WASHINGTON -- So what'd Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, think of President Barack Obama's bipartisan health care summit today?
"I was discouraged, and frankly, the reason I was discouraged is because the president essentially started the meeting by saying he wanted the proposal he put on the Internet on Monday to be the template for negotiations," Crapo said. “As long as we continue to focus on that very same bill, it just continues the debate over a proposal the American people really don't want."
Going into the summit, Crapo had been the most optimistic member of Idaho’s legislative delegation. Crapo was not among the 38 invitees to the conference, held at Blair House across the street from the White House. However, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee – which held extensive hearings on the Senate version of the bill – Crapo has had a front row seat to the negotiations and more involvement than any other Idaho lawmakers.
Thursday, Crapo said he had hoped the negotiators at Blair House would have "started fresh and focused on areas where they can build consensus to reduce costs and increase access," a message echoed by many Republicans this week.
As for what happens next, Crapo said he fears the president will take a "we tried" approach with Republicans, and move forward on health care without the GOP. That means they’ll be "right back in the same health care battle we had last year," Crapo said.
"Really today he did not offer a true negotiation," Crapo said. "What he offered today was that we accept the bill he put forward…and pack in a few Republican ideas and pass it."
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said he, too, wasn’t hopeful: "We can and must reform health care, but Americans have made it loud and clear they don't want this plan."
Obama himself left the meeting saying it was unclear whether the ideological divide between his party and the Republicans would lead to a bipartisan plan.
"I don't know that those gaps can be bridged," he said. "And it may be that at the end of the day we come out of here and everybody says, 'Well, you know, we have some honest disagreements. People are sincere in wanting to help, but they've got different ideas about how to do it, and we can't bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this."