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Healthcare summit: Chance for compromise or 'trap' for the GOP?

Obama is urging lawmakers to take a constructive approach to the bipartisan healthcare summit on Thursday. But many members of the GOP are wary of the meeting.

By Judy Nichols DouglassStaff Writer / February 21, 2010

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke to the media about the election of Republican Scott Brown to the US Senate from Massachusetts on Capitol Hill in Washington January 20.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters/File

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The coming week could provide important signals about whether bipartisanship has a chance these days in Washington – or whether partisan gridlock will become only more entrenched as the 2010 midterms approach.

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On Thursday, President Obama will host a televised bipartisan summit in hopes of reviving healthcare legislation in Congress. He announced the meeting after Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown to the US Senate, which ended the Democrats’ filibuster-proof supermajority in that chamber.

Ahead of the summit, the White House is expected to release an updated healthcare-reform proposal, which will probably combine elements of the Democratic bills passed by the Senate and House. Mr. Obama has also challenged Republicans to come up with their own proposal.

In his weekly address Saturday, the president outlined the approach he hopes lawmakers take at the summit.

“I don’t want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points,” he said. “Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.”

At the same time, however, the Obama administration intends to use a strategy where Republicans will be put on the spot – forcing them to choose between compromising and looking like obstructionists, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Also, reports have surfaced that the reconciliation process will be used to push the healthcare bill through, which would require only 51 votes for approval in the Senate. Before Mr. Brown was elected, Senate Democrats had 60 votes for the healthcare bill.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many Republicans are wary of the meeting. “It’s a trap!” is a common refrain.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican leader in the Senate, has been vocal in objecting to how Democrats have approached healthcare, as well as a cap-and-trade energy bill. “On some of the big issues, they’ve tried to go in the wrong direction,” he said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.”

Still, he said of the summit, “I intend to be there and my members will be there and ready to participate.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for “principled bipartisanship.”

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