The invitations had barely landed in Congressional inboxes before Republican leadership started calling President Obama’s upcoming White House health care summit a “backroom deal.”
The Obama administration’s invitation to the Feb. 25 summit informs members that text of a “proposed health insurance reform package” will be posted online before the meeting. A White House official tells TPMDC that the text will be the product of the discussions that have been ongoing between the House and Senate since each chamber passed their bills last year.
That’s the sticking point for the GOP, who say Obama is inviting them to a meeting but doesn’t really want their ideas if he already has a draft bill.
“A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement this weekend.Boehner said it’s clear from the invitation that Obama and Democratic leaders “intend to arrive with a new bill written behind closed doors exclusively by Democrats,” a charge the administration says is nonsense.
“They will then engage a largely handpicked audience in a televised ‘dialogue’ according to a script they have largely pre-determined,” Boehner said.
He added: “They will do this as a precursor to embarking on a legislative course that Democratic congressional aides acknowledge has also been pre-determined — a partisan course that relies on parliamentary tricks to circumvent the will of the American people and engineer a pre-determined outcome. It doesn’t sound much like bipartisanship to me.”
We asked Boehner’s office if this means he’ll decline the invitation but we haven’t heard back.
The minority leader also pointed Obama to the Republican health care plan, which you can read here.
White House aides referred us back to Obama’s comments about continuing to seek bipartisanship at his impromptu press conference last week, and added the letter “lays out pretty clearly that we want both sides to bring ideas.”
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said his party wants to consult with Obama’s team on the best format for the meeting.
He took a different message from Obama’s invitation.
“While the American people have already rejected the health spending bills pending in Congress, today it appears the President has heard their calls to scrap the 2,700-page, partisan bill and start over,” McConnell said in a statement.
He said Republicans are offering a “step-by-step approach that Americans are calling for,” and added that the bill Obama is considering is partisan and “devoid of support from the American people” and has “diminished faith in this government’s capacity to listen.”
“Let us not make the same mistake twice. We will consult with the White House about the proposed format and topics in order to maximize the effectiveness of the meeting,” McConnell said.