No invite from GOP for Sen. Gregg to attend healthcare summit

Senate Democratic leaders have tapped Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad to attend Thursday’s healthcare summit, but GOP leaders skipped over their ranking member on the panel.

Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the highest-ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, wasn’t on a list distributed Tuesday by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office. The White House had already invited senior members of both parties, but allowed both McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to tap four more members of their choosing.

The White House’s exclusion of House or Senate budget-writers from its original Feb. 12 invitation raised some eyebrows, but Reid simply tapped Conrad (N.D.) as one of his four extra choices.

McConnell instead tapped Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), ranking Finance Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee member John McCain (R-Ariz.), and the Senate’s only two physicians — Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are also attending and were previously invited. Enzi is the ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, of which Coburn is also a member.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart had no immediate comment on Gregg’s exclusion, but did say that dozens of GOP senators had lobbied to be invited.

Asked about McConnell's choice not to invite him, Gregg declined to comment. “You'd have to ask Sen. McConnell,” he said.

Gregg himself had lobbied to be included, telling MSNBC in an interview shortly before the White House announced its invitations that both parties should "step back.”

The senator has had a rocky relationship with President Barack Obama in the past year, however, going from Obama’s one-time pick to lead the Commerce Department to one of the president’s harshest critics in the Senate.

Gregg’s office had no immediate comment on his exclusion from the summit.

McConnell released the following statement with his invitee list on Tuesday: “Americans don’t know how else to say it: They’re not interested in a reform that starts with the bills they’ve already rejected, bills that slash a half-trillion dollars from seniors’ Medicare, raise a half-trillion in new taxes, and don’t lower costs or premiums. Republicans will attend this summit in good faith, and will continue to offer the types of ideas and step-by-step approach that Americans are actually calling for: legislation that brings down costs and increases access for Americans.”

The Senate’s Democratic attendees to the summit include Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.), Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (Conn.), HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (Iowa), Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Conrad.

The White House originally invited 21 members of Congress — 12 Democrats and nine Republicans — along with aides and representatives from the Office of Management and Budget, the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Office of Health Reform Director Nancy DeParle.