Coming to the Table, DC-Style

By Jennifer Parker

Oct 18, 2007 3:00pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: President Bush, while he has been saying Democrats should come to the negotiating table on SCHIP — the children’s health insurance legislation he vetoed this month — doesn’t want a seat there himself.

At least, that’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Thursday.

It can be difficult to get a face-to-face with Bush, especially for the Democratic leader of the Senate and the House Speaker.

So when they found themselves on the same dais as the President yesterday, in the august rotunda of the Capitol building where the three gathered with other Washington bigwigs to honor the Dalai Lama with a Congressional Gold Medal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reid thought they’d make the most of it.

They asked the President to meet with them personally to negotiate SCHIP legislation.

But Reid said the President turned them down, saying his staff would handle it.

"The Speaker and I asked him to meet with us yesterday," Reid said. "He said ‘no, meet with my staff’."

The President’s chief negotiators in the matter are Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

However, Bush made the potential negotiations sound a little more personal when he alluded to them earlier this week.

"The House is going to decide whether or not they’re going to sustain my veto," Bush said Monday. "And if they should sustain my veto, I call upon the leadership in the Congress to come to the table and let us make sure we get money to those families that the program was intended to help, first and more foremost."

After the Democratic leaders failed Thursday to override Bush’s SCHIP veto, Democrats are becoming more open to negotiations.

Of course, Bush was beckoning Democrats to the table before the override vote, but Democrats declared there would be none.

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"The Speaker and I asked him to meet with us yesterday," Reid said. "He said no, meet with my staff."

The President’s chief negotiators in the matter are HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Nussle.

The sticking point for Democrats, Reid said, is that the SCHIP expansion must cover all 10 million uninsured children. 

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