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Republicans may opt out of Obama's health-care summit

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By Michael D. Shear
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Leading House Republicans raised the prospect Monday night that they may decline to participate in President Obama's proposed health-care summit if the White House chooses not to scrap the existing reform bills and start over.

In a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) expressed frustration about reports that Obama intends to put the Democratic bills on the table for discussion at the summit, which would be held Feb. 25.

"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.

Obama proposed the half-day summit on national television Sunday, but in their letter, the two GOP leaders offer their suspicion that the president is not serious about opening bipartisan negotiations on health-care reform.

" 'Bipartisanship' is not writing proposals of your own behind closed doors, then unveiling them and demanding Republican support," Boehner and Cantor wrote. "Bipartisan ends require bipartisan means."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded by saying that Obama has sought Republican input since early last year, and that the president remains interested in hearing ideas that the GOP thinks will advance the reform cause.

But he appeared to give little ground on the idea that Obama might abandon the months of work that produced Democratic bills that passed the House and the Senate late last year.

"He's been very clear about his support for the House and Senate bills because of what they achieve for the American people: putting a stop to insurance company abuses, extending coverage to millions of hardworking Americans, getting control of rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and reducing the deficit," Gibbs said in a statement.

He added: "The president looks forward to reviewing Republican proposals that meet the goals he laid out at the beginning of this process, and as recently as the State of the Union address. He's open to including any good ideas that stand up to objective scrutiny. What he will not do, however, is walk away from reform and the millions of American families and small businesses counting on it."


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