From NBC's Ken Strickland, Shawna Thomas and Mark Murray
There is lots of reaction today to President Obama's health care proposal to merge the House and Senate bills. Here's a sampling from the Republican leaders in the Senate (Mitch McConnell) and House (John Boehner) as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi SEIU head Andy Stern.
"It's disappointing that Democrats in Washington either aren't listening, or are completely ignoring what Americans across the country have been saying. Our constituents don't want yet another partisan, back-room bill that slashes Medicare for our seniors, raises a half-trillion dollars in new taxes, fines them if they don't buy the right insurance and further expands the role of government in their personal decisions. Republicans will continue to offer the kind of step-by-step reforms to lower costs that our constituents have been asking for in the hundreds of town halls and constituent meetings we have had across the country. But the longer Washington sticks with its failed approach to health care, the longer Americans have to wait for the real, step-by-step reforms that will actually lower costs and lead to a better system. That's what Americans have wanted all along."
"The President has crippled the credibility of this week's summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected. This new Democrats-only backroom deal doubles down on the same failed approach that will drive up premiums, destroy jobs, raise taxes, and slash Medicare benefits. This week's summit clearly has all the makings of a Democratic infomercial for continuing on a partisan course that relies on more backroom deals and parliamentary tricks to circumvent the will of the American people and jam through a massive government takeover of health care.
"The best way to protect families and small businesses in this time of economic uncertainty is to start over with a step-by-step approach to health care reform focused on lowering costs, and that's exactly what Republicans are fighting for. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the Republican bill reduces premiums for families and small businesses by up to 10 percent. The Republican bill reduces premiums by implementing common-sense reforms such as allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines. Despite their rhetoric to the contrary, none of the Democrats' proposals - including the President's - provides this much-needed reform in a manner that can actually be effective.
"Republicans are also standing with the American people by calling for health care reform to protect human life and not use taxpayer money to fund abortion. The Republican bill would codify the Hyde Amendment and prohibit all authorized and appropriated federal funds from being used to pay for abortion, which the President's proposal would allow. Pro-life Democrats in the House have already pledged to vote against this provision. Health care reform should be an opportunity to protect human life - not end it - and the American people agree."
"The President today made available to all Americans the Administration's health insurance reform proposal, which contains positive elements from the House and Senate-passed bills. I look forward to reviewing it with House Members and then joining the President and the Republican leadership at the Blair House meeting on Thursday. This discussion will continue a year-long historic level of transparency and open debate of this crucial reform effort. Our nation is closer than ever to guaranteeing affordable health care to America's middle class and small businesses, lowering costs and strengthening Medicare for seniors, holding insurance companies accountable, and reducing our deficit. The cost of inaction is too great for our nation and for every family facing the heartbreaking reality of skyrocketing health care costs and denied care or coverage. We must pass comprehensive, affordable health insurance reform, and I am hopeful that Thursday's meeting will help us achieve this goal."
SEIU's ANDY STERN:
"This Thursday, Congress has an opportunity to break the gridlock that has denied American families the health insurance reform they are so desperately calling for and need. Our elected representatives need look no further than their own communities to see people hurting. All around this country, we are watching the health insurance industry jack up its premiums. We hear every day about another colleague, another friend, another family member losing their health care coverage. And because our system is broken, we are even losing loved ones.
"We are losing people like Melanie Shouse, a health care activist who passed away from breast cancer and at the time was still fighting with her insurance company that refused to cover her chemotherapy. Health insurance reform was the cause of Melanie's life, and now hundreds of citizens inspired by her bravery and courage are marching her message forward. For the past week, women and men from all walks of life have braved the cold to march from Philadelphia to Washington DC to make sure Congress finishes the job.
"The President recognized with his proposal today that people like Melanie should not have to lose their life because of an insurance company refuses treatment. That insurance companies cannot be allowed to gouge Americans with rate increases that force them to pay up to 39% more for the exact same coverage. And that working families deserve health insurance that covers more and costs less.
With the President's leadership and thoughtful consideration that the only way forward is with comprehensive reform, there is a guarantee that reform can and will be meaningful. And, it is because of that commitment and that of Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi, that every American will soon have a renewed sense of security and a healthcare system that works for them. This Wednesday, I will be in Washington DC standing with Melanie's marchers and hundreds of others to remind Congress there is but one choice: pass comprehensive health insurance reform. After more than a year of debate and more than a century of talk but little action, there is no doubt, the time is now."
"House Republicans welcome any good faith effort to start over on health care reform but the bill President Obama unveiled today is just more of the same government-run insurance, mandates and taxes the American people have overwhelmingly rejected. If this Administration is serious about health care reform, the president should scrap this 'more of the same' health care plan and start from scratch with a clean sheet of paper and an eye toward the kind of reforms that will lower the cost of insurance. House Republicans believe we can still build a bill that will lower the cost of health insurance, without growing the size of government, and are still willing to work with this White House and Congressional Democrats to do just that."