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White House Develops Its Own Health Reform Bill

The White House has developed its own version of a merged House-Senate health care reform package and plans to have it online for public review by Monday in advance of a bipartisan health care summit scheduled for Feb. 25.

However, a senior Democratic aide said Thursday evening that the bill was assembled without any input from House and Senate Democratic leaders, and cautioned that it should not be viewed as an agreement to reconcile the two chambers’ bills. The $1.2 trillion House package was approved before Thanksgiving; a competing $871 billion Senate package cleared the floor on Christmas Eve.

“The White House took the best of both bills and came up with their own proposal. But to be clear: We don’t have a deal,” the senior Democratic aide said. “While I’m sure we will be generally supportive of what is in it, I wouldn’t call it a joint House-Senate-White House product.”

This aide added that no Members have been around to view the proposal given that Congress has been home for the Presidents Day recess.

President Barack Obama has invited Congressional leaders to a nationally televised summit billed as an attempt to bring Democrats and Republicans together over the administration’s stalled attempt to pass comprehensive health care reform. Obama vowed to put his proposal online in advance of the summit and challenged Republicans to publicize a “comprehensive” package of their own.

But Republicans have repeatedly said they want the president and Democrats to agree to start the process over. Congressional GOP aides have indicated that they will not answer Obama’s call to counter his health care proposal with a large bill of their own, but will instead attend the meeting and push for several incremental steps to reform the health care system.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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