By Michael O'Brien - 02/20/10 11:00 AM EST
Americans shouldn't look for real bipartisan agreement on healthcare at next week's White House summit, a top Republican warned Saturday.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the top Republican on the Ways and Means committee, said that President Barack Obama and Democrats' reported efforts to finish a healthcare bill before the coming summit could scuttle chances for bipartisanship.
The summit, to be held at Blair House on Thursday, will bring together House and Senate leaders in both parties for the purpose of trying to hammer out compromises on health reform.
But the Obama administration and congressional Democrats appear prepared to bring their own finished proposals to the table, with an eye toward using the budget reconciliation process to finish work on the legislation. That process would allow Democrats in the Senate to maneuver past the 60-vote threshold needed to end a filibuster, and pass legislation with a simple majority vote.
Camp castigated those plans, saying they threaten any hope for real solutions at the summit.
“Democrats have admitted they are working on an undemocratic plan to jam this bill through Congress and subvert the will of the American people," he said. "Democrats themselves are describing this latest maneuver as a ‘trick.’"
Republicans have sought to cast the meeting as a potentially superficial showing of bipartisanship on the Obama administration's behalf, arguing that if the president and Democrats in Congress were serious about bipartisanship, they would rule out the reconciliation process and agree to scrap current healthcare proposals before Congress. (Obama has rejected such calls.)
"Americans' healthcare is way too important to risk on a rushed backroom deal that puts federal bureaucrats in charge of your personal healthcare decisions," Camp said. “So in order to have a productive bipartisan conversation on healthcare, Democrats must first listen to the American people and scrap their massive government takeover of healthcare."
"We must go into the summit with a clean slate focused on making healthcare affordable," the Michigan Republican added. "That is what Americans are asking for, and that is what Republicans will continue to work for."