accommodating the policy concerns of the other side, actively courting the support of the minority party and staging prolonged negotiations between party leaders in order to work towards a compromise, then it's fair to say that the health care debate has been healthily bipartisan.
And, lo, here's Nancy Pelosi on CNN, making the same argument:
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about bipartisanship, because a lot of people did look at the Thursday bipartisan summit and say, "Why didn't they do this a long time ago?" Because while they did meet, it wasn't like this. And now it's really, pretty much too late. I mean, they can amend, but it wasn't -- why didn't you say at the very beginning say, "Come in here, Congressman Boehner, come in here Congressman Pence, let's sit down, where do we start on a health care bill." Not, kind of, present a package and then say, amend it.
PELOSI: That isn't the way it happened. The President called us together last March 5th, and we left that room very hopeful. We went into the legislative process, hundreds of hours of hearings and bill writing and all the rest, where the Republicans made their suggestions. We know that one of the reasons we didn't have a bill in the fall was because the President wanted to give the Senate more time to arrive at a bipartisanship in the Senate bill, which he thought might be possible then. The House had said right from the start that they were never going to vote for any bill, but he thought there might be some prospects in the Senate. And so what we've had is a year of trying to strive for bipartisanship. As I've said, there's over a hundred Republican amendments in the bill. And the Republicans placed their own bill on the floor here in the House, which insures over three million, our bill insures over thirty million. So we have a different value system here. And let me say this,
But they have had plenty of opportunity to make their voices heard, and if they wanted to truly have -- bipartisanship is a two-way street. And let me say this: the bill can be bipartisan, even though the votes might not be bipartisan, because they have made their imprint on this. We were all for the public option. We're now going with a Republican idea, an exchange. That's a very big difference.
I'd point out that it's precisely the pursuit of bipartisanship that has transformed what would have been a difficult legislative process into a time-consuming and over-complicated one. But as Pelosi points out, for better or worse, there's been a lot of bipartisan activity in the health care debate, all the same. The only place where the spirit of bipartisanship is not showing up is in the final vote count -- the one thing over which the Democrats have no control.
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