Congressional Republicans on Thursday morning emerged from a closed-door, bicameral strategy session on the House floor optimistic they can kill President Barack Obama's health care reform bill in the House, but stood ready to upend the measure in the Senate if House Democrats approve it in an expected weekend vote.
Public opinion polling shows a divided public on Obama's health care agenda, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) implored the American people to voice their opposition to it as Democrats close in on final passage of the underlying Senate-passed health care reform bill and a companion reconciliation package.
In remarks to reporters, the Republican leaders declined to discuss their strategy for defeating reconciliation in the Senate; they said their primary goal is to derail health care reform in the House. But in comments following the news conference, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) expressed confidence his Conference could block the reconciliation bill if and when it comes up in his chamber.
"We're not going to get into how we're going to deal with a bill that we don't even think is going to come over here," Kyl said, before adding: "The points-of-order issue is really important, because they expect to fix a bill with a process that really isn't going to end up fixing it. And, House Democrats need to know that. ... They think that their reconciliation bill is going to be adopted by the Senate. It's going to look very different by the time we're done with it."
The Senate's narrow guidelines for reconciliation bills stipulate that any provision that doesn't have a direct effect on the federal deficit can be stripped through budget point of order, which would require 60 votes to defeat. The rules for reconciliation also state that the bill must be sent back to the House should even the smallest change be made to it in the Senate.
The private GOP bicameral meeting, which included only Members and leadership chiefs of staff, featured speeches from House and Senate leaders as well as newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) and the 2008 presidential nominee John McCain (Ariz.).
"I've always believed we could beat this thing," Boehner said during the gathering, according to GOP sources who attended.
At the news conference that followed, Boehner told reporters that House Republicans would try to force a vote on a resolution Thursday that would block Democrats from deeming as passed the Senate health care reform bill. The deem-and-pass maneuver would allow Democrats to avoid a separate vote on the Senate bill and just cast votes for the reconciliation package, which contains a series of "fixes" to the Senate version.
Recent party-switching Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.) has been slated to introduce the resolution, which requires the House to take a direct up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed health care bill.
Meanwhile, Republicans dismissed the revised Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of the health care reform bill, which now includes numbers for the Senate-passed bill and the reconciliation package. Democratic sources revealed Thursday morning the two pieces of legislation would cost $940 billion over 10 years and result in $130 billion of deficit reduction during the first decade and $1.2 trillion of savings during the second 10-year period.
"They're still going to spend $1 trillion to impose government-run health care on the American people," Boehner said.
"It's not too late," McConnell added. "All we need is enough Democrats in the House of Representatives to do the right thing for the American people."