President Obama and Republicans sat down for nearly seven hours today to discuss a way forward on comprehensive health care reform, but emerged no closer to an agreement on how to resolve key differences.
While there were some areas of agreement on the larger themes of health care reform, there was one fundamental divide – whether or not the Senate Democratic health care bill should be scrapped.
After the conclusion of the session, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was "discouraged" by the outcome.
"It's pretty clear that the majority and the president want to continue with the Senate bill," he said.
But McConnell also said he "wouldn't call it a waste of time" and said it was a "good discussion."
Obama took a "wait and see" attitude after the end of the summit.
"I thought it was a terrific discussion, and we'll see whether it made any difference in terms of people's attitudes," the president said as he walked back to the White House.
Members of Congress made a point to note that there are areas of agreement between the two sides and there were several attempts to find common ground.
"Quite frankly, we may be closer together than people really think," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
"I don't disagree with anything that you said at the beginning of the meeting," House Minority Leader John Boehner said to Obama.
But there were few areas of agreement on how to tackle the problems of the more than 40 million uninsured and health care costs that are rising at almost twice the rate of inflation.
The Republicans pushed for the bill to be scrapped.
"Let's start with a clean sheet of paper and we can actually get somewhere and get into law in the next several months," Boehner said.
Republicans once again proposed a more modest, incremental approach, including health insurance reforms and changing medical malpractice laws.
Republicans groused about the Democrats' plan to push a bill through the Senate with a 51 vote majority, through a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation.
Obama defended the tactic and said the American people are not concerned about "procedures inside the Senate."
"I do think that they want a vote on how we're going to move this forward," the president said. "I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense, but I also think that this is an issue that could be bridged if we can arrive at some agreement on ways to move forward."
House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the Democrats' plan for health care overhaul is too expensive, a theme that his party stressed during the summit.
Cantor said that there are consequences to mandating that all Americans purchase health insurance.
"We just can't afford this. ... That's the ultimate problem here," Cantor said. "In a perfect world, everyone would have everything they want. This government can't afford it, businesses can't afford it."
Obama agreed with Cantor that "the cost issue is legitimate."
The president said earlier that if overhaul is just "adding more people to a broken system, then costs will continue to skyrocket, and eventually somebody's going to be bankrupt, whether it's the federal government, state governments, businesses, or individual families.