Two days before the storm over health care reform begins at Blair House, a war of words is warming up.
A rhetorical rocket's red glare was apparent at dawn's early light, when at five o'clock this morning White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted a blog dismissing the Republicans health care plan as "a collection of piecemeal and sometimes conflicting ideas."
He chastised GOP leaders for not yet doing what President Obama did yesterday: post the health care plan they intend to bring to the negotiating table on Thursday.
At about the same time that Pfeiffer's piece was hitting the Web, Sen. Orrin Hatch's guest editorial in USA Today was hitting the newsstands. The Utah Republican blasted the new proposal from Mr. Obama, saying it fails to "abandon the big government approach the American people have overwhelmingly rejected."
"Instead of taking the enormous health care tax-and-spend bill off the tape, the president largely endorsed it," writes Hatch (seen at left).
House Republicans presented Mr. Obama with their health care proposals when he addressed their Issues Conference in Baltimore last month.
"Actually, I've gotten many of your ideas. I've taken a look at them, even before I was handed this," said the president of the 30-page booklet titled "Better Solutions: A Compilation of GOP Alternatives."
But that's not good enough for the White House which Pfeiffer said wants to know "what proposal (Republicans) will be bringing to the table."
The GOP isn't looking for competing plans. It rejects both the House and Senate versions of health care reform passed by the respective chambers last year. Republicans want the Blair House talks on health care to return to square one.
"It we really want to create something that will work, we need to start from scratch on a new proposal," Hatch writes.
Republicans are also up in arms that if the Blair House talks produce no consensus, as close to a sure thing as you get in Washington, then Democrats will "jam their bill through Congress" by utilizing the so-called "nuclear option." It calls for passing most elements of the Democrats plan by use of reconciliation, the process meant for budget bills which bars a filibuster and requires only a simple majority.
Writing for the Republicans, Hatch urges the White House to move forward on health care "in an incremental and fiscally responsible manner."
The White House agrees – but those words mean very different things to the two sides.
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Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.