Posted on 25 Jan 2010
In the wake of a political setback for national health care legislation, Senator John McCain is advising President Obama that the way to get meaningful changes passed is to "start from the beginning" by meeting with Republicans.
Mr. McCain, (R-AZ), said on the CBS Sunday news program "Face the Nation" that President Obama should sit down with Republican leaders and begin adopting some of their ideas for improving the nation's health care system such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents of one state to buy health insurance from a company in another state, and granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own.
The Democrats last week lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts that had given them the 60 votes needed to block a Republican filibuster of a health care bill that appeared on the verge of passage by both houses. Mr. McCain was asked what would Republicans do in response.
“We’d be willing to sit down and start over from the beginning with genuine negotiations,” he replied. “There are things we can agree on.”
Mr. McCain’s advice was treated skeptically by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, who pointed out on the same show that Mr. Obama met with Republicans at the start of his effort to pass a health reform bill “and asked them to be part of it,” and that 170 Republican amendments had been accepted as the legislation proceeded in House and Senate committees.
“So to suggest that we have closed the door to them and haven’t engaged them is really not a proper statement of what has happened,” he said.
White House officials took pains in the Sunday television talk shows to stress that Mr. Obama is still firmly committed to overhauling the nation’s health care system.
”The president will not walk away from the American people, will not hand them over to the tender mercies of health insurance companies that take advantage,” David Axelrod, a top White House adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, appearing on “Fox News Sunday” hosted by Chris Wallace, said the White House “is working with leaders on Capitol Hill to try to figure out the best path forward” but “we have don’t know what that is quite yet.”
Still, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said that in the wake of the Democrats’ defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race, “my hope is that the current bill is finished.”
“The American people are telling us please stop trying to pass this,” he said.
He faulted Mr. Obama for pursuing during his first year a single-mindedly liberal path in running the country rather than trying to engage moderates.
“The president made a decision to go hard left,” he said. “That’s why he doesn’t have many of my members. If he chooses to govern in the middle, I think he’ll have much broader cooperation from Republicans.”