GOP officials: no sign of bipartisanship on healthcare reform

So far, top GOP officials say, Democrats aren't moving to work with them on healthcare reform. The Republican victory in Massachusetts has cost Democrats their filibuster-proof margin in the Senate.

Michael Bonfigli / Special to The Christian Science Monitor
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (in dark coat) and Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy speak at a Monitor Breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC, Thursday.

After Tuesday’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, President Obama seemed to float the possibility of scaled-back heathcare reform legislation that might win bipartisan support.

“I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on,” Mr. Obama said in an interview Wednesday with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

No outreach yet

But so far, top Republican officials say, they have seen no sign that Democrats are moving to work with them on a plan that could clear Congress. The GOP victory in Massachusetts has cost Democrats their 60-vote, filibuster-proof margin in the Senate.

At a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Thursday, House Republican whip Eric Cantor said that the day after the election, “there was absolutely no indication whatsoever that the Democratic majority had gotten the message from the election the other night. They were in closed-door meetings, negotiating with themselves.”

Representative Cantor argued that Republicans “have insisted that we could work together and do things in a bipartisan way." He continued, "I have not been called. I don’t think [chief deputy whip Kevin McCarthy] has been called by anybody on the other side, nor has leader [John] Boehner.”

Arrogance at work

According to Cantor, the Democrats’ loss of the Senate seat formerly held by Edward Kennedy “reflected a [voter] rejection of an arrogance that has taken place and set in here in Washington.” He added, “The people are tired of not being listened to. They are tired of being told what to think. This administration was elected on a promise of hope and change, and the public has realized that change that has been delivered is not the change they had thought they were electing back a year ago.”

The win in Massachusetts by the relatively unknown Scott Brown gives Republicans hope they could take back control of the US House, where Democrats currently have a 78-seat majority. The texture of the Bay State race – in which the Republican carried seven out of the state’s 10 congressional districts – “tells me on a macro level ... we have the ability to win the majority,” said Representative McCarthy, also speaking at Thursday’s Monitor breakfast. “It does not mean we are going to, but we have the ability to win the majority. There are certain things we still have to accomplish to be able to do it,” he said.

'An opportunity'

McCarthy rejected the notion that Republicans were reading more into the Massachusetts victory than they should and were overlooking local factors that played a significant role there. “There is an opportunity. It is what you do with it. We have a lot of time to work. I have watched time and time again indicators out there that show the opportunity.... I think this is a national campaign. I think this is going to be a wave election,” he said.

Cantor was cautious when asked about the fact that Michael Steele, Republican National Committee chairman, is planning to hold the committee’s annual meeting next week at a beach resort in Hawaii. “I have said I disagree with his statement that we can’t take back the House, because I believe we can. So do I want voters to think that Republicans do nothing but go to beach resorts in January? No.”


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