As Greg Sargent notes, the Republican plan for "bipartisan cooperation" basically means scrapping the current health-care bill (or bills) and starting over. According to Eric Cantor's office:
After going it alone on health care reform for nearly a year, President Obama has decided he wants to bring Republicans into the conversation. Here's the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there's not much to talk about.
Thing is, Obama has hardly gone it alone. After all, it's never really been clear what Obama himself is for. As far as I can tell, he's for something, and maybe even a robust public option, but he's been more than willing all along to work out a compromise, to put pragmatism before idealism, for better and for worse, often at the risk of alienating his liberal-progressive base.
Personally, I supported the Senate bill, but only because it was much better than the alternative, which was nothing. Just consider how the bill got passed in the Senate, how much was done to appease (and secure the key votes of) Lieberman and centrist Democrats like Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln: no public option, no Medicare buy-in, two key liberal initiatives scrapped. (Consider, too, that it was the White House that pushed Reid et al. to cut a deal with Lieberman.)
But Obama has also reached out repeatedly to Republicans, taking their "ideas" seriously and including them in the sausage-making process, just as Senate Democrats did, trying to work out a deal with the two Maine senators, Collins and Snowe, and others. But there was no deal to be had. Republicans talked up compromise and the need for bipartisanship, but the talk was nothing but a transparent delaying tactic, and in the end they opted for obstruction and opposition, with all Republicans, including the few moderates left in an increasingly extremist party, voting against a bill that largely resembled the Senate Finance Committee bill that some of them had supported.
Indeed, as Ezra Klein points out:
[I]t's [not] well understood how many of the GOP's central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP's "Solutions for America" homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them -- yes, you read that right -- are in the Senate health-care bill.
(Read Ezra's post in full for a discussion of those planks.)
Now, look, I get why most Republicans are against health-care reform -- or at least why they're against these specific bills, even the one without a public option. They're against reform ideologically -- and why wouldn't they be? They're conservatives, after all. I even get why they're against it politically, as I happen to think that health-care reform would be of massive political benefit to the Democrats (and, of course, of massive benefit to the American people). And so I get why they're trying to delay the process by any means, or put a stop to it, and why they want to scrap it all and (allegedly, but not seriously) start over. In the absence of a serious or even workable alternative, all they've got is bullshit.
And that's what these calls for cooperation and bipartisanship are: bullshit.
Indeed, as Steve Benen explains, Republican "'bipartisanship' is defined as giving Republicans exactly what they want -- period":
The incessant talk about "bipartisanship" is itself suspect -- I tend to think a governing majority should be able to give their agenda a shot, whether or not the minority approves -- but even if we put that aside, how, exactly, are responsible officials supposed to work with a rival who demands nothing short of 100% satisfaction, despite being part of a failed minority?
So, yes, I welcome Obama's upcoming public forum on health-care reform (February 25). Let Republicans show up and defend the indefensible, or their ideological opposition to reform. Get it on the record for all to see. Or let them boycott the event and reveal in a different way just who they are and what they're all about. It's easy to snipe from the sidelines, far more challenging, as they recently learned all too well, to stand up, in public, for what they supposedly believe in.
But make no mistake: The Republicans, if I may be blunt, are full of shit. The only question is whether they're too stupid to know it.