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Republicans Launch New Effort to Kill Health-Care Measures

At Children's National Medical Center in Washington, President Obama holds a discussion with health-care providers Yewande Johnson, Kathleen Quigley and Joseph Wright.
At Children's National Medical Center in Washington, President Obama holds a discussion with health-care providers Yewande Johnson, Kathleen Quigley and Joseph Wright. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)   |   Buy Photo

The officials said the report's holdup is not unusual in presidential transition years, noting that Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each published their initial budget updates weeks late.

"The notion that this is somehow motivated by anything other than a transition from one administration to the next is a little on the silly side," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the missed deadline for the budget review is hardly unusual. But he added that the missed forecasts should cause lawmakers to slow down as they weigh health care and other major proposals.

"It is unusual to try and move trillions in new spending before we have the right data to inform such major decisions," he said.

Steele, too, urged Democrats to give up on Obama's August deadline.

"They want to get a bill done in the next two weeks. This reckless approach is an ill-conceived attempt to push through an experiment, and all us should be scared to death," he said at the National Press Club. "Slow down, Mr. President."

Obama seemed to reject that call, though, in an evening conference call with a handpicked group of liberal bloggers. "The time for talk is through," the president said. "Now is the time for us to go ahead and act."

Democrats, meanwhile, say that Republicans are offering few ideas to improve the health-care system.

"Despite the crisis that confronts American families, the GOP continues to argue for the status quo on behalf of the special interests," said Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "If we do nothing, as the Republican 'Party of No' would have us do, we not only will ensure more of the same but guarantee a growing crisis that will put a burden on our children that they will never overcome."

"Instead of doing nothing and using insurance industry talking points to defend the broken health-care system we currently have, Republicans should work with us or at least put forward some new ideas," said Doug Thornell, a spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), a Democratic leader in the House.

A number of Republicans have offered health-care legislation, but some would not extend health insurance to the 46 million to 47 million Americans who do not have it, as the Democrats intend. Instead, the GOP bills focus on reducing medical malpractice lawsuits; making it easier for self-employed people to buy health insurance; and encouraging businesses to set up programs that reward employees who lose weight, stop smoking or take other measures to improve their health.

"People don't know as much as we'd like them to know about our better solutions because the proposals out of our Democrat friends here in Congress and the White House are coming at us. It's like standing in front a machine gun. While we're fending them off, we're trying to talk about our better solutions," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an interview. "But it's going to take a while for people to realize we do have better solutions, especially when the White House continues to call us the 'Party of No.' "

While almost all Republicans in the House have spoken out against the House Democrats' bill, a group of Senate Republicans have spent months meeting with Finance Committee Chairman . Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to come up with bipartisan legislation in that chamber. The group includes Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine). The White House is reaching out to those lawmakers, particularly Snowe, who voted for the stimulus package.

The negotiators said Monday that they were making progress on a bipartisan bill and would meet all day Tuesday to hash out provisions. But to the chagrin of White House officials, Baucus would not commit to presenting a completed product this week.

Staff writer Shailagh Murray and polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

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