Illustration by Kenneth Srivijittakar.
Illustration by Kenneth Srivijittakar.

Change is a slow and steady process. And when it comes to changes in our nation’s infrastructure, there is no denying that it is easier said than done.

President Barack Obama has proposed a televised summit to address health care that would bring forth both Democratic and Republican leaders. The meeting, scheduled for Feb. 25, would be the first step in mending the divide between the two parties regarding what has arguably become the greatest challenge the Obama administration has had to face in its first term.

However, in keeping with its long-standing tradition of making things harder than they need to be, the GOP is refusing to heed the request unless Obama and the Democrats are willing to completely scrap the health care legislation currently pending in Congress. This would mean that the two parties would start over again — a major setback for what’s already proven to be a complex and problem-ridden debate.

“Assuming the President is sincere about moving forward on health care in a bipartisan way, does that mean he will agree to start over so that we can develop a bill that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people?” House Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor asked in a letter sent Monday to the White House. “If the starting point for this meeting is the job-killing bills the American people have already soundly rejected, Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate.”

The request to rethink the health care debate all the way down to the pending legislation may be a solid one — many have been disappointed by the plan’s lack of support for public options. But coming from the GOP, this only furthers the infinite number of roadblocks Obama and his administration have faced thus far.

During the GOP House Issues Conference, Obama proved that he was willing to negotiate properly. There, he took Republican questions and presented the possibility of an open forum between both parties and the American people. And for a debate that affects each and every one of us, yet has remained largely behind closed doors, the chance for a televised conference is particularly important — it furthers Obama’s hopes to extend the visibility of change from Congress’ steps to the everyman.

There is validity to the GOP’s concerns. Obama’s promise to air health care negotiations on C-SPAN has all but deteriorated, and that promise seems to have become another victim of the time-tested practice of cutting deals in the back room. Moreover, the health care debate is far from reaching a desirable end. In order for us to truly develop a worthy bill, there has to be a willingness to view this meeting as a potential starting point, as opposed to a continuation of dated techniques.

But this all begins with the willingness to meet in the first place. For the party that’s been demanding a forum in order to voice their concerns, stating a complete unwillingness to negotiate is hypocritical. This is not a trap set by the Democrats to lure conservatives into a liberal wrestling match. The complexities of this debate can only be hashed out if lawmakers intend to think on behalf of the people. This means putting to rest any long-standing traditions of party taciturnity.

For the sake of the people, the party and, most importantly, the problem, the GOP needs to open itself to negotiation. Whether the bill gets revised or scrapped is moot. Let’s just start by taking a step through the door.