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How To Read Republican Ransom Notes

What kind of people respond to an invitation with a list of demands?

John Boehner and Eric Cantor have responded to Barack Obama’s invitation to sit down and talk health-care reform. They answered in the form of a ransom note. Here are their demands:

1) “Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over?”

2) “Does that mean he has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation?”

Well, now we know. This goes on for another 6 items.

While I disagree with Ezra’s advice that the White House accept these terms in exchange for straight, up-or-down votes in the House and Senate, I agree that it amounts to a ransom note from a party that’s holding health care reform hostage, which should read something like this:

Republican Ransom Note 1

If nothing else, it’s much more honest and straightforward.

Maybe that’s how the GOP should have spelled out their demands. But that’s not how the Democrats should read this particular ransom note.

If Democrats have their reading glasses on, here’s how they should read the GOP’s ransom note.

Republican Ransom Note 3

If Democrats read the Republicans demands ransom note the right way, they’ll know it’s really a ransom note in reverse. Normally, a ransom note means someones going to die if demands aren’t met. In this care, Democrats should read this ransom note in reverse: health care reform will die if you meet their demands.

This shouldn’t be news to anyone, least of all congressional Democrats or the White House. Nonetheless, it’s spelled out in the very first demand: throw out the existing reform bills and start over. Mind you, this includes the Senate bill, which incorporates at least six Republican ideas. If nothing else spells out the intention to kill health care reform, it’s this demand. (In fact, demands numbers 5, 6 and 7 threaten to turn the summit into a town hall meeting, with the minority party all-but-presiding. Why not just hand Scott Brown the microphone and call it a day?)

After more than a year — including an endless summer of town hall meetings — nothing so clearly declares the death of health care reform than the demand to “star over,” and thus drag the Congress and the rest of the country into at least another year of debate and “dialog,” at a time when American’s have little patience for a repeat performance. Oh, and while the economy waits.

In this situations, the hostage takers have no intention to let go of health care reform. At least not in one piece. Meet there demands and, you may be allowed to pass something they call health care reform, and they’ll get the credit for it. In other words, pay the ransom, and while they reap the rewards of their hostage taking, in exchange you’ll get instructions on where to pick up the the remains of you were really bargaining for all along.

There might be another option, to turn the table on the hostage takers, and reveal the full extent of what they intend. Bring the Rep. Paul Ryan’s “budget roadmap” — which they say is full of great Republican ideas — to the meeting, and make them own it: including the virtual elimination of Medicare. In other words, make it clear what’s next to be taken hostage.

But, all things considered, why even negotiate with these people? You see, they’ve essentially sent a ransom note for a hostage they don’t really have. After all, their second demand even acknowledges that Democrats could pass health care reform without Republicans.

Republicans are clearly declaring their intention to keep holding health care reform hostage. Democrats should read their ransom note as a clear sign to finally stop letting them

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