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GOP Fears Obama’s Health Summit Is a Trap

Democratic leadership aides said Obama’s health care summit could only help a majority still struggling to get a reform bill to the president’s desk. One senior Democratic Senate aide argued that the meeting would force the GOP to engage on policy, rather than just sit back and score political points by tearing down the majority’s health care agenda.

“What’s been lost in all of this is, the Republicans have been able to get away with staying on sidelines and criticizing Democratic proposals,” the senior Democratic Senate aide said. “This gives us an opportunity to compare and contrast our proposals with theirs. And whenever the president engages, it brings it to another level.”

A former Democratic Senate leadership aide described the health summit as “the president going on a dove hunt.”

“He’s going to flush out the Republicans and call their bluff and make the Democrats allow them in the room,” the Democrat said. “Bottom line: He’s being presidential finally, versus letting Congressional leadership screw this thing up. It’s about time.”

Republicans are viewing the upcoming health care session with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. They’re wary of Obama’s motives, cognizant that this sort of event plays to his political strengths and is designed to burnish his credentials as a bipartisan deal-maker.

But they also are excited at the opportunity to discuss their health care reform ideas in front of a nationally televised audience, which they think can help send a message that Congress’ inability to act on health care is the fault of a Democratic majority that chose to shut them out.

GOP strategists are urging Republican Congressional leaders to move quickly to define their terms for a successful negotiation and are recommending that they come to the meeting armed with ideas and counterproposals. On Monday, it appeared as though Republican leaders were already heeding that advice.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in a statement released Monday afternoon lauded Obama’s call for bipartisanship on health care, saying, “If the point is to listen to Republican ideas and really consider them, the president's announcement is very welcome.”

But, citing an Associated Press story that reported Obama was not prepared to start the process from scratch, Kyl warned that such a strategy would be unacceptable to the Republicans.

“Such preconditions suggest the White House is not serious about genuine negotiations,” Kyl said. “A large majority of the American people strongly oppose the Democrats’ massive bill, and Republicans will not abandon them.”

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