Liveblogging: The Republican response

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., a heart surgeon, delivers his party's message on healthcare

Published September 10, 2009 1:36AM (EDT)

As Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., just discovered, the problem with not having a plan on healthcare reform is that it makes it hard to argue very forcefully against a speech like the one President Obama gave tonight.

Boustany, a heart surgeon-turned-politician, gave the official GOP response to Obama's address to a joint session of Congress. But he noted that the GOP agrees with four of the broad principles Obama laid out -- banning insurers from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions, setting up health insurance exchanges for private individuals and small businesses, financial aid for people who can't afford insurance and allowing insurance to offer incentives for wellness care. And he also had to admit that Obama agreed to try some medical malpractice reform -- which the GOP has claimed, not very convincingly, is the main reason costs keep going up.

Which didn't leave Boustany much to quibble with, especially after Obama had made a point of busting some of the myths about the reform that the GOP has been pushing. "Replacing your family’s current healthcare with government-run healthcare is not the answer," Boustany said. That may be true, but that's not what the reform legislation under debate would do. "Republicans are ready -- and we’ve been ready -- to work with the president for common-sense reforms that our nation can afford."

But Republicans still don't have their own draft of a healthcare reform bill, and the party's leaders have made it painfully clear that they don't plan to vote for Obama's proposals. So exactly what they mean by "working with" the president is still uncertain. Boustany didn't do much to change that.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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