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Boehner Is Latest GOP Leader to Publicly Question Health Care Summit

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted Saturday that President Barack Obama’s bipartisan health care summit would do little to encourage further Republican input in health care reform legislation, but he stopped short of saying he would boycott the meeting.

On Friday, Obama officially invited a group of Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders to the summit, which will be nationally televised from Blair House on Feb. 25.

In a statement released Saturday evening, Boehner said that Obama’s format and set of ground rules for the summit made the meeting little but political theater.

“A productive bipartisan discussion should begin with a clean sheet of paper,” Boehner said in his statement. “We now know that instead of starting the ‘bipartisan’ health care ‘summit’ on Feb. 25 with a clean sheet of paper, the president and his party intend to arrive with a new bill written behind closed doors exclusively by Democrats — a backroom deal that will transform one-sixth of our nation’s economy and affect every family and small business in America.”

He added, “It doesn’t sound much like bipartisanship to me.”

Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent a tersely worded letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel last week that said Republicans “would rightly be reluctant” to participate in the bipartisan health care meeting if the White House refused to consider scrapping the current health care reform bills.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a Friday statement that he wanted to accept Obama’s invitation, but he made clear he wants a say in how the program is run.

The following Senators and House Members were invited to attend the summit to in addition to McConnell: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Banking, Housing and Urban Development Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

House Members on the invite were: Boehner, Cantor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas), Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) and ranking member John Kline (R-Minn.), and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the former Energy and Commerce chairman.

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