WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama embraced a handful of Republican health care ideas yesterday to lure Democratic votes as he prepared to spell out his final package for a sharply divided House and Senate, where its fate is unsure.
In a bit of political sleight of hand, Obama said he might include four GOP-sponsored ideas in his plan, even though virtually no one in Congress or the White House thinks it will procure a single Republican vote.
The move is aimed instead at wavering Democrats, especially in the House. Some of them might find it easier to vote for the health care package if they can tell constituents it had bipartisan elements that Republicans should have supported. Yet there is no guarantee that Democratic leaders will incorporate Obama's suggestions in revised legislation.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned that Democrats will enact their health care plan at their own political peril, vowing to make it an issue in every congressional race this fall.
In remarks at the White House Wednesday, the president will describe the final elements of his proposal and then ask Congress to enact it, aides said. He is expected to leave no doubt that, barring an unexpected change in Republican tactics, he wants Congress to pass the legislation using budget reconciliation rules, which prohibit Senate filibusters. Obama is unlikely to use those exact words, as Democratic leaders are emphasizing they want to pass a bill with simple majority votes in the House and Senate.
It takes 60 votes to halt a filibuster, and Democrats control only 59 in the Senate.
In a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday, Obama said he would consider four ideas floated by Republican lawmakers: sending investigators disguised as patients to uncover fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid; expanding pilot programs to bring more predictability to medical malpractice lawsuits; increasing payments to Medicaid providers; and expanding the use of health savings accounts.
"I said throughout this process that I'd continue to draw on the best ideas from both parties, and I'm open to these proposals in that spirit," Obama wrote.