Health Care Reform Summit: The GOP "Away Team"

February 25, 2010 10:38 am ET

The GOP Summit "Away Team" will have a rocky landing at President Obama's bipartisan summit on health care reform.  These 18 members of Congress have made no secret of their staunch opposition to health care reform - no matter how much their constituents support it or how it would benefit their districts.

These elected officials have made their opposition to real, transformative health care reform well-known over the last few months.  They have spoken against everything from Medicare reform to the public option to the reconciliation process and yet have offered no alternatives that will create a new health care system in our country. 

The following document details the deep hypocrisy, faulty motives, and partisan approach to health care reform on the part of the members of Congress the GOP has dispatched to this crucial conversation.

Senate

House

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA)
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)
Rep. John Kline (R-MN)
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

GOP Summit Attendees Have Dismissed The Summit From The Beginning

Sen. Mitch McConnell:

"We're happy to be there, but I'm not quite sure what the purpose is... It seems to me the president's already made up his mind." [Austin Statesman, 2/23/10]

"I think it's nearly impossible to imagine a scenario under which we could reach an agreement." [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/24/10]

Sen. Jon Kyl:

"Democrats have already decided on the so-called nuclear option... If that's the case... then obviously it's pointless to talk because they made up their mind and they will ram it through whether we like it or whether the American people like it." [Huffington Post, 2/14/10]

Rep. John Boehner:

"We shouldn't let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on ObamaCare... We need to show up We need to crash the party." [Politico, 2/23/10]

"This so-called summit is a charade. The Democrats clearly want us to boycott...I don't think we should take the bait." [Politico, 2/23/10]

Rep. Eric Cantor:

"Here's the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there's not much to talk about." [Plum Line, 2/8/10]

Rep. Joe Barton:

"I still hope that the Blair House meeting can produce evidence that the administration is getting interested in increasing competition and cutting costs, but for now it looks like the President is stuck on his idea that what sick people need is more government.  If nothing changes by Thursday, the President risks turning a signature issue into a signature failure." [Barton.House.Gov, 2/22/10]

GOP Summit Attendees Do Not Understand Bipartisanship

Members of the GOP Summit Away Team have made numerous comments about the current state of Democratic health care reforms.  Inconveniently for them, several of their ideas have been included both in current legislation as well as the President's compromise proposal.  By continuing to fight against reform, these members of Congress are exposing themselves not only as disingenuous representatives of the American people but also as partisan lackeys solely bent on killing legislation that originate across the aisle.

Rep. John Boehner:

"There aren't that many places where we can come together.  The president was the most liberal member of the United States Senate.  You don't get there by accident.  And if you look at the policies that we've seen over the course of this year from the administration and his Democrat colleagues in Congress, there are all these leftist proposals.  And the people of Massachusetts, the people of Virginia, the people of New Jersey are sending a pretty loud signal, just like the other 47 states, to Washington saying 'Stop!  This is way more than we ever wanted Washington to do.'" [Meet the Press, via Media Matters Action, 1/31/10]

"If the Democrat leaders here in Congress and the President are serious about getting our economy going again and putting people back to work, we can, in fact, work together to promote policies that will do that.  But there was nothing last night in the President's speech to indicate that there was any willingness to sit down and work together.  Except one point: The President said when he was talking about health care and I'll quote, 'but if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.'  That's when I put my hand up, because that's exactly what the Republican health care proposal does, much more so than the proposal that he and Democrat leaders are trying to shove down the throats of the American people." [Boehner Remarks, 1/28/10; emphasis added]

Sen. Mitch McConnell:

"Well, we're gonna do everything we can to defeat this bill. The American people are asking us to defeat this bill. They're hollering at us, "please defeat this bill." I'm still hoping that at some point some Democrat is gonna say, "I don't buy, any longer, this arrogant notion that we ought to ignore out constituents and pass it no matter what they think." It is perfectly clear, if it's unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere, the American people don't want us to pass this bill." [Fox News Sunday via Media Matters Action, 1/17/10]

Rep. Paul Ryan:

"Bipartisanship means you have to have collaboration  -- meaning you sit down together, you write bills, you collaborate, you compromise, you negotiate, and then you move together to pass things. That's not what's taking place here. What's taking place here - and look, like I said, they have the right to do this. They did win the election." [MSNBC, 4/28/09]

"I believe that Congress should scrap this bill and start over... There are serious problems that need to be fixed, but the Majority's go-it-alone approach to give more power to Washington would only make matters worse." [Ryan Release via Facebook, 9/4/09]

GOP.gov and House Republican Leader John Boehner put forth their "four common-sense reforms" for health care...while forgetting to double check the Democratic bills to see if those "common-sense" ideas were included.  The White House showed further good faith in the release of its health care compromise, which contains multiple Republican ideas in addition to the "common-sense" plans of the GOP.

 

Republican  Ideas

 

Democratic Legislation

 

President Obama's Proposal

Allow Americans to buy insurance across state lines.

House: National Exchange

Senate: State-based Exchanges

White House Plan: "More Choices, Greater Competition -- Health Insurance Exchange - Americans who lose their jobs, change jobs, move out of state, get divorced or get sick will have the peace of mind and security of knowing they will always have quality affordable health care they can rely on.  For Americans who get coverage through their job but can't afford it, the exchange will give them new choices.  For small business owners, the exchange will level the playing field with big businesses and lower their costs."

"Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together" to purchase health insurance.

House & Senate: Co-ops established and "strip insurance companies" of the "antitrust exemption that has been in place since World War I."

White House Plan: "The proposal creates a new insurance marketplace that lets individuals and families without coverage and small business owners pool their resources and increase their buying power to make insurance more affordable."

Allow states "to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs."

Senate: Section 1302, "the Waiver for State Innovation," actually "gives states the power to junk" the health care bill "if they can do it better and cheaper."

White House Plan: "State Innovation Incentives to Improve Care - States will have the option to undertake a number of reforms to improve the quality of how care is delivered."

"End junk lawsuits."

Senate: Section 6801 "encourages states to develop new malpractice systems and suggests that Congress fund the most promising experiments."

White House Plan: "Medical Malpractice Demonstration Grants - The Act establishes a competitive grant program for States to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative medical malpractice reforms that help resolve disputes over injuries allegedly caused by health care providers or organizations and promote a reduction in health care errors."

Not to mention the other basic ideas that both parties agree on: wellness and prevention, allowing children to remain on their parents' plan until their mid-20s, providing tax credits to small businesses in order to make it easier for them to provide health coverage for their employees, and reducing "waste, fraud and abuse in federal healthcare programs."  Even the Wall Street Journal acknowledges that many Republican ideas are included in Democratic legislation.

SEIU points out that Congressional Democrats have offered the GOP multiple opportunities to contribute to health care reform legislation.

During The Senate's Debate On Health Care Reform, HELP Committee Held Nearly 50 Bipartisan Meetings.  In 2008 and 2009, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held 47 bipartisan meetings on health insurance reform: 14 bipartisan roundtables, 13 bipartisan Committee hearings, and 20 bipartisan walkthroughs. [Senate Democratic Caucus press release, 11/21/09]

  • Of 287 Amendments Considered, 161 Republican Amendments Were Included In Senate Bill. During the bill markup, the HELP Committee considered 287 amendments and 161 Republican amendments were accepted. [Senate Democratic Caucus press release, 11/21/09]

Senate Finance Committee Held 53 Bipartisan Meetings. Since November 2008, the Senate Finance Committee held 53 bipartisan meetings on health insurance reform: 13 member meetings and walkthroughs on legislation and 38 meetings and negotiations with at least six members of the committee present. [Senate Democratic Caucus press release, 11/21/09]

  • Baucus "Laid Real And Substantial Groundwork For Bipartisan Cooperation." Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus led the "Gang of Six," a bipartisan group of senators consisting of three Democrats and three Republicans, to work on a compromise reform bill. Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the Republican members of the group, said Baucus' bipartisan approach "laid real and substantial groundwork for bipartisan cooperation during this ongoing process." When a compromise could not be reached, a USA Today editorial stated, "Republican intransigence - 'Gang of Six' member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, circulated a letter that asked for money to 'defeat Obama-care,' which is not what you do if you seriously hope to compromise - leaves Democrats little choice but to move ahead on their own to overhaul the nation's capricious and unsustainably costly medical care system." [Senator Olympia Snowe press release, 9/16/09; USA Today, 9/17/09]

GOP Summit Attendees Are Skilled Obstructionists & Have Fought Cooperative Reforms For Months

Sen. Chuck Grassley:

"I'm negotiating for Republicans and if I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a very good representative of my party." [ThinkProgress, 8/17/09]

"I take pride with being an obstructionist." [Politico, 7/6/09]

"I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration." [Grassley Teleconference, 8/25/09]

"The only way to get a bipartisan agreement is to defeat a Democratic proposal." [Radio Iowa, accessed 9/9/09]

Sen. Jon Kyl:

"I don't think a single Republican in the Senate would support either of those bills." [Fox News, 8/20/09]

"I think his concern about having almost all Republicans opposing that kind of approach is a valid one." [Politico, 8/18/09]

GOP Away Team Funded By The Health Care Industry

Health care reform advocates at SEIU have documented the possible financial incentives the GOP Summit Away Team might have to continue fighting against the very reforms Americans desperately need.

Sen. Alexander Has Received More Than $2 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $500,000 From Insurance Industry.  Sen. Alexander has received at least $2.1 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 2002. Alexander has also received at least $502,900 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/23/10]

Health Care Industry is Sen. Barrasso's #1 Donor.  Sen. Barrassso has received at least $687,897 in campaign contributions from the health care sector, more than he has received from any other group. Barton has also received more than $80,000 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/23/10]

Rep. Barton Has Received More Than $2 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $280,000 From Insurance Industry.  Rep. Joe Barton has received at least $2.2 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989. Barton has also received at least $281,699 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Health Care Sector is Rep. Blackburn's #1 Donor.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn has received at least $541,439 in campaign contributions from the health care sector since 2002, more than she received from any other group. Blackburn has also received at least $103,065 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/24/10]

Insurance Industry is Rep. Boehner's #1 Donor.  The insurance industry has been the single top donor to Minority Leader Boehner, contributing at least $939,276 to him since 1989. Boehner has also received at least $1.33 million from the health care sector as a whole. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Health Care Sector is Rep. Boustany's #1 Donor.  Rep. Charles Boustany has received at least $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the health care sector since 2004, more than he received from any other group. Boustany has also received at least $147,552 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/24/10]

Rep. Cantor Has Received More Than $1.5 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $750,000 From Insurance Industry.  Rep. Eric Cantor has received at least $1.53 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 2000, including $67,250 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Cantor has also received at least $761,224 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Rep. Camp Has Received More Than $1.3 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $570,000 From Insurance Industry.  Rep. Dave Camp has received at least $1.32 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989, including $73,000 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Camp has also received at least $571,760 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Health Care Sector is Sen. Coburn's #1 Donor.  Sen. Coburn has received at least $1.24 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1994, more than he received from any other sector. Coburn has also received at least $172,358 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/22/10]

Sen. Enzi Has Received More Than $650,000 From Health Care Industry, More Than $240,000 From Insurance Industry. Sen. Enzi has received at least $657,215 in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1996, including $27,500 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Enzi has also received at least $240,953 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Sen. Grassley Has Received More Than $2.2 Million From Health Care Industry, Nearly $1 Million From Insurance Industry. Sen. Grassley has received at least $2.24 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989, including $81,200 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. In fact, Blue Cross / Blue Shield and its employees are Grassley's top donor. Grassley has also received at least $988,674 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Rep. Kline Has Received More Than $300,000 From Health Care Industry, Nearly $200,000 From Insurance Industry. Rep. Kline has received at least $318,750 in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 2002. Kline has also received at least $193,350 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Sen. Kyl Has Received $2 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $500,000 From Insurance Industry.  Sen. Kyl has received at least $2 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989, including $47,626 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Kyl has also received at least $541,994 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Sen. McCain Has Received More Than $8.7 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $2.9 Million From Insurance Industry. Sen. McCain has received at least $8.74 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989. McCain has also received at least $2.9 million from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/23/10]

Sen. McConnell Has Received More Than $2.7 Million From Health Care Industry, More Than $960,000 From Insurance Industry. Minority Leader McConnell has received at least $2.79 million in campaign contributions from the health care industry since 1989, including $98,652 from Humana. McConnell has also received at least $962,557 from the insurance industry. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/17/10]

Rep. Roskam Has Received Nearly $500,000 From Health Care Industry.  Rep. Peter Roskam has received at least $472,549 million in campaign contributions from the health care sector since 2006. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/24/10]

Rep. Ryan Has Collected More Campaign Cash From Insurance Industry Than From Any Other Industry. The insurance industry has been the single top donor to Rep. Paul Ryan, contributing at least $528,751 to him since 1998, including $43,650 from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Ryan has also received at least $752,565 from the health care sector as a whole. [Opensecrets.org, accessed 2/22/10]

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