GOP Calls for Do-Over at Obama Health Care Summit

(CBS/AP)
President Obama is inviting Republicans to join him in a live-broadcast health care summit, but the GOP is offering little flexibility in terms of compromise. And while the administration is emphasizing its interest in bipartisanship, conservative commentators are skeptical the summit later this month will amount to much more than a dog and pony show.

In an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric on Sunday, Mr. Obama said, "I want to ask them to put their ideas on the table, and then... I want to come back and have a large meeting, the Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward."

The White House has said the president has no intention of scrapping the Democrats' current health care bills after meeting with Republicans on Feb. 25, but GOP leaders are suggesting that is the only way they would get on board with any reform effort.

"If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

"The best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap those bills," House Minority Leader John Boehner said, the Washington Post reports.

House Republican whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had a similar response: "Unless the President and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there's not much to talk about."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) brought up one point of policy on which he would like to debate the president. "The first question I have for President Obama is if he still stands by his call for tort reform or was he just lying to Congress when he directed [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius to pursue an initiative addressing the costs of defensive medicine," Issa said in a statement. "When HHS is telling me that malpractice reform is not a 'priority of this Administration,' I have to question the sincerity of the President's commitment to working with Congressional Republicans on a bipartisan basis."

The last time Mr. Obama met with Republicans at the House GOP retreat, he said tort reform would have little impact on health care costs.

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post, however, contends that Democrats have already included in their bill the GOP's proposal to "end junk lawsuits," as well as the three other pillars of health care reform they offer on their "Solutions for America" Web page.

"The Senate bill proposes to deal with this in Section 6801, which encourages states to develop new malpractice systems and suggests that Congress fund the most promising experiments," Klein writes. "This compromise makes a lot of sense given the GOP's already-expressed preference for letting states 'create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs,' but since what the Republicans actually want is a national system capping damages, I can see how this compromise wouldn't be to their liking."

Still, given that the Democratic bills do incorporate Republican ideas like allowing for the purchase of health insurance across state lines -- even as some Democrats protest those provisions -- it is apparent that "what [Republicans want is no bill at all," according to Klein. "And that's a hard position for the White House to compromise with."

Regardless of how much Republicans are willing to compromise, conservative pundits are skeptical that the president really does want to.

"President Obama's conciliatory rhetoric aside, everyone knows this publicity stunt has nothing to do with actually considering conservative health care reform ideas and everything to do with the appearance of transparency and bipartisanship," said a blog post on the Web site Town Hall that is attributed to the Heritage Foundation.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air contends Democrats are interested in disingenuously spreading culpability for the failure of the health care reform bill.

"Obama and the Democrats had all of the votes they needed for almost seven months to pass ObamaCare without the GOP — and they failed to get it done," he writes.