In an interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric that aired before the Super Bowl yesterday, President Obama announced “that he would convene a half-day bipartisan health care session at the White House to be televised live this month.” “I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” said Obama.
The top Republicans in both the House and Senate responded by saying that while they “look forward” to the discussion and”appreciate the opportunity to share ideas with the President,” they believe that the “best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap” the health care reform bills that have passed both the House and Senate. The office of another GOP leader, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), suggested that Republicans would not attend the White House meeting unless the Democrats abandoned their proposals:
After going it alone on health care reform for nearly a year, President Obama has decided he wants to bring Republicans into the conversation. Here’s the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there’s not much to talk about.
Republicans believe the status quo is unacceptable, but so is any health reform package that spends money we don’t have or raises taxes on small businesses and working families in a recession. To that point, House Republicans have offered the only plan, that will lower health care costs, which is what the President said was the goal at the start of this debate.
The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent writes that Cantor is essentially saying “that the only way Dems can win bipartisan cooperation is to fully embrace the GOP health care plan and nothing more.” Cantor’s stubborn refusal to discuss health care openly with Obama appears to have support in the conservative base. Michelle Malkin wrote today that “Republicans should feel zero obligation to participate in yet another White House health care dog-and-pony show: Just say no.” On Fox News, conservative consultant Andrea Tantaros — who works for a PR firm that represents health care clients — declared that “the only way Republicans should meet with” Obama is if he “is committed to starting over, scrapping that stinker of a bill.” Watch it:
The White House does not intend to start over at the meeting. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein today that while Obama is willing to “add various elements” to health care legislation suggested by Republican lawmakers, he is “absolutely not” hitting the reset button on the legislative process.
The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky notes that “at the end of the day, it will be up to the Republicans to meet the Democrats half way” and “if they still insist on starting over, they’re effectively taking themselves out of the process and giving the reins to the Democrats.” After crowing about the need for more transparency in health care negotiations, will Republicans follow through on Cantor’s threat to boycott public, televised discussions with the president that could result in more Republican ideas being incorporated into reform?
Rush Limbaugh also argued for rejecting the meeting today, telling his audience that “this is no time for bipartisanship.”
,In a letter sent to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel today, Cantor and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wrote that “If the starting point for this meeting” is the bills that passed the House and Senate, “Republicans would rightly be reluctant to participate.”