Boehner to Democrats: 'Hit reset button' on healthcare

William Plowman/Special to The Christian Science Monitor

As Democrats reported progress on moving healthcare legislation through congressional committees on Wednesday, House minority leader John Boehner delivered a pointed attack on the legislation and the process his opponents were using to move it.

At a Monitor-sponsored lunch for reporters, Mr. Boehner said, “It is time to scrap the proposal that they have on the table and hit the reset button ... and then find a way to work together to do real healthcare reform that lowers cost and increases access for the American people. Those are the two issues that people want resolved and we can do that ... within the current system. We don’t need to blow it up and start over.”

On Wednesday, a group of House Republicans put forward a $700 billion healthcare plan that would offer tax credits to help people buy insurance yet, unlike Democratic proposals, wouldn’t require either individuals or employers to get coverage, the Associated Press reported.

Public doubts about healthcare reform

A new Time Magazine poll out Wednesday finds the public has major concerns about healthcare reform. Some 62 percent said the final health reform legislation is likely to raise healthcare costs in the long run. Of those surveyed, 65 percent said reform would make everything about healthcare more complicated, and 56 percent thought it would offer less freedom to choose doctors and coverage.

Boehner pointed to this public skepticism about healthcare reform. “Over the last few months, the more [President Obama] talks about this, the less people support it. And they are deeply skeptical about the government’s involvement.”

Reminds him of the Clinton plan

When asked to compare the Obama administration’s push to reform the healthcare system with the Clinton administration’s ill-fated reform attempt in 1993, Boehner equated the two.

“I really don’t see much difference between what happened in 1993 and what is happening now. It’s the same kind of proposal. It's got different garments on it, but it is essentially the same idea and the same plan and has the same problems,” he said.

The Republican leader charged that “one of the reasons the Democrat[ic] leaders are pushing so hard to get this bill passed before they leave is because they know that if this bill hangs out there over the August recess my guess is it will be shredded and when they get back they will have nothing.”

Boehner said Democrats would follow “a strategy to get out of town without meeting the expectations that they have set.” He said the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Blue Dog Democrats had been holding up action, “is going to meet ... a few fig leaves will be thrown out and they will move the bill out of committee and then there will be an announcement that because there are three different committees involved and three different bills, it is going to take a month to put all of this together and we will see you all in September.”

In fact, four of the seven Blue Dogs resolved their differences with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman of California on Wednesday so that the committee could continue work on its healthcare plan. Wednesday afternoon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and majority leader Steny Hoyer said the Energy and Commerce Committee would report out a bill this week.

“Over August, the three House committees will work to reconcile their versions and produce strong legislation,” Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer said in a statement.

Finding more GOP candidates

Boehner argued that the controversy surrounding the cap-and-trade energy legislation House Democrats adopted, along with public doubts about economic stimulus and healthcare legislation, has helped Republicans recruit candidates to run for Congress.

“What has gone on so far this year ... has helped our ability to recruit high-quality candidates,” he said. Potential candidates “think this is going to be a better cycle and they have a better shot, and so our recruiting is going pretty well.”

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