Breaking news – no breakthrough

Hold the front pages! Mr Obama’s healthcare summit – a seven-hour marathon that was notable for the level of petty politicking – resulted in no agreement.

Democratic leaders tried to put a gloss on the meeting. “We have very much more in common [than we imagined],” said Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, thanking Tom Coburn, a Republican and medical doctor, in particular for his contributions.

But she still took issue with many Republican claims during the day, shooting down the GOP’s claims that Democratic healthcare reform would increase premiums and lead to cuts in Medicare, the health insurance system for the elderly.

“Social security was hard, Medicare was hard, healthcare reform for all Americans is hard, but we will get it done,” she said.

Likewise, the president, who became involved in some heated exchanges with Repulican lawmakers, including his old rival John McCain, called the discussions “remarkably civil”.

Wrapping up the summit, which was still going at 5pm EST, Mr Obama and suggested that politicians in Washington might like the sound of their own voices. “But the fact that we’re only an hour late beats my prediction,” he joked.

But with little to show from this talk-fest, Mr Obama gave the lawmakers some homework, giving them four to six weeks to hand it in.

“We agree that we need some insurance market reforms. We don’t agree on all of them, but we agree on some of them,” he said. He suggested that there was agreement on enabling individuals and small businesses to band together to buy insurance, although there was disagreement on the details. There could also be more consensus on medical malpractice reform, he said, urging everyone to continue talking.

And that’s a wrap. You can read our complete healthcare reform coverage at

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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