Watch the summit live below.
5:00 pm EST: The summit has concluded.
4:35 pm EST: At the start of the health care summit this morning, Obama said he wasn’t sure if he could “bridge the partisan divide” and that may be the key takeaway from today’s event. Nearly seven hours after the summit began, Republicans still refuse to work with Democrats and the White House unless the bill, in its current form is scrapped. Mind you, progressives loathe the bill too because it does not include any government-run plan to compete with private insurers. But Republicans have made it abundtantly clear from the get-go they are opposed to any type of reform effort and statements they have made to the contrary are disingenuous. More than a year after he was sworn into office, Obama is still struggling for bipartisanship. It’s high time he give up on that fantasy. Not going to happen.
4:02 pm EST: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calfornia) said for us to take the Republican proposal is the difference between insuring 30 million people versus 3 million and won’t do anything to reduce the deficit. He said it’s a good bill and “I have doubts whether the Republicans are going to help you.”
3:52 pm EST: Sen. Dick Durbin took a shot at Boehner saying that if he thinks this health care bill is some sort of socialist plot than he andothers who oppose it on those grounds should drop out of the federal program that administers his health care coverage.
3:41 pm EST: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) just issued this statement:
“I am pleased this White House summit was held and televised out in the open where it belongs. Fixing our health insurance system remains as important as ever because we have a broken system that has put health insurance companies ahead of Wisconsin families and small businesses for too long. Wellpoint, the state’s biggest individual policy health insurance provider, is reportedly raising rates for thousands of Wisconsinites by over 17 percent. Last year, as 14,000 Americans lost their health insurance coverage each day, Wellpoint nearly doubled its profits and raked in $4.7 billion. Washington now needs to find the courage to take on the special interests and act, because if it doesn’t, insurance premiums will continue to skyrocket and Americans will continue to be denied or dropped from coverage because of pre-existing conditions or because they change jobs. After listening to the people of Wisconsin, it is clear that they want action and need reform that provides choice and lower costs for them and more competition and accountability for insurance companies. Wisconsin taxpayers and small businesses simply can’t afford the excessive premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs that are fueling insurance company profits instead of contributing to high-quality care for Wisconsinites.”
3:27 pm EST: Rep. John Boehner, the Republican Minority Leader, just said that the health care bill “will bankrupt” the country is a “government takeover” and is a “dangerous experiment.” He then went into a diatribe about abortion and how the bill funds abortion, which he opposes. Boehner said the bill needs to be scrapped. .
3:07 pm EST: The summit contiues to be dominiated by partisan bickering. Congressman Paul Ryan takes issue with a statement Biden made prior to his discussion on the impact the health care legislation will have on the deficit. Biden prefaced his comments by chiding other lawmakers for saying the “American people think…” when in fact they don’t know what the American people are thinking about health care reform. Ryan responded to Biden, saying, “If you think they want a government takeover of health care, I would simply submit you’re not listening to them.”
2:42 pm EST: Vice Presdient Joe Biden will talk about the impact of health care on the deficit.
2:25 pm EST: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virignia) said he was a supporter of the public option but he now sees that passing a bill with a government-run plan to compete with private insurers is not possible. He is the first lawmaker to talk about health care companies’ pursuit of profits first and foremost. He said health insurers are like “the shark that swims just under the water, and you don’t see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark.” He talked about WellPoint Inc. President Angela Braly who, as I reported yesterday, confirmed that the company’s profits took precdent. Documents released Wednesday show that WellPoint subsidiary Anthem Blue Cross intends to raise rates in California by as much as 39 percent to maintain it’s profit margin.
2:15 pm EST: CNN published a report earlier today, citing unnamed Democratic sources, stating that Democrats intend to pass a health care bill by March. According to CNN:
Three Democratic sources familiar with the negotiations say that after a series of missed deadlines last year, the new target is to get a final package completed by Friday March 26, when the House and Senate are scheduled to begin a recess to celebrate Passover and Easter. The House is not scheduled to return from that recess for floor votes again until Tuesday April 13, just seven months before the midterm elections.
The Democratic sources said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, have privately signaled to the White House that after that recess they will have to move the focus back to jobs and a whole series of other important issues – such as climate change legislation, a financial reform package, and unfinished appropriations bills.
2:00 pm EST: The summit resumes. Obama said he hopes to adjourn by 4:15 pm EST.
1:20 pm EST: Heading back to the White House, Obama spoke to pool reporters, one of who asked the president how he felt the morning session was going.
“I don’t know if it’s interesting watching it on TV,” he said. “But it’s interesting being a part of it. I think we’re establishing that there are actually some areas of real agreement. And we’re starting to focus on what the real disagreements are. If you look at the issue of how much government should be involved, the argument that the Republicans are making really isn’t that this is a government takeover of health care — but rather that we’re ensuring the — we’re regulating the insurance market too much. And that’s a legitimate philosophical disagreement. We’ll hopefully be able to explore it a little more in the afternoon.”
1:00 pm EST: The summit has broken up briefly so lawmakers can vote on legislation. But know this. The Republicans do not intend to reach across the aisle to work with their colleagues on this issue.
12:45 pm EST: Three hours in and the Republicans still haven’t offered anything substantive other than harsh criticisms about the bill in its current state and why it needs to be shelved. This only underscores how Republicans have not intention on working with Democrats or the White House on meaningful ways to pass health care reform.
12:40 pm EST: In a display of political theater, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the House House Minority Whip, started to criticize the bill and laid out the 2,400-page legislation on the table in front of him. Obama said it was a prop used as a fear tactic and his facial expression shows that he is annoyed with Cantor.
12:25 pm EST: Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is clearly still licking his wounds from being trounced by Obama during the presidential election. He blasted Obama for working “behind closed doors” and engaging in “unsavory deal making” to produce a bill. McCain tells Obama “we promised them change in Washington and what we got was a process that you and I both said we woudl change in Washington.” This comment was made in the context of Medicare carve out cuts affecting Florida seniors, which McCain said has made “300,00 seniors in Arizona…angry.” McCain said the public “overwhelmingly reject” the Democrats’ version of the health care bill. Obama, clearly disturbed by McCain’s rhetoric, interrupts, at which point McCain says, “can I just fisnish please?” Obama finally chimes in and tells McCain “we’re not campaigning anymore. The election’s over…We were supposed to be talking about insurance. My hope would be we could focus on … how we could actually get a bill done.” But McCain won’t let up and interrupts Obama saying “the American people care about what we did and how we did it.” He insists it should be part of the discussion. Obama agrees but takes issue with the way McCain has characterized the process that took place that led to the creation of the bill.
12:20 pm EST: Michigan Congressman George Miller talks about his two artificial hips, a “little bit of arthritis,” a kidney stone and, under the current system, if he wanted to switch health insurers he would be “dead.” His point is that under the current proposal offered by Democrats he could change insurers.
11:36 am EST: We’ll be back shortly with fresh updates.
11:33 am EST: Rep. Dave Camp (R-Montana) said the American people don’t want the government to spend $1 trillion on a new health care bill as a means of bringing down costs.
11:30 am EST: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) says “we’re really close.” Baucus like exchanges and compares it to Expedia and Orbitz “where you get the best price.”
11:22 am EST: Obama wants Republicans to verbalize their objections to specific proposals Democrats have for bringing down costs. This is where the summit will get interesting as Obama is now calling on Republicans to set aside their rhetoric and get into specifics about what they oppose in the legislation.
11:16 am EST: House Majoirty Leader Steny Hoyer talks about “an open transparent market” to bring down health care costs and putting an end to “premium abuse.” Hoyer mentions how some Democrats preferred a “public option,” which has since been stripped from legislation.
11:04 am EST: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) says the bill will lead to “bad medicine.” Talks about fixing health care fraud. “We ought to go for where the money is.”
11:03 am EST: Republicans Sen. Mitch McConnell is up and says a majority of Americans are against the bill.
11:00 am EST: Lamar Alexander is just making facts up out of whole cloth and Obama has just called him out and Alexander said he will “get back to you in writing” with some facts to support his claims about costs in the legislation. Obama said he wants to know what are Republican ideas that they feel are not in the bill and want to include it. But it’s clear that Republicans have no interest in trying to work to refine the current legislation.
10:55 am EST: Obama rejects Alexander’s request to scrap the bill and start from scratch. He admits he doesn’t know if both sides will be able to reach an agreement. But Obama said his proposal is to work with what the legislation they have.
10:47 am EST: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tells Lamar Alexander he’s not entiteled to his own facts. Tells him to stop focusing on reconciliation because no one is talking about passing the bill through reconciliation. Goes on to say that reconciliation has been used by Republicans numerous times over the past 20 years. If you have a better plan, Reid tells Republicans, “let’s hear it.”
10:36 am EST: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is up. Talking about the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the bipartisanship that supposedly existed early on in the debate. The bill is also about creating jobs. Pelosi is making a sales pitch for the health care bill. She talks about accountability for the insurance companies. Many of the provisions in the bill were initiatives originally put forth by Republicans, Pelosi says.
10:21 am EST: Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) wants to take the current bill and put it on the shelf and start from scratch. He says a majority of Americans oppose the bill. He said Republicans opposed the health care bill that passed the senate on Christmas Eve. Tells Obama,”We want you to succeed because if you succeed our country succeeds.” But he wants to push the legislation in a different direction. He says Republicans have come to the conclusion that “we don’t do comprehensive well” with regard to legislation. He calls on Obama “renounce” the prospect of “jamming a partisan vote on reconciliation,” asserting that “it has never been used for anything like this.”
10:08 am EST: President Obama said right now he has the best health care than anyone. Obama talks about the poor health care coverage his mother, who died of ovarian cancer, had.
“We all know this is urgent. What I am hoping to accomplish today not just to focus on where we differ but where we agree. I looked carefully at John Boehner’s plan that he put forward…there is overlap.”
Obama said he doesn’t want today’s summit to “just [be] political theater. But actually trying to solve the problem.”