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White House

 

« Reactions To Murtha's Death | Blog Home Page | Congressional Leaders React To White House Meeting »

White House Health Care Meeting Met With Skepticism On The Hill

President Obama's recently proposed White House health care meeting was immediately met with skepticism on Capitol Hill -- Republicans are wary of the motives behind the move, while Democrats doubt the result will be any different than negotiations with the GOP over the past year.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, called it "a hollow PR blitz," adding, "Republicans welcome honest discussion, but this event reeks of political gamesmanship." GOP House leaders John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent a lengthy letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel outlining their many concerns with the meeting.

On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated a willingness to talk as long as the plans that passed the two chambers are scrapped and the two sides start from scratch, which Boehner and Cantor called for as well.

"If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill," said McConnell.

Meanwhile, some liberal members aren't convinced Republicans are willing to negotiate and believe the opposing party has simply adopted an obstructionist political strategy -- and the event could provide a televised forum for political posturing.

"If there is an earnest effort to come to some kind of understanding, then it's worth the effort," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Monday in an interview with RealClearPolitics. "Personally, I'm not optimistic."

President Obama announced the Feb. 25 meeting during an interview with CBS News just before the Super Bowl, hoping the televised effort will help bring transparency and solutions to the Democrats' stalled effort of reforming the health care system. Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate will be invited, though it's unclear which of the many factions in the debate are willing to compromise their priorities to solve the impasse.

For instance, liberals are still pushing the public option, which was left out of the Senate bill after failing to receive enough support and assumed to be a nonstarter in bicameral negotiations. With weather permitting, Grijalva and other Progressive Caucus leaders will meet late this afternoon with several senators, including Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), to discuss the government-run insurance option, an insurance exchange and other reform measures.

"We don't think they're dead," Grijalva said of the progressives' priorities. "I hate to be pessimistic about the White House meeting, but regardless of what happens with that we're still working to get something done."