WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's Republican adversaries remain ready to rumble in the aftermath of his impassioned push to reform America's health care system.
There were the requisite calls for bipartisanship – public opinion polls show that voters by overwhelming margins want Republicans and Democrats to work in tandem.
"House Republicans ... are ready, willing, and able to work with the Democrat majority to solve our health care challenges in a bipartisan manner," Rep. Mike Pence said in a news release. But above the remark blared the headline: "One More Speech about the Same Bad Plan."
Both Obama and the Republican chosen to give his party's televised response to the speech noted that there is room for agreement on elements of a plan.
"We can do better, with a targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems," said Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., a former heart surgeon.
Such areas of agreement include helping small businesses and the self-employed join together to get better deals on health insurance, Boustany said.
Republicans were also heartened by Obama's promise to take steps to limit medical malpractice lawsuits, which they say force doctors to practice defensive medicine and order up unnecessary tests.
On its face, the GOP message of the day was to slow down and start over. But in also issuing warnings against a government "takeover" of health care or "massive cuts" to Medicare, Republicans also made it clear that the gut-punching will soon resume.
"With his agenda on life support, it's not surprising that President Obama is still pushing for a government takeover of our health care system," said former GOP Rep. Chris Chocola, president of the Club For Growth, a fundraising group that supports conservative Republicans. "But no matter how many times he repackages it, the American people aren't buying what the president is selling."
Republicans also noted that they haven't been invited to the White House since April and that Obama rebuffed a request by GOP leaders in May for a face-to-face meeting on health care.
"I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it," Obama said.
Not a single Republican has endorsed any of the plans approved so far by four House and Senate committees.
Despite being badly outnumbered in Congress, Republicans have been riding a political wave as voters increasingly have turned against Democrats' efforts to provide more coverage to the uninsured and to pay for it through a tax surcharge on the wealthy.
Forty-nine percent say they oppose the health overhaul plans being considered by Congress, compared with just 34 percent who favor them, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday. Fully 79 percent of respondents said it is important for any health care plan to have support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Some Republicans said Obama squandered the chance to build bipartisan support by continuing to favor a government-run plan for the uninsured.
"I sat there tonight wondering what the purpose of this evening was," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. "I was hoping to hear the president flesh out a middle ground, but instead we heard platitudes and campaign rhetoric."