Outlook for Health Care Summit Clouds as GOP Leaders Raise Concerns
One day after President Obama announced that he would convene a public meeting with GOP and Democratic leaders to reach a bipartisan agreement on health care reform legislation, members of both parties expressed concerns and doubt that the half-day meeting would lead to substantial progress, AP/USA Today reports (AP/USA Today, 2/8).
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Feb. 25 at Blair House and be broadcast live on C-SPAN.Â
A White House official familiar with the meeting's planning said it is intended to draw more Republican input into the legislation.
In a live interview on Sunday with CBS News, during which he announced the meeting, Obama reiterated that he does not intend to restart the reform debate from the beginning (California Healthline, 2/8).
House Republican Leaders Have Questions
On Monday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel with a list of questions that they requested responses to ahead of the meeting (Shear, Washington Post, 2/9).
The letter asked whether Obama:
- Would agree to "start over" with the negotiations process that would produce legislation "that is truly worthy of the support and confidence of the American people;"
- Has ended consideration of using the parliamentary procedure of budget reconciliation to push a reform bill through the Senate with only 51 votes;
- Plans to invite to the meeting Democratic lawmakers who have opposed the House and Senate bills (HR 3962, HR 3590), or any provisions in them; and
- Whether state lawmakers and health officials, and health care policy experts would be present at the meeting (O'Connor, "Live Pulse," Politico, 2/8).
In their letter, Boehner and Cantor wrote that Republicans would "rightly be reluctant to participate" in the meeting if the starting point for the discussions to develop a final reform bill is the Democrats' House and Senate bills (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 2/8).
In response to the letter on Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that Obama and Democrats would not scrap the House and Senate bills and begin the legislative process from scratch. Gibbs added that Obama is committed to a comprehensive approach to pass the legislation this year and that the president is "open to including any good ideas that stand up to objective scrutiny" (Wall Street Journal, 2/8).
Some Observers Skeptical
According to the New York Times' "Prescriptions," some "[s]keptics around Washington are already warning that the summit will be nothing more than Kabuki theater, allowing each side to grandstand on television while providing little in the way of substantive debate or additional understanding for the folks watching back home" (Herszenhorn, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 2/8).
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said, "The GOP has been the 'party of no' all year," adding, "Republicans have made a tactical decision not to cooperate, and they've even called health care reform Obama's Waterloo" (Budoff Brown/O'Connor, Politico, 2/8).
White House officials, however, insist that the summit is "a good-faith effort" to bring more Republicans into the discussions that largely have involved only Democrats, the Los Angeles Times reports.
An official said, "It's not intended to be theater," adding, "We keep hearing from people, 'We have ideas.' We want to hear them" (Oliphant/Levey, Los Angeles Times, 2/9).
Final Bill Will Reflect GOP's Concerns and Ideas, Sebelius Says
In an interview with the Huffington Post on Monday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that although Obama would "absolutely not" restart the legislative process, he would "add various elements" that they suggest during the Feb. 25 meeting.Sebelius said that she "certainly" believes that Obama would seek to expedite the legislative process after meeting with Republicans in the next few weeks, adding, "I think he sees this as a step to actually accelerating the process forward. He wants to move forward. He wants a bill at his desk and he sees this as kind of closing the loop and let's go" (Stein, Huffington Post, 2/8). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.