President Obama met with Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans for more than six hours on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at the much-anticipated health care reform summit across the street from the White House.
The two sides traded talking points and noted areas of broad agreement on the issue of health care reform. However, the session ended with no agreement between the two political parties on how to proceed to a bipartisan agreement on reforming the nation’s health care system.
The White House’s agenda for the summit included issues of controlling health care costs, reducing the federal deficit, reforming the health insurance industry, and expanding health insurance coverage. Attendees at the summit included Vice President Biden, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, senior White House staff members, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, Speaker of the House Pelosi, the House Majority and Minority leaders, and various Congressional committee chairs and ranking members.
The President used his opening remarks to make the case that reforming the nation’s health care system is crucial to economic recovery. The President, along with other Democratic leaders, repeatedly made the point that there were many areas of agreement between the Democrats and Republicans on how to address health care reform, including reform of the health care delivery system; a ban on annual limits, lifetime limits, and preexisting condition exclusions; and extending dependent coverage to a later age, such as 25 or 26. However, there was no consensus on expansion of coverage and how to pay for it.
In response, Republican leaders called on President Obama to abandon the health care bills currently in the House and Senate and to start over on a more incremental approach. Specifically, Republicans called on the President to renounce “reconciliation” and not pass the bill with just Democratic votes. Reconciliation is a parliamentary maneuver that would enable Congress to bypass a filibuster, which would typically require 60 votes to end debate. The President declined to take the reconciliation option off the table.
The President urged Republicans to revisit his administration’s health care reform proposal issued earlier this week, along with the Senate- and House-passed bills, to find common ground on certain issues. He concluded the nearly seven-hour session by stating that he would consider whether there is “enough serious movement that in a month’s time or six weeks’ time we could resolve something. The President said, “If we can’t, then we will make decisions, and then that is what elections are about.”
Hewitt’s summary of the President’s health care reform proposal, President Obama Releases Health Care Reform Proposal:
In advance of the bipartisan health care reform summit scheduled on February 25, 2010, President Obama on February 22, 2010 released a proposal that served as the basis of the discussion at the summit.
According to the White House, the President’s proposal “incorporates the work the House and the Senate have done and adds additional ideas from Republican members of Congress.” The proposal is based on the Senate-passed bill, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (H.R. 3590), and includes a “targeted set of changes.”
According to the White House, this proposal is “the opening bid for the health meeting” and makes “some strong steps to improving the final product.” Further, the White House said that the “President is coming to the meeting with an open mind” and hopes for some “strong ideas” from both Republicans and Democrats that can be incorporated. During a press briefing, it was stressed that the proposal is the White House’s proposal and that neither chamber has signed off on it.
The Hewitt bulletin linked to at right summarizes the key provisions of the President’s proposal.