President Obama is set to host a bipartisan health care summit on Thursday at the White House, and top Republicans confirmed today that they are “ready to participate” after criticizing the meeting as political theater for several days.
Fox News reports:
Republicans are going to show up Thursday for a meeting on health care reform with President Obama and congressional Democrats, but they aren’t going to accept whole cloth a bill outlining Democratic plans that is being posted on the White House Web site Monday.
“If they are going to lay out the plan they want four days in advance, what are we discussing?” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked on “Fox News Sunday.”
McConnell, who called Democrats “arrogant” for insisting on trying to pass a bill that he sees as unpopular, criticized the administration today for ignoring “the wishes of the American people.”
The president sought to assure Republicans this weekend that their views will not be ignored during the negotiations. Instead, he said, the televised summit will be an opportunity to reconcile the Democratic health care bills now stalled in Congress.
In his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Obama said doing nothing is not an option but the only way to get something done is for Democrats and Republicans to cooperate.
“I am inviting members of both parties to take part in a bipartisan health care meeting, and I hope they come in a spirit of good faith. I don’t want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points,” he said.
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Of course, bipartisan cooperation isn’t the only way to get things done. The Hill reported this weekend that Democratic leaders are prepared to use the legislative manuever known as reconciliation to pass a final health care bill if a consensus cannot be reached. Reconciliation is a legislative procedure that enables the consideration of certain budget-related, contentious bills without the threat of filibuster.
The news has left Republicans wondering where that leaves their seat at the table, Fox reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this weekend that Democrats sought to use the process to finish health reform within the next 60 days, in which the Democratic leader will have to cobble together enough votes in his 59-vote caucus to pass a bill.
The Republicans at this point are facing a health care summit with the bill already written and a Democratic party that is vowing to pass any type of bill, bipartisan or not, within 60 days. The situation has surprised many conservatives in the wake of Scott Brown’s upset win in the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, which gave Republicans the necessary votes to filibuster Democratic legislation.
Recent national polls seem to echo the sentiment that swept Brown into office, raising questions as to whether the administration’s ‘attempt at reconciliation’ will only further alienate voters frustrated by its handling of health care reform.
“If the president is sincere about moving forward in a bipartisan fashion, he must take the reconciliation process — which will be used to jam through legislation that a majority of Americans do not want — off the table,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor said earlier this week.