GOP says Obama needs to start over on health care
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Slow down and start over.
That was the message from top Capitol Hill Republicans in advance of President Barack Obama’s address Wednesday night to Congress and the nation on health care.
As Obama seeks to jump start an ambitious health care overhaul despite sliding public opinion poll numbers, Republicans countered with a call for a slimmed-down measure containing a few popular elements such as making sure insurance companies don’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing health problems.
“Our view is: Let’s scale it back, target the problems and not have the government take over, in effect, all of American health care,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
The alternative GOP message seems to be, “Keep going, and we’ll keep kicking your teeth in.” For instance, though he’s voted for Medicare cuts in the past, McConnell attacked the Medicare cost curbs in the Obama plan as “massive cuts” to start a health care program for the poor and uninsured.
McConnell again called for a bipartisan bill even as the Democratic chairman of a key Senate committee announced Thursday that he was pressing ahead regardless of whether ongoing talks with Republicans were successful.
Not a single Republican has endorsed any of the plans approved so far by four House and Senate committees. House GOP leader John Boehner said Wednesday that he doubted Democrats have enough votes to pass the bill after the political setbacks of August.
“If they think they have the votes, we’ll let them bring the bill up,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters. “Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.”
Republicans chose Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., a heart surgeon who was elected to the House after arthritis forced him to close his practice, to give the GOP’s televised response after Obama’s speech.
Boustany is a supporter of allowing people to keep their health insurance when they switch jobs, and giving a tax break to self-employed workers purchasing insurance. He also wants to all people to purchase insurance in a national marketplace rather than being limited to plans offered in their state.
And Republicans want to limit medical malpractice lawsuits, which they say force doctors to practice defensive medicine and order up unnecessary tests.
Despite being badly outnumbered in Congress, Republicans have been riding a wave politically as voters increasingly have turned against Democrats’ efforts to provide more coverage to the uninsured and to pay for it through a tax surcharge on the wealthy.
Forty-nine percent say they oppose the health overhaul plans being considered by Congress, compared with just 34 percent who favor them, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday.
Democrats counter that Republicans are simply the “Party of ‘No,'” saying they’re unwilling to work with Obama and have been spreading exaggerations and falsehoods about the Democratic bills.
“Republicans have shown they have no interest in working for a solution to this problem and that they will say and do almost anything to ‘break’ the president and ‘kill’ reform,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Democrats have gotten that all wrong.
“Democrats are trying very, very hard to pretend that their problem is opposition from Republicans when in fact their problem is opposition from the American people,” Steel said.