WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Republican party is accusing President Barack Obama of conducting "risky experimentation" with his health care proposals, saying they will hurt the economy and force millions to drop their current coverage.
Michael Steele, in remarks prepared for delivery at the National Press Club, also said the president, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen are part of a "cabal" that wants to implement government-run health care.
"Obama-Pelosi want to start building a colossal, closed health care system where Washington decides. Republicans want and support an open health care system where patients and doctors make the decisions," Steele said in excerpts of his speech made available in advance.
Obama has repeatedly said he does not favor a government-run health care system. Legislation taking shape in the House envisions private insurance companies selling coverage in competition with the government.
Even so, numerous Republicans in Congress continue to level the accusation at Obama and congressional Democrats, and Steele did so in sharply critical terms.
"Many Democrats outside of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Waxman cabal know that voters won't stand for these kinds of foolish prescriptions for our health care. We do too. That's why Republicans will stop at nothing to remind voters about the risky experimentation going on in Washington," the party chairman said in advance excerpts. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is Senate majority leader; Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Republican officials said they were supplementing Steele's speech with a round of television advertising designed to oppose government-run health care. No details were immediately available on the areas where the commercials would run or their cost.
In his speech, Steele broadened his attack beyond health care to question Obama's truthfulness.
The president "tells us he doesn't want to spend more than we have, he doesn't want the deficit to go up, he doesn't want to live off borrowed money. But he also told us he didn't want to run an auto company. President Obama justifies this spending by saying the devil made him do it. He doesn't want to spend trillions we can't afford, but he says he just can't help it," Steele said in the prepared excerpts.
The Republican chairman is making his speech at a time when Obama is struggling to advance his trademark health care proposal after a period of evident progress. Two of three House committees have approved their portions of the bill, while one of two Senate panels have acted.
But conservative Democrats have raised objections to some elements of the legislation, and efforts in the Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement have yet to bear fruit. Obama's attempt to impose an early August deadline on both the House and Senate for passage of legislation is in jeopardy.