Obama Has Candid’ Talk With GOP Senators

Posted July 15, 2009 at 5:12pm

Updated: 7:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama met Wednesday afternoon with Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) to discuss the health care reform effort.

The meeting appeared to go longer than planned, and Collins emerged to say it was a “candid— discussion that involved both Obama and the GOP Senators offering ideas on health care reform. The session followed a suggestion earlier in the day by Obama that Republicans could still be persuaded to join Democrats on a health reform bill.

Murkowski voted against the bill that was approved Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — and lauded by Obama.

The White House arranged the meeting, inviting a total of six Senators, two of whom could not make it. White House officials declined to identify the absent Senators.

Murkowski, the GOP Conference vice chairwoman, released a statement after the meeting, saying: “It was a good opportunity for the four of us to express our concerns with the direction that health care reform has taken in the Senate, and the President listened. We raised a number of issues, including how quickly the Senate is moving on a health bill that would raise taxes on small businesses, and modeling a new federal health plan on our broken Medicare system.—

A White House aide said that the Republicans “agreed that it’s a top priority to fix what’s broken in our health care system, while building on what works.—

The president and Senators, the aide said, “discussed different ways in which the health care delivery system can be reformed to eliminate waste and lower costs while also improving quality of care.—