Liberal health reformers seem really excited that they've finally come up with some Republicans to support their health reforms. After a summer of intense, unified Republican opposition, a handful of GOP types have finally come out and said the unsayable: "Health-care reform? Sure. Why not?"
Here's the lineup of bold Republican truth-tellers: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, California's Democrat Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Bush Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Okay, so it's not exactly a gang of conservative luminaries. Indeed, far from a triumph of illuminating bipartisanship, support from most of these folks is totally unsurprising. Bloomberg (who isn't even a Republican anymore) is a New York City independent not exactly known for his rigid small-government ideology; Schwarzenegger is a West Coast moderate who led a failed effort to implement remarkably similar health-care reforms in California; and Tommy Thompson was responsible for BadgerCare, an expansion of state-run care in Wisconsin. Frist's support is arguably the only real eyebrow-raiser, though somewhat less so now that he's qualified his initial statement.
More important, I think, is that not only are these endorsements not surprising, they're not all that useful. Support from Thompson, Schwarzenneger, and Bloomberg isn't likely to move votes in the Senate, which, right now, is what matters. I suppose it's possible that Frist might be able leverage Senate connections and exert some influence that way, but it seems unlikely that it'll be meaningful, let alone decisive.
In other words, this seems roughly as surprising as when Joe Lieberman expresses concern about Democratic plans to reduce overseas troop levels—which is to say not important at all.
Yet Ezra Klein predicts that we can "expect Robert Gibbs to spend the next few months mentioning those three names about as often as he breathes." If Gibbs wants to crow about bipartisanship, I'm happy to let him have at it. But it's the sort of bipartisanship that isn't really useful except insofar as it gives guys like Robert Gibbs something to crow about.