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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Stirrings of Bipartisanship in GOP Toward Health Reform?

Most of the media buzz about bipartisanship, or rather the lack thereof, has focused on criticizing the Democrats for not reaching out to their adversaries, while giving the Republicans a free ride regarding their intransigence. Yet, during the last decade or so, a tally of votes in congress would almost certainly show that a lot more Democrats have voted for legislation sponsored by Republicans than vice-versa.
Grudgingly, you have to give the Republicans an “A” for party discipline, which is another way of saying the modern GOP has become a party of mostly inflexible ideologues. But there are some signs that, maybe, just maybe, the ranks are begining to break a bit, at least on the issue of health care reform. In today’s WaPo, for example, Michael D. Shear and Ceci Connolly have an article, “Reform Gets Conditional GOP Support,” noting

And in the past two days, former Senate Republican leader Bill Frist; George W. Bush health and human services secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Medicare chief Mark McClellan; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — a Republican turned independent — have all spoken favorably of overhauling the nation’s health-care system, if couched with plenty of caveats regarding the details.
The White House lobbying campaign was aimed, in part, at the one Republican who has indicated she may vote for reform legislation, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), and she said Tuesday that she hopes the comments from her GOP colleagues will resonate.

Give a listen to Bill Frist, who is a surgeon, pretty much endorsing a triggered public option with ‘local control’ in this CNN clip. Even at (gasp) Fox News, there are stirrings of sanity towards health care reform, as anchor Shep Smith steps up to shred Republican Senator John Barrasso (WY) for his knee-jerk opposition to the public option in this surprising clip at TPM.
In her article at Daily Kos, “Not All Republicans Are on the Train to Crazy Town,” McJoan adds former Republican Majority Leader Howard Baker and former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole to the pro-reform list, wondering if,

Maybe it’s their message to their folks on the Hill that, while there may be short term gain with keeping the base riled up for 2010, ending up on the wrong side of history on this debate could have really damaging long term consequences….There’s nothing radical about healthcare reform, and I’d take it a step further to say there’s nothing radical about a robust public option. We’ve already got one, in the form of Medicare. Hell, we’ve already got the most “radical” form of healtcare–single payer–in America in the form of the VA system. That “radical” policy position was rejected before the debate even began, and the robust public option has been the reasonable compromise from the get-go in this debate.
Healthcare reform: the new mainstream.

Granted this is small ‘taters, considering that only Snowe has an actual vote to cast on health care reform legislation. But could it be that Republicans are starting to hear from their health care industry supporters, who are begining to think that a triggered public option may actually be their best hope for delaying the dreaded single payer system?

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