The White House this morning unveiled President Obama's health care plan and the changes he wants to make to the Senate Democratic health care bill. Even before the release of the proposal, it had already met with fierce Republican resistance.
The plan will reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the years after that, and expand health care to 31 million more Americans, according to the White House.
"This is our take on the best way to merge the House and Senate bills," a senior White House official told ABC News. The official said the proposal was "informed by our conversations from negotiations" before Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., was elected, thus depriving Democrats of their 60-vote majority, as well as from subsequent discussions.
"We thought it would be a more productive meeting if we brought one consolidated plan to use as jumping-off point," the official said. "We hope the Republicans do the same."
With Brown's win in Massachusetts last month, Democrats no longer have a supermajority, so they would pass the "fix" using a controversial maneuver that requires only 51 votes.
White House officials are signaling that Thursday's discussion won't be just a parlor meeting to chat about health care principles, though they insist their minds will be open to incorporate some Republican ideas.
"Maybe we'll sit across from each other and identify 10 things we can move forward on," the official said. "We hope new ideas come to the table. The proposal we're walking into the meeting with is not the same one we will walk out of the meeting with."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes passing the bill is "possibly doable," the senior White House official said. "But she may ultimately decide the math is impossible."
If that does not work, the next plan is to push a more modest bill -- a smaller expansion of health insurance reform, some tax breaks for small businesses to help provide insurance for employees, a more modest expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the health insurance exchanges.
Among the fixes to the Senate bill that the president is proposing are "an additional series of measures proposed by Republicans to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse," a White House official said. "The president believes the bipartisan discussion on Thursday will be the most productive if Democrats come to the table with a consolidated proposal -- what he's releasing today -- and he hopes the Republicans will follow suit and come with their own unified proposal. He'll be open to Republican ideas, and he hopes they'll be open to ours."
For the president, the conversation starts with four key parts of the Senate health care bill, which passed on Christmas Eve after weeks of deadlock.
First are insurance reforms, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, a reform that Republicans have also said they would like to see happen.
Second, as proposed in both the House and Senate bills, the president wants to see health insurance exchanges created at the state level to ensure competition, a thorny point for Republicans.