Sunday, April 19, 2009

President Obama wants Republicans to return to Congress this week from their spring recess with a more constructive attitude toward health care, energy and other administration initiatives. Republican lawmakers say they have ideas, just not the ones the president may want.

“When you’re the party of no, when you’re the party of never; when you’re the party of no new ideas, that’s not constructive,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday. “The challenge will be, will the Republicans come to the table with constructive ideas?”

Mr. Emanuel predicted progress by congressional committees on changing the health care system, particularly on proposals for controlling costs and providing incentives for healthy lifestyles. Mr. Obama will not consider proposals to tax employer benefits before those and other problems are addressed, Mr. Emanuel said, and perhaps not even then.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, agreed that Democrats and Republicans want Americans to have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance and that lawmakers differ on how to reach that goal.

“We’re working on a plan that preserves the doctor-patient relationship, rewards quality and rewards innovation,” Mr. Boehner said. “We’re not for a plan that puts the government in charge of our health care, decides what doctors ought to be paid or what treatments ought to be prescribed.”

On energy, Mr. Boehner said Republicans continue to favor a comprehensive strategy, including more nuclear energy and more domestic oil drilling, that they pushed last year.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases pose a major health hazard, Mr. Boehner dismissed concerns about carbon dioxide as “almost comical.” He questioned the role humans have played in climate change and what should be done about global warming.

“We don’t want to raise taxes, $1.5 to $2 trillion like the administration is proposing, and we don’t want to ship millions of American jobs overseas,” he said. “And so we’ve got to find ways to work toward this solution to this problem without risking the future for our kids and grandkids.”

Mr. Emanuel rejected Republican criticism that Mr. Obama’s plan for a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions amounts to a broad-based tax increase. He predicted that by the end of the first year of the new Congress the president would have an energy bill, though he would not say whether the cap-and-trade proposal would be part of it.

“Even those who object to particulars know that we have to deal with this part of our energy policy and that — the challenge now is, rather than to criticize and rather than say no, rather than to say never, is to provide ideas. And that has yet to happen from the other side,” he said.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said it remains to be seen whether the president’s budget proposal would gain any Republican support in Congress.

“No one expects the Republican Party to fully embrace what we’re doing,” Mr. Axelrod said. “What they would like is for us to ratify the policies that we’ve had for the last eight years that have gotten us into the mess we’re in. We have two parties for a reason, but there are areas of common interest, and we ought to pursue them.”

Democrats and Republicans also differ on how to crack down on abuses by credit-card companies.

Just before the break the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee approved limiting the reasons card issuers could raise interest rates and fees on consumers. Instead of such limits, Republicans favor prosecuting predatory lenders and requiring issuers to more fully disclose agreements in language that consumers easily can understand.

White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers said that putting a stop to the marketing of credit cards in ways that “addicts” people to them will help Americans save more of their money.

Mr. Obama is “going to be very focused, in a very near term, on a whole set of issues having to do with credit card abuses, having to do with the way people have been deceived into paying extraordinarily high rates that they wouldn’t have paid if they knew what they were getting themselves into,” Mr. Summers said.

Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Boehner appeared on ABC’s “This Week” while Mr. Axelrod spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Mr. Summers’ interview was with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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