House GOPers demand Dems disavow healthcare deal ahead of summit

House Republicans are demanding Democratic leaders disavow a deal in the works on healthcare ahead of a bipartisan summit.

GOP leaders sent a letter Friday seeking assurances from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after hearing reports that they are negotiating behind the scenes a package that would pass both chambers with only Democratic support.

The bipartisan summit is scheduled for Feb. 25.

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"To ensure we can move forward in good faith, we ask that you publicly disavow these reports and assure the American people that Democratic leadership is not putting together any kind of backroom deal or plotting any kind of legislative trickery to pass it," wrote Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.). "Your response will help clarify whether Democratic leadership is serious about genuine bipartisan negotiations and whether the proposed summit will be a truly open forum or merely an intramural exercise."

Democrats expressed their disappointment in the GOP letter.

"It’s disappointing House Republicans are trying every trick in the book not to attend this bipartisan healthcare summit. We bring our ideas and plans to the table, they bring theirs. It’s hard to understand what is so complicated about that," a senior Democratic aide said.

President Barack Obama announced his plan to invite Republican leaders to a televised summit during an interview aired on CBS before the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. Republicans accepted Obama's invitation but have expressed deep skepticism of his intentions to consider Republican ideas on healthcare.


Obama has responded by asserting he plans to encourage both sides to air out their ideas.

"My hope is that this doesn't end up being political theater, as I think some of you have phrased it. I want a substantive discussion," he said during a press briefing Tuesday. Obama has stopped far short of Republican demands to scrap the bills already passed by the House and Senate, however.

Since losing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate last month, Democrats on Capitol Hill have been working on a plan to move the Senate-passed bill through the House and to pass changes in a separate measure considered under budget reconciliation rules, which would allow the legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority.

"The existence of any kind of backroom deal among the White House and Democratic leaders would certainly make a mockery of the president’s stated desire to have a 'bipartisan' and 'transparent' dialogue on this issue," the House GOP leaders wrote.

-- This article was updated at 6:58 p.m.