Obama Presses for Action on Health Care Reform; Coburn Calls for More Discussion

Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:00am

President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to hail the “frank and productive discussion” at this week’s White House health care summit — and to call on Congress to finally enact health care reform.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a physician, gave the GOP response — and got in a few digs at Democrats for allegedly sabotaging the prospects for a bipartisan deal.

Obama highlighted the “many areas of agreement” that lawmakers had at the summit, including the idea of giving small businesses and individuals the ability to participate in a new insurance marketplace. Still, he said there were some key differences, including whether the government should have the ability to regulate arbitrary increases in premiums.

“And while we agreed that Americans with pre-existing conditions should be able to get coverage, we disagreed on how to do that,” Obama said.

The president reiterated that he is willing to work with Republicans, but only “if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done.”

Coburn, meanwhile, cited a “respectful and constructive discussion” at Thursday’s summit, but he repeated the GOP demand that Congress “scrap” the current versions of health care reform that have passed the House and Senate and start over.

“Unfortunately, even before the summit took place, the majority in Congress signaled its intent to reject our offers to work together,” Coburn said. “Instead, they want to use procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year.”

Coburn touted legislation that he is co-sponsoring with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as the type of incremental reform that Republicans can get behind. That bill includes tax credits and malpractice reform, among other elements.

“I wholeheartedly share President Obama’s desire for more civility and bipartisanship in Washington and I’m proud of the work that we did together when he was a member of the Senate,” Coburn said. “True civility, however, is measured by actions, not words.”

Coburn said he was disappointed that Obama didn’t take up his idea to hold another health care summit.

“If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected,” Coburn said. “If the majority agrees to work together they will find many Republicans ready to help them pursue our common goals of helping all Americans access quality and affordable health care for themselves and their families.”