White House, Republicans Spar Over Extra Invitations to Summit

Feb 24, 2010 5:23pm

A White House official tells ABC News that for months the president had been telling Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, that if there was a meeting like tomorrow’s bipartisan health care reform summit, they would be included.

Since the Democratic and Republican leadership didn’t ask either one of them to attend, President Obama extended invitations to them on his own.

Snowe decided not to attend.

“While she greatly appreciates the invitation, the Republican leadership understood the rules of the summit, as established by the Administration weeks ago, were that the Democratic and Republican leadership would select their own members to participate in the event,” said Snowe spokesman John Gentzel. “The Republican leadership had long since selected their team and therefore, it would have been inappropriate for Senator Snowe, under those circumstances, to accept the invitation.”

Senate Republicans are not happy that the White House extended these invitations in violation of the original invitation and the subsequent coordination and negotiation, basically going around the GOP leadership’s back to invite Snowe.

Wyden accepted his invitation.

The president then told Republican leaders they can have another seat at the table.

A White House official says they did not specify whether it had to be a member of the House or Senate.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he’d been told it had to be a Republican senator.

In any case, Mr. Boehner had told the White House that an invitation should be extended to Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak – the antiabortion Democrat who has called “unacceptable” the language in the Senate bill that attempts to keep tax dollars from funding any abortion services. Stupak’s more restrictive antiabortion language passed the House by a vote of 240-194.

“I write today to respectfully ask that you invite Rep. Stupak to participate in the February 25 health care summit so that the will of the American people – and that of a bipartisan majority in the House – on the critical issue of life will be appropriately represented during the discussion,” Boehner wrote in a letter to President Obama today.

The White House says Republicans can bring Stupak as their extra guest if they want.

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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