West Wing Briefing

White House 'open' to GOP suggestions to improve health law

Postponed because of the Tucson shootings, House Republicans are set to resume their bid to repeal the health care reform law Tuesday.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2011; 7:34 AM

The White House is continuing what it started after the November elections: a determined effort to reach out to congressional Republicans and reduce the partisan divide in Washington.

As House Republicans prepare this week to hold a vote to repeal the health-care law that President Obama signed last year, the administration says it opposes that idea but is "open" to Republican suggestions to improve the provision. That is a marked shift from last year, when the president and congressional Democrats repeatedly blasted the GOP for not backing the law and cast as them as uncaring of the millions who would gain health insurance under it.

The president has invited rookie lawmakers, a group that overwhelming consists of Republicans, to a reception at the White House next week, as first reported by Politico.

Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to again urge both parties to work together, and the White House has spoken favorably of the proposal by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for Democrats and Republicans to sit together, as opposed to being grouped by party, during next week's State of the Union address.

The White House was pursuing a bipartisan strategy in both legislation and tone even before the Tucson shootings, which has encouraged activists on both sides to rachet down their rhetoric. But Obama and his aides have repeatedly urged increased civility in Washington since the shootings, as have many commentators on both sides.

What remains unclear is what the two parties can actually agree on legislatively. Republicans are still determined to find ways to repeal or cut off funding for the health-care law, and the White House is likely to oppose cuts in domestic spending that congressional Republicans are likely to unveil in the next few weeks.

Greetings from Vice President Cheney

Former vice president Richard B. Cheney, one of the leading critics of the Obama administration, predicted in an interview with NBC News on Monday that President Obama would lose reelection in 2012.

"I think his overall approach to expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, and giving more and more authority and power to the government over the private sector is a lack of -- sort of a feel for the role of the private sector in -- in creating jobs, in creating wealth and getting our economy back on track," Cheney said.

"Those are all weaknesses, as I look at Barack Obama. And I think he'll be a one-term president."

Obama on Tuesday

The president will hold a private dinner Tuesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is in Washington for a much-anticipated state visit. Tuesday's dinner is not the more formal state dinner, which is scheduled for Wednesday, but a smaller session in the White House residence.

Obama will bring only two aides: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

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