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Republicans Skeptical of Health Summit but Claim Willingness to Deal

Congressional Republican leaders on Sunday continued to voice skepticism that the bipartisan health care summit scheduled to take place this week will be a good-faith effort by Democrats to get GOP input on a reform plan.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), who was not invited to attend the meeting with President Barack Obama at Blair House on Thursday, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Democrats should scrap the House and Senate bills and use the summit to start over.

“If we were talking about really starting over, with a clean piece of paper and scrapping the bills that passed the House and the Senate and also renounce the abuse of the legislative process known as reconciliation, Republicans are ready to work,” Pence said.

“But what we can’t help but feel like here is that the Democrats spell summit S-E-T-U-P and all this is going to be just some media event used as a preamble to shove through Obama care 2.0. We aren’t going to have any of it.”

Democrats have said they may try to attach health care legislation to a reconciliation bill, which enforces revenue and spending targets in the federal budget. Reconciliation legislation requires only a 51-vote majority in the Senate, instead of the 60 votes required to cut off debate on other stand-alone legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that he was not sure the GOP could block reconciliation.

“There’ll be a lot of Democrats who will vote against it. Whether there will be 11 Democrats who will vote against it is not clear,” McConnell said.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Republican problems with the Democratic agenda — including the health care reform package — are rooted in politics rather than policy.

“There has been a calculation by the Republican leader that getting nothing done … is to their political advantage, and there is no other explanation,” said Van Hollen, who appeared on “Meet the Press” with Pence and was also not invited to the health care reform summit.

Both Pence and McConnell denied that they are simply trying to obstruct the Obama administration’s agenda for the sake of political gains in November.

“They’re trying to spin the notion that we are stymieing everything they’re doing,” McConnell said. “But my Members were not sent here to do nothing, and the president knows that, and he has said it. We have accomplished much for the American people. It’s just that we are unwilling to approve their partisan agenda.”

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who announced last week that he would retire in part because he could no longer stand the partisan warfare, said the health care summit could be an opportunity for a truly bipartisan process if both parties decide to negotiate in good faith.

“Two things need to happen. … The Republicans need to check their short-term political advantage at the door,” Bayh said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They are probably tempted to say, ‘You know what? Nothing works pretty well for us between now and November.’ [But] you know what? Having gridlock isn’t in the best interest of the country.”

Bayh also said Democrats must be willing to compromise with Republicans.

“The Democrats need to check some of their ideology at the door and say, ‘You know what? We may not be able to get everything we want, but perhaps we can agree with these folks on some things. Let’s get that done and argue about the rest.”

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