Republicans and Democrats Gear Up for Thursday's Health Care Summit

Lawmakers question whether it will be more than a PR exercise.

ByABC News via logo
February 24, 2010, 9:40 AM

Feb. 24, 2010— -- Democrats and Republicans are unfurling the best they've got to get on the airwaves before President Obama's Thursday health care summit, even as some lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are hinting that the gathering is unlikely to amount to any more than political theater.

Republicans and Democrats continue sparring over health care legislation, and the issue is resonating with public more than ever before.

Livid demonstrators gathered in California Tuesday to protest steep insurance rate hikes by Anthem Blue Cross. Earlier this month, the state's largest insurance company abruptly raised premiums on more than 1 million customers by up to 39 percent, more than 10 times the rate of inflation.

The increasingly public and angry passion over health care has motivated both sides at Thursday's high stakes summit in Washington, where frenzied propaganda and posturing is in full swing.

"Tell Congress, start over and get health care right," one political TV ad screamed.

Both Democrats and Republicans have taken to the airwaves to ratchet up their assault on the other side.

"I think the summit on Thursday is an effort to try and bring people together, to go forward with a health care bill that we can get through the Congress," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said on MSNBC Tuesday. "It's another opportunity for the president to make the case for why we need health care reform in this country."

The GOP leadership continued to blast the Democrats' health care bills and Obama's plan, which was released by the White House Monday.

"I had hoped that Thursday's meeting at the White House would present an opportunity for us to share the best ideas and work together on common sense solutions," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday. "I'm disappointed that the White House seems to view it instead as an opportunity to simply restart where they left off."

Many in the White House view Thursday's meeting as a make-or-break proposition on this round of health care. There are intense discussions on every aspect, from the agenda to the shape of the table where lawmakers will gather to camera angles for the six-hour live action drama.

"The president is interested in having a balanced conversation, in hearing from Republicans and Democrats. I don't know what the shape of the table was in Baltimore. That seemed to be a process that worked quite well," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday, referring to the televised House GOP convention where Obama answered questions by Republicans.

"There wasn't a table? Maybe we'll just, you know, maybe those little desks they give you in, like, elementary school, that would otherwise be uncomfortable and hard to fit into, might be the best way forward," Gibbs joked.

The table, according to plans so far, will be rectangular. The president and Vice President Joe Biden will be surrounded by 25 lawmakers from both parties.