Jonathan Cohn is optimistic:
Thump-Thump ... Thump-Thump: President Obama issued his formal invitation to the bipartisan meeting on February 25... the letter's most important passage was this one:
Since this meeting will be most productive if information is widely available before the meeting, we will post online the text of a proposed health insurance reform package. This legislation would put a stop to insurance company abuses, extend coverage to millions of Americans, get control of skyrocketing premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reduce the deficit.
That passage seems to suggest.... 1) House and Senate leadership have nearly finished negotiating a new compromise version of their legislation. The text the administration plans to post will reflect that compromise; [or] 2) House and Senate leadership are still struggling to come to an agreement, if not over what to pass then in what sequence to pass it. The administration hopes this promise will force them to wrap things up....
[C]onversations with various sources over the weekend make me think the truth is some combination.... If it's (1), the House and Senate have finally worked out most of their differences. If it's (2), President Obama is starting to give them the shove they need.... One more reason for (relative) optimism is the very next paragraph of the invitation:
It is the President’s hope that the Republican congressional leadership will also put forward their own comprehensive bill to achieve those goals and make it available online as well.
Republicans want to make this event--and, indeed, this whole debate--a referendum on the Democratic health care reform plan. Obama wants to make this a referendum on what to do about the nation’s health care problems, with each party putting forward its ideas. And it looks to me like Obama will get his way.
And then in the very next sentence Jonathan Cohn reveals that he lives in a fantasyland:
If the Republicans don’t post a plan, everybody will see that the GOP isn't serious about health care reform...
The Republicans have not been serious about health care reform since the start of 1994. A great many people have bet their lives and their fortunes--they have no honor--on pretending not to see that. Why should one more meeting make them change their posturing?