WASHINGTON D.C. - President Obama said on Sunday that he will hold a meeting with Republican lawmakers next week, to be followed by a meeting with members of both parties, in an effort to get health care reform legislation back on track.
"What I have been doing is consulting closely with the leaders in the House, the leaders in the Senate on the Democratic side," the president said in a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS's Katie Couric. "And I want to consult closely with our Republican colleagues. So they are going to be coming into the White House next week. And what I want to do is to ask them to put their ideas on the table. And then after the recess which will be a few weeks, I want to come back and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — and go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward."
The president's remarks amounted to yet another step in his efforts to open up his legislative agenda to ideas from Republicans following the Democratic loss in the Massachusetts Senate election. Obama initially put forward the idea of a meeting between Democrats, Republicans and independent experts during a speech before the Democratic National Committee this past Thursday.
At another DNC event on Saturday, he did so again: "[W]e need to change the way we work with the other party as well. Now, I'm proud to be a Democrat," Obama said. "I'm proud to be a leader of this great party. But I also know that we can't solve all of our problems alone. So we need to extend our hands to the other side."
The president is also slated to host a bipartisan group of congressional leaders at the White House this coming week to discuss jobs, in what spokesman Robert Gibbs said would be a monthly series of such events.
On the health care front, the president said he does not regret the decision to tackle reform during the first year of his presidency. He also dismissed the idea that his administration was involved in a dirty "sausage making process" that repelled public support for the legislation — though he acknowledged that the backroom deals "didn't help."
Asked what he hoped to gain from bringing Republicans into the process — something that was already attempted over the summer among members of the Senate Finance Committee — he responded: "What I want to do is to look at the Republican ideas that are out there and I want to be very specific: 'How do you guys want to lower costs? How do you guys intend to reform the insurance market so that people with pre-existing conditions for example can get health care? How do you want to make sure that the 30 million people without insurance can get it? What are your ideas specifically?' And if we can go step by step through a series of these issues and arrive at some agreements then procedural there is not reason we can't do it a lot faster than the process took last year."