Republicans leery of Obama's bipartisan play

President Obama's plan to revive his stalled health care initiatives through a bipartisan summit got a skeptical reception from Republicans, who say they will be “reluctant” to participate if the plan is only meant to tweak the massive Democratic proposal already in play.

In a letter sent Monday to Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., implored Obama to start over with a new health plan and abandon the Democratic proposal that would significantly expand Medicaid, mandate insurance coverage, and impose new taxes and a half-billion dollars in cuts to Medicare.

“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,” Boehner and Cantor wrote in the letter.

Obama announced a Feb. 25 health care summit on CBS's “60 Minutes,” during a pre-Super Bowl broadcast. Obama said during the interview that he wants to consider Republican ideas, but White House officials have cautioned that statement does not mean Democrats will scrap their current
proposal.

“I'm telling you, starting over is not an option,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a leader of the liberal House Progressive Caucus, told The Examiner on Monday. “We've had months and months of negotiations and compromise, and we have had more than 20 hearings in the House at least. And what have the Republicans come up with? An alternative that barely helps the
uninsured.”

The House Republicans' alternative does not include the taxes or Medicare cuts of the Democratic plan and would insure an additional 3 million people, compared with about 27 million in the Democratic plan.

The GOP plan emphasizes cost savings for the insured over coverage for the uninsured.

“It seems the only play the president knows how to run is a hollow PR blitz,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who chairs the House Republican Study Committee, a conservative faction. “Republicans welcome honest discussion, but this event reeks of political gamesmanship.”

Republican political strategist Ron Bonjean, a former top leadership aide in both the House and Senate, pointed out that Democrats have been unable to agree on a final bill and may try to pin their failure on Republican opposition.

“All Republicans need to do is remain positive, offer ideas, let the Democrats shoot them down and move on,” Bonjean said.

Democratic political strategist Doug Schoen said both sides need to give in a little.

“Democrats need to acknowledge that their legislative priorities are in the House and Senate bills — but that is a starting point, not an end point, for discussion with the Republicans,” Schoen said.

“Republicans similarly can't just say Democrats have to go back to square one and ignore the two measures that have already garnered legislative support.”

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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