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Obama's healthcare plan gets chilly GOP reception

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill criticize Obama's healthcare plan, lowering expectations for Thursday's bipartisan summit on the issue.

By Staff writer, Staff writer / February 22, 2010

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs during his daily press briefing at the White House, in Washington, Monday. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill criticize Obama's healthcare plan immediately after its release on Monday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Washington

Within moments of the release of President Obama’s healthcare plan Monday morning, top Republicans came out swinging.

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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, in a statement, claimed the bill “slashes Medicare for our seniors,” raises taxes, fines those who “don’t buy the right insurance,” and “further expands the role of government” in personal decisions.

House GOP leader John Boehner complained that “the president has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of healthcare based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

Mr. Boehner added that the Thursday summit between Mr. Obama and bipartisan congressional leaders, which is to be televised, “has all the makings of a Democratic infomercial.” He did not go so far as to announce a Republican boycott of the meeting, but that possibility remains.

Republicans had wanted Obama to start from scratch on healthcare reform, a suggestion the White House rejected, or at least to adopt the GOP's step-by-step approach to reducing healthcare costs.

GOP leaders say they will not release a new plan of their own in the run-up to Thursday's summit.

"Republicans have been releasing bills and proposals and step-by-step plans for a year," says Don Stewart, a senior aide to Republican Senate leaders. "Americans don't want another 2,700-page bill. They want a step-by-step plan."

With such a low level of bipartisan goodwill heading into the meeting, the real question may be whether the Democrats can agree among themselves how to proceed – and whether they can cobble together simple majorities in both houses of Congress to pass fixes to the Senate version via a procedure known as reconciliation.

The early, tentative signs show hope for the White House. In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the administration’s proposal “contains positive elements from the House and Senate-passed bills.” The two bills overlap significantly but not completely – creating a major logistical hurdle when the Senate Democrats lost their 60-vote filibuster-proof majority last month. If no Republicans are willing to go along with the Democrats in the Senate, the Democrats will have no choice but to go the reconciliation route or give up altogether.

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