Before yesterday’s summit on healthcare reform, I had posted this: https://thecentersquare.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/redefining-bipartisanship-in-the-healthcare-debate/.

Having seen some highlights of the summit, it seems that’s pretty much where things are going. Republicans are saying let’s enact only what we agree on. Of course, that isn’t much, but it’s not nothing. All camps agree on the elimination of pre-existing conditions, for example.

The President is saying let’s enact both the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ best ideas, regardless of agreement between the two parties.

There is an orthodoxy out there that “bipartisan” means significant congressional voting support from both parties for the final bill. It doesn’t have to mean that. It also can mean that the best ideas of both parties make their way into the final legislation, even if one party, Republicans in this case, does not vote for the resulting legislation. Having the best ideas of both parties is important for the country. Having consensus voting among legislators is important only to their political careers, which is not relevant to me or you. I’m starting to like where this is going. A little bit.

Is there anyone on the planet who believes that the Democrats and Republicans will come together over healthcare? Or, most anything else, for that matter? I don’t. It’s so bad in Washington that I am left to cynically believe that the Republican votes for the $15 billion jobs bill — small potatoes by government standards — was motivated solely by political tactics. “We are cooperating!!! We are bipartisan!!! See, we voted for the Democrats’ jobs bill!!!” Trying to build credit just so they can turn around and obstruct bigger pieces of legislation.

My problem is not with the Republicans’ ideas on healthcare. I like the idea of tort reform. I like the idea of multi-state insurance competition. I’m not really aware of much else they have advocated, but those are two good ideas. So, my problem is not with them. My problem is that they seem more hell-bent on defeating the Democrats’ ideas than advancing their own.

We seem to define “bipartisanship” these days as finding the common ground between the parties. That’s a colossal waste of time. On big matters like this, there is little to no common ground. So let’s simply redefine “bipartisanship.” What President Obama should do tomorrow — and should have done all along — is tell the Republicans:

“My friends, it is not either/or. We are not here to choose between your ideas and those of my Democratic colleagues. Some of your ideas have great merit. By enacting tort reform and multi-state insurance, we can further bend the cost curve. That’s a good thing. Those provisions are in. They are in whether you vote for the legislation or not, by virtue of them being good ideas. Oh, and by the way, the public option is in, too. For the same reason: it’s a good idea.”

Then let the Republicans either vote against a bill that contains all their ideas — how do you defend that? — or vote for it. Seems to me a huge win for the country either way. The current healthcare system is steeped in two separate crises, a crisis of access and a crisis of cost. The Democrats’ ideas are strong on the access issue, but weak on cost. The Republicans’ ideas are strong on the cost issue, but weak on access.

Enact them both. Instead of finding common ground, let’s pursue both agendas. A vastly better version of bipartisanship for our nation.