A partisan spat over bipartisan summit

Republicans trying to make issue of lack of invitations to governors

Published February 24, 2010 6:44PM (EST)

The healthcare summit meeting that the White House is holding tomorrow with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle is supposedly about bipartisanship and rising above politics. But of course, such things are always just as -- or more -- political than anything else, and this is no different, especially with the high stakes that television coverage and President Obama's earlier meeting with House Republicans will bring to the table.

Among other things, there have been negotiations over whether or not a podium will be used (not), whether all the attendees will be able to sit, even over whether food will be served. And lately, the GOP has been making an issue of the fact that the only people invited are elected officials in Washington, not people on the state level like governors and legislators.

House Republican Leader John Boehner has been holding off on releasing the full list of people he's going to bring, and hasn't even formally accepted the invitation to the summit, because governors like Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty haven't been invited. But the White House has stuck to its guns, telling Republicans they won't rethink their decision and allow governors to attend. As you can see below, the GOP criticized the administration for this decision, turning to Twitter to quip, "Apparently D.C. knows best."

Republicans apparently want state officials to join the summit in order to get media attention on new financial burdens for states that are included in Democratic healthcare reform proposals. And, of course, this also gives them an angle to argue that the summit isn't truly bipartisan, that Obama hasn't really opened the discussion to America.

It's a little difficult to see this argument getting much traction, though. For one thing, governors don't get a vote in Congress. For another, Obama just met with the National Governors' Association.

Update: Boehner has now released his list of attendees, none of whom are really surprising. (Only the last four on the list were his choice; the rest, including Boehner himself, were specifically invited by the White House, as were their Democratic counterparts on the committees they'll be representing.) He's also announced the members of a "truth squad," which his office described in a release as "a team of Republicans ready to fact-check misstatements from Washington Democrats and highlight Republicans’ better solutions to lower health care costs" during the summit.

The attendees:

  • Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)
  • Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)
  • Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Republican Joe Barton (R-TX)
  • Ways & Means Committee Ranking Republican Dave Camp (R-MI)
  • Education & Labor Committee Ranking Republican John Kline (R-MN)
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
  • Dr. Charles Boustany (R-LA)
  • Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)
  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

"Truth Squad" members:

  • Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN)
  • Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)
  • Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL)
  • Dr. Paul Broun (R-GA)
  • Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX)
  • Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Dr. John Fleming (R-LA)
  • Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
  • Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA)
  • Dr. Parker Griffith (R-AL)
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
  • Dr. Tim Murphy (R-PA)
  • Dr. Tom Price (R-GA)
  • Dr. Phil Roe (R-TN)
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)
  • Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ)

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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