GOP Plans To Attend Health Summit As Obama Calls For Compromise
President Barack Obama warned during the weekend that both Republicans and Democrats should be careful not to turn this week's health care summit into "political theater" but to work to find "common ground" on the issues, The Washington Post reports. "The Thursday event, scheduled to be televised live on C-SPAN, could prove a pivotal moment in the year-long effort to overhaul the health-care system. While the parties agree broadly that the health-care system is broken, they have found little consensus on more detailed questions, such as how best to provide insurance to people who don't have access to affordable coverage through an employer. Obama's plan is expected to provide subsidies to people who can't afford coverage, incentives for businesses to offer insurance and expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor" (Murray and Shear, 2/21).
Politico: "And yet Obama is unveiling a health care bill just days before the six-hour summit that wouldn't require a single GOP vote, with plans to short-circuit the Senate rules and push it through without Republicans if necessary. That's left some Republicans angrily questioning whether the summit is a sham and even Democrats uncertain and noncommittal." Democrats are using the summit as a way to get Republicans to talk and "to debunk many of the GOP's talking points about their bill by walking viewers through shortfalls in the Republicans' own legislation; for example, the House GOP bill covers about 3 million uninsured Americans while the Democrats' bills would cover more than 31 million" (O'Connor, 2/22).
The Los Angeles Times reports that GOP senators, who were publicly questioning their summit attendance, have decided to participate despite reservations - "but the chamber's GOP leader is far from resigned to the Democrats' idea of cooperation on the hot-button issue." Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that Democrats were still acting "arrogant" in not tossing out reforms that have passed before and starting over. "Asked if the Republicans would slow down the consideration of health reform, McConnell said there were 'a variety of different options available'" (Parsons, 2/21).
Roll Call: "House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), who was not invited to attend the meeting with President Barack Obama at Blair House on Thursday, said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that Democrats should scrap the House and Senate bills and use the summit to start over. 'But what we can't help but feel like here is that the Democrats spell summit S-E-T-U-P and all this is going to be just some media event used as a preamble to shove through Obama care 2.0. We aren't going to have any of it'" (Kucinich, 2/21).
The Washington Times: "But with the White House expected to release a plan it hopes Democrats can support and Republicans firmly opposed to any of the Democrats' proposals, few health policy experts or lawmakers expect the summit to lead to policy compromises. Republicans have steadfastly opposed a large comprehensive bill and prefer a step-by-step approach that includes proposals such as tort reform and allowing insurers to sell across state lines. They have several small-scale bills" (Haberkorn, 2/22).
Fox News on McConnell's comments on using budget reconciliation to pass reform and the summit: "'You know, we've witnessed the "Cornhusker kickback," the "Louisiana purchase," "the Gatorade," the special deal for Florida. Now they are suggesting they might use a device which has never been used the for this kind of major systemic reform. We know it would be - the only thing bipartisan about it would be the opposition to it,' he said" (2/21).
Los Angeles Times, in a news analysis: Obama "is struggling with the consequences of one of his most important early decisions: letting Congress take the lead in designing his signature policy proposal.
... That's one reason Obama has called a healthcare summit this week - to try to renew the debate on more pristine terms. Even if nothing comes of the talks, they are designed to spotlight on national television precisely the bipartisan, high-minded debate that Congress' year-long process was not. Critics fault Obama and Congress for taking so long with the task, pointing to the standard set by President Lyndon B. Johnson, when such landmark measures as Medicare and the Voting Rights Act were passed seven months into 1965. At the healthcare summit Thursday, Democrats hope to neutralize complaints that the process so far has been too partisan and secretive. But hardly anyone in Washington expects major decisions or compromises to be made on camera" (Hook, 2/22).