Health Care Summit: Breaking Updates, Latest News
President Barack Obama kicked off a six-hour summit meeting with members of Congress on Thursday by expressing his hope that the partisan divide over health care can be bridged. "We all know that this is urgent," he said. But that divide was obvious as soon as Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called on Obama to scrap the entire Democratic plan and start from scratch. Obama's attempts to persuade Republicans that his plan already answers most of their ostensible concerns does not appear to be working. Check here for health care summit details throughout the day. You can see live video and twitter reaction and read expert analysis.
11:40 PM ET -- Healthy interest: Judging by White House web traffic, public interest in the summit far surpassed that for President Obama's State of the Union address in January.
According to White House New Media Director Macon Phillips, there were more than 3.9 million streams of the White House's live webcast today. Phillips said that's more than triple the amount of traffic the White House tallied for its live webcast of the president's SOTU address, when 1.3 million watched the president speak via the White House's webcast.
Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall reported that his site saw a big bump in traffic:
It's certainly not a perfect measure. But over the years I've gotten a pretty good feel for how different kinds of political events bump traffic on TPM. And there was a much bigger bump than I would have expected for an event like this.
5:40 PM ET -- The GOP line: Summit was 'fabulous' and 'Useful.' Our Ryan Grim wraps up the reaction of Republican leaders to today's events:
For Mitch McConnell, it was a "a fabulous discussion." For John Boehner, "a useful discussion."
The Republican leaders in Congress wrapped up the health care summit with the president and his congressional allies full of praise for the gathering.
"Mr. President, I'm going to say thank you for having us here. I think it's been a useful conversation and as I listened to you open up this meeting, I thought to myself, I don't disagree with anything that you said," Boehner, the Republican minority leader, offered to Obama.
"The American families are struggling with health care. We all know it. The American people want us to address this in a responsible way. So I really do say thanks for having us all here."
Read the full story.
5:21 PM ET -- And that's a wrap. Obama officially closes out the summit after a nearly seven-hour session (interrupted only by a short lunch break). Be sure to check out the Huffington Post's roundtable of health care experts for their ongoing analysis of the day's discussions.
5:20 PM ET -- Laugh track. As Obama began his closing argument by saying he planned to talk for ten more minutes, the Senate press gallery burst into spontaneous laughter.
It was the biggest laugh the health care summit had drawn since the camera panned to John Boehner looking ever-so-pained to be listening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was busy dissecting each Republican argument that had been trotted out during the more than seven our event.
Watch the Boehner-Pelosi moment:
--RYAN GRIM AND LILA SHAPIRO
5:15 PM ET -- Dingell: Health Care Is Not And Will Never Be The Ten Commandments. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who as the longest serving member of the Congress also holds the distinction of having spent the most time working on health-care legislation, closed Thursday's summit by acknowledging that the bill being considered did not meet the standards of perfection set forth by the Ten Commandments.
But no legislation did, the Michigan Democrat announced. And for the sake of solving crises in the both insurance industry and the overall health care system, lawmakers would and should settle for bills that weren't crafted by the hand of God.
"We have before us a hideous challenge," Dingell said. "The last perfect legislation that was presented to mankind was delivered to the Israelis at the base of Mt. Sinai. It was on stone tablets, written in fingers of God. Nothing like that has been presented to mankind since. What we are going to do is not perfect. But it sure will be better and it's going to ease a huge amount of pain and suffering at a cost, which we can afford, which has been questioned out by the office of management and budget and the congressional budget office say it's budget-neutral. It in fact reduces the budget. I beg you, let us go forward on this great task."
Watch Dingell's remarks:
4:55 PM ET -- Obama Shuts Down Waxman. Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a reliable partisan grappler, took the mic toward the end of the health care summit and didn't disappoint.
He keyed in on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) Medicare reform plan that would give seniors vouchers to buy coverage, instead of the coverage itself. That's all well and good, until premiums increase - which premiums have a habit of doing.
Waxman, a Democrat from California, brought up Anthem BlueCross's recently-proposed 39 percent increases.
"Could you imagine, seniors, if you have to go shopping with your vouchers, and by the way this private policy that you're going to have to buy just went up 39 percent? And the way to save the federal government money is to shift it onto the seniors, that's where we're headed if we don't do anything," Waxman said.
He continued along those lines for another six minutes, urging the president to push forward with comprehensive reform.
"Mr. President, you're not going to be able to do this piecemeal," he said. "I have doubts about whether the Republicans are going to help you, because I haven't heard a lot of willingness to come to work with you now or a year ago. I hope I'm wrong."
Obama interrupted him. "I'm going to be equal opportunity here and say we're not making campaign speeches right now," he scolded.
Watch the exchange:
4:50 PM ET -- Rangel Reality Check. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) offered this during his remarks in the waning minutes of the summit: "I don't really think somebody sick in the emergency room is concerned about the size of the bill."
4:15 PM ET -- Professor Obama strikes back. From HuffPost's Sam Stein: Earlier today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) criticized President Obama for acting, during the day's health care summit, like he was a professor in front of a classroom of petulant Republican schoolchildren.
The analogy seemed a bit harsh -- until Minority Leader John Boehner got the microphone roughly an hour later to play the part of unruly school kid to a tee.
During a segment of the meeting devoted to cost control and federal entitlements, Boehner instead trotted out just about every single GOP scare story about the bill - insisting it was a government takeover, calling it a massive bureaucratic mess, and even remarking about the number of pages in the legislation.
Obama's reply: "John, you know, the challenge I have here, and it happens periodically, is every so often we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that the Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues."
Read the full story.
4:00 PM ET -- John Barasso's stethoscope. He's a doctor and a senator and President Obama got an earful from Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyoming) on Thursday. Barasso even called to mind the moment in medical school when he received his stethoscope.
"This is to listen," Barrasso said, recalling the words of one of this professors.
"I have great concern that people around this table are not listening to the American people," he added. Echoing one of the GOP's main talking points, Barrasso said that the entire health care reform process should "start over."
3:40 PM ET -- The reconciliation debate. President Obama and Sen. John McCain aired their differences on the issue of reconciliation for the health care bill. McCain told Obama that he did not think reconciliation should be used for a bill of this magnitude, adding that he thought it "could harm the future of our country" (and of the Senate).
Obama responded that he did not think the American people cared all that much about the procedures of Congress and were more focused on getting a reform bill passed.
Democratic operative Donna Brazile offered her take on the exchange on her Twitter feed: "Sen McCain just raised the issue of reconciliation," Brazile wrote. "Pardon me. This is part of the legislative process. Dems must not fear using it."