The White House today unveiled President Obama's health care overhaul bill, which it says will expand health insurance to 31 million more Americans and reduce the federal budget deficit by $100 billion in the next 10 years.
The White House also released the changes Obama wants to see in the Senate Democratic health care bill. Even before its release, the White House's plan had already met with fierce Republican resistance.
The White House estimates the cost of their health care plan, with the proposals to fix the Senate bill, would be roughly $950 billion over ten years, but there is unlikely to be a cost estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said today there is not yet enough information from the White House to create a detailed cost estimate yet and even if there was, the assessment wouldn't be done this week.
"I think it's a starting point in as much... as Republicans come to Thursday's meeting with constructive proposals that they're willing to discuss," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today.
Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said this is "the Senate bill with some targeted and important changes that achieve the president's goal and bridge the gap between the House and Senate proposals."
A senior White House 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.
The White House proposal doesn't just represent ideas, but a potential strategy -- to have the House pass the Senate bill, with fixes to come to make it more palatable.
With Brown's win in Massachusetts last month, Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority, so they would pass the "fix" using a controversial maneuver that requires only 51 votes.
White House officials are thus 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.
"The president believes that we have done a lot of very good work on health reform over the last year, and starting from scratch doesn't make sense," Pfeiffer said. "However, we are coming to this meeting with an open mind to additional ideas and we hope the Republicans will do the same."
Pfeiffer said the White House hopes the Republicans will put forward their plan this week.
"There are a number of Republican plans out there," he said. "Hopefully, they can work together and consolidate."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., believes passing the bill is "possibly doable," a 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.