(CNSNews.com) – Weeks ahead of Thursday's “bipartisan” meeting on health care reform, House Republicans offered their ideas to President Barack Obama in a booklet presented to the president during his visit to the Republican Party retreat in Baltimore on Jan. 29.
The 27-page booklet includes proposals on health care as well as six other issues Republicans consider vital to America’s continued prosperity: jobs, fiscal responsibility, open government and transparency, energy, savings, national security and fiscal reform.
The booklet, entitled “Better Solutions, a Compilation of GOP Alternatives,” was prepared by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). It includes legislation proposed by the House over the last year and several letters written to the president on these issues over the same time period.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said as much when the president called on her at the retreat.
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Blackburn said. “And thank you for acknowledging that we have ideas on health care. Because, indeed, we do have ideas. We have plans. We have over 50 bills. We have lots of amendments that would bring health care ideas to the forefront.
“We've got plans to lower cost, to change purchasing models, address medical liability, insurance accountability, chronic and preexisting conditions, and access to affordable care for those with those conditions, insurance portability, expanded access, but not doing it with creating more government, more bureaucracy and more cost for the American taxpayer,” Blackburn said.
“And we look forward to sharing those ideas with you,” she said. “We want to work with you on health reform and making certain that we do it in an affordable, cost-effective way that is going to reduce bureaucracy, reduce government interference and reduce costs to individuals and to taxpayers.
“And if those good ideas aren't making it to you, maybe it's the House Democrat leadership that is an impediment instead of a conduit,” Blackburn said.
Like the health care proposal posted by the Obama administration on Monday, the GOP compilation was posted online and in a Web video on Boehner’s congressional Web site on Feb. 3, where the Republican House leader encouraged people to download the PDF to review the GOP’s ideas.
House Republicans sent letters to the White House detailing their plans for job creation and helping small businesses on Oct. 7, 2009 and Dec. 9, 2009. An alternative to the Democrats’ stimulus plan also is included in the Boehner report.
The compilation details the House GOP plan for health care it put forth in HR 4038, which was introduced in the House on Nov. 6, 2009.
It includes tort reform, access to affordable health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions and limiting insurance companies from cancelling policies, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines and dependents to remain on their parents’ policies until age 25. The health care bill is accompanied by a letter sent to the president on May 13, 2009.
In a detailed table, a plan for reducing the federal deficit and increasing personal savings is presented, including the consolidation and “refocus” of numerous federal programs that would save hundreds of millions of dollars over five years.
The table also includes a long list of programs that should be terminated, including the funding for “unnecessary international organizations” ($417.5 million), eliminating federal transportation funding for landscaping museums and other transportation “enhancements” ($4.1 billion), and terminating ineffective federal education programs ($2.8 billion).
The signatures of 222 economists are included in the booklet following a statement on the way to create jobs and rein in federal spending.
“The country’s economic future depends on Congress’ ability to rein in the growth of federal spending,” the statement says. “Failing to restrict spending growth will further balloon the national debt, impede economic growth, and threaten the long-term economic health of our Nation. Controlling spending growth to reverse our dangerous debt accumulation can be done without endangering the near-term economic recovery, and will prove beneficial over the longer horizon.
“The 2009 near-term “stimulus” has proven to be an inefficient spur to job creation and does not merit repeating,” reads the statement. “Any further policy efforts should be focused on opening borders to free trade, cutting burdensome regulations, and providing necessary tax relief to employers and employees.”
The portion of the report that addresses “open government and transparency” notes HR 554, which would require bills to be posted online for 72 hours before they come to a vote. Other legislation on transparency would require that all health care negotiations be made publicly, and cameras would be allowed to cover the Rules Committee, which now meets behind closed doors to decide when a bill will come to a vote.
At the Republican retreat in January, Obama said he has listened to ideas from the other side of the aisle and will continue to do so, as long as both sides are willing to get something done for the American people.
“I was not elected by Democrats or Republicans, but by the American people,” Obama said. “That's especially true because the fastest-growing group of Americans are independents. That should tell us both something.
“I'm ready and eager to work with anyone who is willing to proceed in the spirit of goodwill,” Obama said. “But understand, if we can't break free from partisan gridlock, if we can't move past the politics of ‘no,’ if resistance supplants constructive debate, I still have to meet my responsibilities as president.
“I've got to act for the greater good, because that, too, is a commitment that I have made,” Obama said. “And that, too, is what the American people sent me to Washington to do.”
The health care summit is set to being at 10 a.m. on Thursday.