The White House continues to push its health care reform bill and passage before the August recess, while republican House members push back, saying the tax increases in the bill can't be absorbed, not even by the wealthiest in the nation.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, questions the overall cost of the administration plan, saying republicans want to focus on job creation, and not allow a bill to pass that will raise costs.
"From the very beginning of this Congress, we have been focused on one thing, and that is job creation," Cantor said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "It is extraordinary, the breadth of the bill that is being pushed through and the cost associated with it. And ultimately, the cost is going to be borne by the people of this country -- the middle class, the wealthy, those who can least afford it, all of us are going to be paying an astronomical cost at a time that we just cannot afford this ambitious grab."
Republicans in the House are also focusing on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is a proponent of the White House plan. Representative Tom Price, from Georgia, targeted the speaker, citing a January 29 interview where she said the President's stimulus would create jobs immediately.
"Five months later, the American people have begun to lose patience with the speaker's spin," Price said. "Americans have learned a costly lesson over the last five months, and that's that government doesn't create wealth, it only consumes it. So after 2 million jobs and a $2 trillion deficit created, we must ask this: Is this what the speaker had in mind when she shackled our children and our grandchildren to this experiment in big government economics?"
For her part, Speaker Pelosi says the tax increases that have the Republicans so fired up may not be necessary if cuts can be found elsewhere. "I believe the most of the cost of the health care bill can come from squeezing out savings," Pelosi said, a statement explicitly designed to increase support from the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of fiscally conscious democrats who have said this themselves in the past few days and feel as if the Democratic leadership has let their issues fall away from the overall legislation.
But, try as the leadership might to appease the masses, the Blue Dogs aren't budging on getting their ideas included in the health care plan.
"The house health care legislation did not include blue dog thinking," said Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee democrat, in an interview with Fox News. "So there will be a lot of blue dog amendments that are going to be offered in the committee markup. So far, the group of seven blue dogs is holding firm and if they hold firm they can get their way and win on their amendments." And even if the Blue Dogs get the blame for a truncated August recess, it's something they are willing to deal with. "You can be criticized for lots of things and I'd rather be accused of ruining somebody's vacation than passing a bad piece of health care legislation." said Cooper.
Meanwhile, senators the administration is hoping they can count on met with President Obama at the White House today. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is one of those Senators the White House believes will help push through their plan. Snowe said she thinks the overall plan can be accomplished, even if it's not before the August recess. "We should achieve broad reform this year in universal coverage. On the other hand, it's a very costly endeavor," Snowe said. "It's important we get it right."
However, while Snowe was at the White House, democrats in the Senate were slamming the White House plan. The only bipartisan effort, being hammered out in the Finance Committee, is still stuck in a rut as members try to come up with about $320 billion in revenue to pay for the massive reforms.
Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, who has been working for months on a bipartisan overhaul, was clearly frustrated Thursday, telling reporters, "The President is not helping us," as Obama opposes one major way of bringing in the money: taxing employer-provided health benefits.
Normally these benefits are excluded from taxation, but Baucus is finding it difficult to continue this exclusion as he searches for revenue. "Is tax exclusion off the table? No," Baucus said, emphatically bucking the President.
** Senate and House senior producers Trish Turner and Chad Pergram contributed to this story