The political world watched the proceedings at Blair House looking for theatre: instead, a policy fight broke out. This time, both sides came armored, and there was no referee. It was a wash -- and the tie goes to the Republicans.
The key question on the table was not whether Democrats and Republicans could come up with ways to compromise; it was whether the White House could move public opinion in a way that helps Nancy Pelosi get the votes she needs to pass the Senate bill in the House. That's unlikely.
Dick Durbin, the Senate's number two, even made a point of hinting to reporters midway through that the Senate was ready to pass health care legislation under reconciliation rules, which avoids the 60-vote threshold.
Indeed, Republicans were successful when the focus of the debate was on process -- the details of the deals that Democrats and the White House struck with key states and the (seeming) lack of transparency. The Democrats have an answer to this: if you want to find a pure debate on a pure bill, you'll have to look to...another universe entirely, because this is how legislation gets done.
More, from my column at CBSNews.com