President Barack Obama argued this morning that a sweeping overhaul of America's broken health care system is needed, setting off an immediate clash in an extraordinary live-on-TV summit with Republicans who want far more modest changes. "We believe we have a better idea," retorted Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Obama has made health care reform his top domestic priority, and its success or failure could determine his political future. With the daylong policy debate available from start to finish to a divided public, Obama and Democratic leaders cast the reform they want as critical to tackling an issue that is even more pressing to many Americans — the still-hurting economy. After opening the summit with hugs and handshakes, Obama declared that even as politicians focus on propelling economic growth, they must also address "one of the biggest drags on our economy." "We all know that this is urgent," he said. Obama lamented the partisan bickering that has resulted in a stalemate over Democratic legislation to extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans who are now uninsured. "Politics, I think, ended up trumping practical common sense," he said. And yet, even as he pleaded for cooperation — and "actually a discussion, and not just us trading talking points" — he acknowledged agreement may not be possible. "I don't know that those gaps can be bridged," Obama said. "If not, at least we will have better clarified for the American people what the debate is all about." His skepticism was vindicated as soon as the first Republican spoke — in opposition to the mammoth bills that passed the House and Senate. Alexander said Congress and the administration should start over with small steps including medical malpractice reform, allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines and expanding health savings accounts. "Our views represent the views of a great many American people," he said. With those opposing positions well staked out before the meeting and no signs of them changing, the president and his Democratic allies prepared to move on alone. One option is passing a comprehens ive plan wi thout Republican support, by using Senate budget reconciliation rules that would disallow Republican procedural delays. Another is going smaller.
GOP to Obama: ‘We have a better idea’
Published: Thursday, February 25th, 2010
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