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GOP Seeks to Push Debate Toward Incremental Reform

Republican leaders blasted President Barack Obama’s push for comprehensive health care reform this year, charging that any such legislation will be both partisan and costly. “There’s a very big difference about whether or not it’s appropriate to have a major rewrite of about one-sixth of our economy in the process. My members just don’t think that’s the right way to go,— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.— Instead of a broad-sweeping reform, McConnell advocated instead for an incremental approach — taking on abuses of medical malpractice lawsuits and creating tax incentives — to rein in health care costs. “There are plenty of things we could do without having the government step in and in effect, try to take over one-sixth of our economy,— he said. McConnell also criticized Democrats for potentially using the reconciliation process to push a health care reform bill through the Senate this year. Such a tactic would allow the majority to pass a bill with 51 votes, rather than a filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold. “What they’ll be doing, in effect, is jamming through a proposal to rewrite the economy with about 24 hours of debate,— McConnell said. Republicans used the same reconciliation rules to push through massive — and controversial — tax breaks in 2001 that otherwise likely would not have passed the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority. The Senate Finance Committee will begin marking up an $856 billion health care reform bill Tuesday. Democratic committee members are likely to offer a host of amendments to the measure, introduced Wednesday by Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), that so far has received a tepid response from both parties. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,— rebutted Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes to pay for reform this year. “He has to. How else is he going to pay for it? The dollars have to come from some place,— Steele said, following Obama’s appearance on the same program. Like McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for a start-over on reform in his interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.— “More Americans have been engaged in this debate than any issue in decades, and so there’s room to work together,— Boehner said. “But I first believe that we’ve got to just take this big-government option, this big-government plan and move it to the side.—Boehner added “this big government plan— would create 51 new agencies, boards and commissions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), also appearing on “Meet the Press,— said Obama has not convinced the public that a sweeping overhaul will cut costs, and that legislation moving through the Senate is growing increasingly one-sided in favor of Democratic priorities. Obama “can be on every news show until the end of time, [but] if he doesn’t get Republicans and Democrats in a room and get off TV, we are never going to solve this problem,— Graham said, quipping Obama’s Sunday marathon of five television interviews. Graham said the Senate should instead focus on a bipartisan measure introduced earlier this year by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah). That plan would create more competition in the insurance market and lower costs by eliminating employer-provided health care coverage.

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