House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday he intends to find the common ground with House Republicans on the controversial health care reform bill, saying he's going in search of the "80 percent" agreement that Republicans say they share with Democrats.
"I'll be reaching out to a number of Republicans," Hoyer said, citing two recent instances in which Republicans suggested they agreed on 80 percent of the issues involved in reforming health care.
"I want to find out what that 80 percent is," Hoyer, D-Md., said.
Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany said he'd be happy to meet with Hoyer.
"I look forward to meeting with you in the near future to talk about solutions to lower health care costs," he wrote in reply to a letter from Hoyer. "We can achieve many of these bipartisan reforms without disrupting existing coverage, growing the deficit or threatening jobs."
In an interview two weeks ago on MSNBC, Boustany indicated bipartisan agreement in four-fifths of the areas being discussed.
"I would venture to say we agree on about 80 percent of the issues," said Boustany, whom the GOP tapped to respond to President Obama's health care speech before a joint session of Congress two weeks ago.
On Monday, Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott joined his fellow Virginian, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, in a health care debate in Richmond where the two agreed that the sides agree on 80 percent of the main issues in the health care debate.
"Eric and I agree on 80 percent," Scott said before Cantor added that the 80 percent won't get done if the 20 percent isn't.
"I do think you can fix some of the 20 percent," Cantor added.
Pressed as to whether the 20 percent included a "public option" for health insurance, Hoyer underscored the commitment of the House Democratic caucus to approving health care legislation that includes a government-operated insurance plan.
"We're not talking about dropping the public option," Hoyer said.
Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for Cantor, added, "There are lots of things we can agree upon."
Dayspring said Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to reforming medical malpractice suits, banning the denial of coverage for persons suffering from pre-existing conditions and allowing people to take health insurance with them after they lose a job.
However, Dayspring was careful to note that Republicans didn't agree with 80 percent of the three health care reform bills crafted in the House or the health care legislation now on the table in the Senate.