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The Beginning Of The End Of Bipartisanship?

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to lay the groundwork for a Democratic go-it-alone strategy today by seizing on what he said were "unfortunate" comments from Republican senators who had been part of health care talks. In particular, he cited the Republican weekly address delivered by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who had been part of the Finance Committee team working on a bill.

"It doesn't help to have Republicans who say they're for bipartisanship and say they're at the table to try to find a solution repeating Republican Party talking points about what they know is not true in the bill," he said. "It's tremendously unfortunate that it looks like Republicans are stepping away from seeking a bipartisan solution. I think it's bad for this town but it's much worse for this country."

If the White House can successfully portray the Republicans as having been first to abandon a bipartisan bill, it could pave the way for President Obama to come in after months of Congressional sausage-making and push for a bill tailored more to his party's liking. But for now, Obama thinks a bipartisan outcome is still possible, Gibbs said.

"It appears that, at least in Senator Enzi's case, he doesn't believe there's a pathway to get bipartisan support. The president thinks that's wrong," he said. "I think that Senator Enzi's clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided that it's time to walk away from the table. I think that what somebody has to ask Senator Enzi and ask others, every member of Congress, is: are you satisfied with the way the system is working right now?"

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee who had been leading the health care negotiations for Republicans, is apparently also raising money for his re-election bid by promising to block any bill, the Washington Post reports. "The simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration's plan to nationalize health care. Period," Grassley wrote.

Today, Obama is on the golf course as he extends what was an oft-interrupted vacation on Martha's Vineyard last week. Still, Gibbs said, he is working on health care and had meetings on the issue this morning.

"I think the president will continue, throughout this month, to frame what's important about getting health care reform done," he said.

Gibbs, responding to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, also said: "I think to characterize the role that the president is playing as inactive would be inaccurate."