Obama proposes bipartisan healthcare summit

President Barack Obama on Sunday invited Republicans to a bipartisan healthcare summit at the White House later this month even though he has criticized their attempts to block a health reform overhaul since last year. 

In an exclusive interview with CBS News that aired before the Super Bowl, Obama said that Republicans should come to the White House to offer their best ideas for reforming the nation's healthcare system.

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"I want to consult closely with our Republican colleagues," Obama said. "I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward.

"What I want to do is to ask them to put their ideas on the table," he said.

Obama's invitation for the summit later this month comes just after he promised he would not walk away from the healthcare reform bill at the Democratic National Convention's Winter Meeting in D.C. The president said he would like Republican input on reform ideas. 

The call also comes after Obama engaged in a series of testy exchanges with House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore over a week ago.

Republican lawmakers criticized the bill and the administration's handling of the negotiations, saying they have not lived up to the transparency standards Obama promised on the campaign trail.

The healthcare reform bill seemed as if it was on the verge of passage at the beginning of the year after the Senate approved its version on Christmas Eve.

But Republican Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts special Senate election sidetracked the talks between the House and Senate. Brown is the 41st GOP senator, breaking the Democrats' 60-seat super-majority and thus their ability to push the final bill through a cloture vote.

Both Republican leaders issued statements Sunday accepting Obama's invitation to the White House, but both said they would like the negotiation process to start over, something Obama has said will not happen.

"Obviously, I am pleased that the White House finally seems interested in a real, bipartisan conversation on health care," House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said in his statement. "The problem with the Democrats' health care bills is not that the American people don't understand them; the American people do understand them, and they don't like them.

"The best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap those bills and focus on the kind of step-by-step improvements that will lower health care costs and expand access," he added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that "we always appreciate the opportunity to share ideas with the President, particularly on an issue where Americans have spoken so clearly.

"If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill, and with it their goal of slashing a half trillion dollars from Medicare and raising a half trillion in new taxes."