9:26 a.m. (CST) Lamar Alexander takes up: He agrees with Obama to agree on what we can agree on. Often he's asked: Where's the comprehensive GOP bill? Government doesn't do comprehensive well. He lists the comprehensive failures, including immigration reform. We said 172 times on the Senate, our step-by-step plan. He lays out six ideas. Alexander is talking directly to the president, not to the cameras.
3:58 p.m. Nancy Pelosi is scolding Republicans like a constipated schoolmarm. There is no public funding of abortion in the bill. Okay, then why not put in a provision that explicitly prohibits it. It ain't there, Nancy. Jeez, what a pain.
3:48 p.m. Incremental reform or comprehensive reform? Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) asks why can't we agree on the 50 or 60 percent of the things we agree on? Indeed. The problem is that his party is the one that wants to do it all at once.
3:06 p.m. Much of the argument is over the size of the "pool" of people who are insured. "We have to bring everyone into the system," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D). Many of the uninsured actually are healthy and don't want to pay for health insurance, so they don't get it. The actual number of such people is hard to nail down. So, Democrats argue, we have to force all these people to be covered, in effect paying premiums for services they don't need.
2:38 p..m. John McCain is talking about medical malpractice, and the savings that Texas has maintained. (The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled state malpractice reform unconstitutional.) Obama responds: Medical malpractice is only a small part of the health cost problem, but he still cares about the issue. He wants to "get going" on the issue.
2:12 p.m.: Both sides are accusing the other side of talking about process and not substance.
1:36 p.m.: Obama said he's in favor of allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, a key GOP point. Might be a way of bridging a philosophical difference. Once a national change with some minimum standards, could have a national marketplace. We want competition, we just want some minimum standards.
1:12: p.m. Sen. Tom Hark says there are about 10 ideas from Republicans in the Democratic bill. So, put them in a separate package and pass it tomorrow.
1 p.m.: They're back. And so am, but I don't know why.
11:22 a.m. They're about to break for lunch. Despite all the talk about finding areas of agreement, the gap still seems too wide to bridge. This was an exercise in the kind of pretty thinking that dominates the popular mindset: If we can only sit down and talk, we can come to a "consensus." No we can't, at least not always. And this is the way a democracy: Call for the vote.
Sometimes further talk just doesn't move us toward agreement. That's the time to take the vote.
I'm out of here.
EARLIER: Obama lists areas of agreement as he sees it: extending coverage for young people, no annual or lifetime limits, end philosophically and ending pre-existing conditions.
Nobody says: Hey, great! Let's draft the legislation now and do that.
10:58 a.m. Sen. John Kyle (R) gets right to the point after more rhetoric flows from each side: He agrees with Obama that a philosophical argument is going on, namely how effectively can a single, central agency or government run the entire health care system. That's why he and other Republicans are looking at chewing the meal in smaller bites, instead of trying to swallow the whole thing whole. (My words, not his.)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R), a physician.We don't do a good job of prevention, which is one reason that costs are so high. 20 percent of the cost of government-run healthcare is fraud, according to a Harvard study. Another factor: risk-averse health care providers. Could save 15 percent on health care tomorrow just by addressing those two areas.
9:53 a.m. Obama tries to bring back to substance. Says everyone so far has mentioned cost. Let's focus on cost. Asks GOP to suggest ideas in the Democratic bill that they like.
9:51 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also blows off the Republican reach-out. Also doesn't address the six points. Actually insults the Republicans: "You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." Tries to pretend that the Democrats would not use the reconciliation device to pass
9:28: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a campaign speech. She doesn't address Alexander's points.
ORIGINAL: From the Blair House. It's what we feared it would become, already, just a few minutes into it: Obama is using it to give a speech. Lecturing people who already know what he's talking about. It's directed at the public
At least he's acknowledging that the Republicans have plans.