The notion that an upcoming healthcare summit would be little more than "political theater" was rejected by President Barack Obama Tuesday.
Obama said he's hoping to make some substantive progress at a Feb. 25, televised meeting with House and Senate leaders in both parties on healthcare.
"My hope is that this doesn't end up being political theater, as some of your have phrased it," Obama said during a surprise appearance at the White House daily press briefing. "I want a substantive discussion."
The highly-anticipated meeting, which Obama announced during an interview on Sunday, has been the subject of some Republican skepticism.
The top two House Republicans, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), wrote in a letter to the White House that if the president were sincere about bipartisan outreach, it would scrap the current health bill before Congress and start over.
Obama said he would "start from scratch" by being open to Republican ideas, but refused to ditch the health bill, expressing concerns that it could drag out the reform process even longer.
"So I am going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals," he said. "What I will not do, what I don't think makes sense and I don't think the American people want to see, would be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months or eight months or nine months worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there's a lot of posturing."
Still, Obama agreed that the public has "soured" on the drawn-out process on healthcare, an attitude which the president acknowledged had carried over to the bill as a whole.
But the president also said that he and Democrats would be willing to give up some -- but not all -- of its desired parts of health reform if it were to help reach consensus.
"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway," he said. "But there's got to be some give on their side, too."