President Obama challenged Republicans to do some “soul searching” on whether they will support the Democratic health care plan, using the final moments of his health care summit to ask them to put up or shut up. If they don’t want to cooperate, the two parties can battle it out at the polls this November, the president said.
Obama’s statement and Democratic reactions after the summit were the clearest signal yet that the majority party is charging ahead and abandoning attempts at bipartisanship.
Interest groups closely watching the summit said as much, and Republicans confirmed they won’t be voting for any Democratic plan that doesn’t start with a blank sheet of paper.
The attendees at the summit read statements about the need for reform and complained about process, but came to no agreement and spoke little about the substance of the bill up for consideration on Capitol Hill. The seven-hour marathon refereed by Obama gives Democrats political cover to press ahead and finish this up.
“We are going to move forward, the ball is in everybody’s court,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after the summit.At the summit, there was minor tension and some talking point smackdown, but Republicans raised no new objections and presented no new ideas, giving the Democrats the clear path ahead to go their own way.
“I’d like the Republicans to do some soul searching,” Obama said. “We cannot have another year-long debate about this.”
He said if there was “significant movement and not just gestures” from the GOP there would be no need to start over because there is so much agreement on the broad issues.
So the question that I’m going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month’s time or a few weeks’ time or six weeks’ time we could actually resolve something?
And if we can’t, then I think we’ve got to go ahead and some make decisions, and then that’s what elections are for. We have honest disagreements about — about the vision for the country and we’ll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November.
He admitted that “politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans to want to do anything,” but said he would sure like to try.
“I don’t need a poll to know that most Republican voters are opposed to this bill and might be opposed to the kind of compromise that we could craft. It would be very hard for you politically to do this,” he said.
Obama said there won’t be another summit like this one in the interest of time.
The president criticized Republican charges the bill is too long, saying he would have done something uncomplicated if that were possible. “We’d love to have a 5-page bill,” he said.
Watch part of Obama’s closing remarks:
Democratic leaders said after the summit they aren’t optimistic the GOP will sign on to their health care plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said there was “so much agreement, yet every Republican used the same talking points and we want to do a bill for the American people.”
“Time is of the essence … it’s time we did something and we’re going to do it,” Reid said.
Republican leadership after the summit repeated the same claims that Obama challenged inside the meeting and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “I do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700-page bill.”
Obama may have provided a window, but Republicans all but announced they wouldn’t be climbing through. And Democrats and reformers aren’t playing dumb.
“I am disappointed that based on what many of the Republican participants said today and said in advance of this meeting, it seems clear that Republicans are stuck on the same talking points and same playbook they started off this debate with last year – which is to oppose the President’s effort to reform health insurance in America, no matter what,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.
“While Democrats worked hard to include ideas we have consensus on, Republican rhetoric would seem to be stuck in park. They want to start over and delay these reforms further, doing nothing to help families’ health and financial security, small businesses’ competitiveness, and our nation’s fiscal future. Doing nothing is the last thing the American people want,” Miller said.
Likewise, the nations largest reform campaign, Health Care for America Now says it’s time for the dog and pony shows to end.
“We appreciate President Obama’s attempt to reach out to Republicans one more time, but today’s bipartisan summit proved the GOP is committed to little else than repeating the same stale talking points.”
Check out all of our summit coverage here.
Additional reporting by Brian Beutler