McConnell: Obama ‘fun’ but ‘arrogant’; Reid defends reconciliation

Feb 23, 2010 3:59pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: The bar could not be any lower for Thursday's health reform summit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects to have fun at the summit, but not to accomplish anything in the daylong meeting with the President. “We're happy to go down there. I'm always pleased to see him. He's fun to be around, and I'm sure we'll have a great six hours,” McConnell told reporters after his weekly Republican planning meeting. But he pointed out that Democrats are clearly working to pass the Senate Health Reform bill in the House along with some fixes through a budget reconciliation process that only requires 51 votes in the Senate. “So we're happy to be there, but I'm not quite sure what the purpose is,” he said. McConnell said the President’s plan, announced Monday, to pass tweak the Senate bill is like “Putting a new name on a whole lot more spending is clearly not reform.” And the whole process, said McConnell, is a “rather really arrogant, if you will, effort to say to the American people we're smarter than you are, we know you've followed this debate for six months, but we're going to give you this anyway, and we're going to use any parliamentary device available to jam it through a reluctant Congress.” Republican Hill staffers later took issue with the headline to this item. They argued that McConnell had not called Obama personally arrogant, but rather was describing his policy proposal as arrogant. McConnell said Democrats should look for common ground with Republicans and piece bills piecemeal to change the health care system. But he was hard pressed to outline examples of legislation that both parties would support. He pointed to medical malpractice reform, which most Democrats oppose, and proposals to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines, a variation of which is in Democrats’ health bills. That’s a proposal Democrats reject. “You can’t have one thing and say that’s health care reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. responding to McConnell at a separate press conference. Reid would not say that Democrats are definitively moving toward reconciliation. He said the procedural maneuver is not their only option. But he also defended using it. “Since 1981, reconciliation has been used 21 times,” Reid said. “The vast majority of those reconciliation efforts have been by Republicans… they should stop crying about reconciliation as if it's never been done before.  It's done almost every Congress, and they're the ones that used it more than anyone else: The Contract for America, most of the stuff in the Contract for America was done with reconciliation.  Tax cuts, done with reconciliation.  Medicare, done with reconciliation.” Reid misspoke: According to a Congressional Research Service report on the budget reconciliation process, reconciliation has been used 19 times since 1981. On Scott Brown, who in his first vote on an actual piece of legislation helped break a Republican filibuster of Democrats’ jobs bill, McConnell said this: “Look, we've got a big — the Republican Party represents all parts of the country, different points of view.  We don't expect our members to be in lock-step on every single issue, and we're happy to have him here.  I think it's made a huge, positive difference for us and for the whole legislative agenda.”

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