WASHINGTON � Slow down and start over. That was the message from top Capitol Hill Republicans in advance of President Barack Obama's address Wednesday night to Congress and the nation on health care.
As Obama seeks to jump start an ambitious health care overhaul despite sliding public opinion poll numbers, Republicans countered with a call for a slimmed-down measure containing a few popular elements such as making sure insurance companies don't deny coverage to people with pre-existing health problems.
"Our view is: Let's scale it back, target the problems and not have the government take over, in effect, all of American health care," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
The alternative GOP message seems to be, "Keep going, and we'll keep kicking your teeth in." For instance, though he's voted for Medicare cuts in the past, McConnell attacked the Medicare cost curbs in the Obama plan as "massive cuts" to start a health care program for the poor and uninsured.
McConnell again called for a bipartisan bill even as the Democratic chairman of a key Senate committee announced Thursday that he was pressing ahead regardless of whether ongoing talks with Republicans were successful.
Not a single Republican has endorsed any of the plans approved so far by four House and Senate committees. House GOP leader John Boehner said Wednesday that he doubted Democrats have enough votes to pass the bill after the political setbacks of August.
"If they think they have the votes, we'll let them bring the bill up," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters. "Don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen."
Republicans chose Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., a heart surgeon who was elected to the House after arthritis forced him to close his practice, to give the GOP's televised response after Obama's speech.
© Janet Crain
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