Obama Expects Substantive Talks on Health Bills

Posted January 5, 2010 at 2:31pm

President Barack Obama plans to have a substantive discussion with Democratic Congressional leaders about reconciling the House and Senate health care bills when he meets with them Tuesday evening, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

“I think, in terms of talking about health care, they’ll talk about the great, vast majority of the two bills that coincide,— Gibbs said. “And we will, I think, begin to talk through how we work out what limited number of differences there are.—

Obama will meet at the White House with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are not in town and will phone into the meeting.

With the president already helping negotiate the bill, Gibbs suggested that the White House would not insist on an actual conference committee if Democrats decide to hash out differences informally.

“I think the president is anxious to get the differences worked out and get a bill to both houses and — and passed out of them,— Gibbs said. “I think you can go back and look through the past many years and see where situations — where they work out the differences between two bills. It happens very similarly to what the president is engaged in now.—

While saying he had not seen a letter from C-SPAN asking to televise the conference proceedings, Gibbs didn’t insist that Congressional leaders carry out Obama’s campaign pledge to air the negotiations on C-SPAN. And he asserted that overall, the process of creating the legislation has been open.

“I do not believe the American people have lacked for information on what’s in these bills, the political and policy arguments around different people’s positions,— Gibbs said.

He rejected suggestions by opponents that some provisions of the legislation are unconstitutional.

“I do not believe that anybody has legitimate constitutional concerns about the legislation,— Gibbs said.