President Obama has scheduled a bipartisan meeting on health-care reform that will be nationally televised live on Feb. 25. His plan is to provide an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to sit together with a representative of the Congressional Budget Office and health-care economists and practitioners to put forward ideas about health-care reform. President Obama is walking the extra mile to garner Republican support for health-care reform legislation. Bipartisanship is what the American people want. "'Come now, and let us reason together' says the LORD." (Isaiah 1:18) At this point, it seems as if a bipartisan agreement will require divine intervention.
I confess: President Obama has more hope, faith, and patience with the Republicans than I and many of those on his political left. The good news is that we are not president of the United States of America. President Obama is taking seriously his responsibility to be president of all the people. The question is this: Are Republicans taking their responsibility to the nation seriously?
Republicans complain they have been left out of the process. However, Republicans sit on every committee in the Congress that has considered this. Jeff Zeleny, writing in The New York Times, reports: "Republicans were involved in the health care discussions for months last year in the Senate Finance Committee, but differences with Democrats were never resolved." They complain that their ideas have not been included in the legislation. Rachel Maddow, on her program that aired on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010, pointed out the places in the Senate health-care bill that address at least four of the major Republican demands for health-care: ability to purchase insurance across state lines, ability of small businesses and individuals to pool their buying power, ability for state innovation to lower costs, and tort reform. Even though these Republican ideas are in the Senate bill, it still received not a single Republican vote.
In my personal opinion, Congressional Republicans have not acted in good faith. They have put party and politics before policy and the common good. They have intentionally stalled health-care reforms that will bring health care to millions of Americans who do not have it. Obstructionism on this issue is unconscionable. Hardworking citizens of the United States, the richest nation on earth, die daily because they cannot afford the health care they need.
Some of us who are working and praying for health-care reform legislation are deeply disappointed and frustrated with our elected representatives, both Democrat and Republican. And the president keeps trying for bipartisanship. The definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again and think there will be a different result. To keep trying for bipartisanship seems insane. However, I know that President Obama is not an insane man. He is no fool. Perhaps he is acting on faith, and very often faith looks foolish.
I suspect that by having this meeting televised, President Obama is putting his faith in us, the American people. He trusts us to watch and asses the facts and the policy proposals according to what is good for the nation and not according to ideological idolatry. It is our responsibility to hold our elected representatives accountable. I plan to watch. I hope that my fellow citizens will as well.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.