Health Summit May Enforce Partisan Divide
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Here is NPR's Andrea Seabrook.
ANDREA SEABROOK: When the microphone is off, Republicans will tell you it's a tough challenge, convince Americans, the Democrats plan is no good, but avoid coming off as being against everything. Switch the microphone back on and this is what you hear.
LAMAR ALEXANDER: I think this is a terrific opportunity for us.
SEABROOK: Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Today's live summit is the perfect chance, says Alexander, for the GOP to shake off Democrats' claims that the Republicans have become the party of no.
ALEXANDER: The president's giving us an excellent opportunity to make more of the public aware that for the entire year in 2009, we've been offering what we think we should do.
SEABROOK: Republicans say health reforms should focus on lowering costs for people who already have insurance rather than expanding coverage to people who don't. They want to do this with business incentives and competition, rather than government regulation of insurance companies. Alexander says the negativity towards President Obama's plan didn't start with Republicans, it's from the people.
ALEXANDER: The American people thoroughly reject it. So, if he is listening to the American people, they've said no to his bill and I believe they will say to yes to us working together, step by step, to reduce costs.
SEABROOK: This is the message you are likely to hear a lot today. Republicans reject the health care overhaul because the people reject the health care overhaul. You hear it from Arizona Senator John McCain.
JOHN MCCAIN: The American people are very smart. That's why two thirds of them want either stop or start over.
SEABROOK: And you hear it from House Republican whip, Eric Cantor.
ERIC CANTOR: What we are trying to do is find out why the president want to continue to ignore the American people.
SEABROOK: So, while Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, says Americans have already rejected health care...
MITCH MCCONNELL: Fifty five percent of them oppose it and 37 percent support it.
SEABROOK: Senate Democratic, leader Harry, Reid says Americans want his party to keep working on it.
HARRY REID: Fifty eight percent of the American people would be angry or disappointed if we didn't pass health care reform this year.
SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, The Capitol.