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Republicans cool to healthcare talk on TV

WASHINGTON — Republicans gave a chilly reception yesterday to President Barack Obama’s invitation to discuss healthcare in a bipartisan, televised setting later this month, part of the White House effort to revive the stalled legislation.

The House and Senate GOP leaders said Obama and his fellow Democrats must shelve their long-debated healthcare bill, which was on the verge of becoming law until Republican Scott Brown won a special Senate election in Massachusetts last month. The White House says Obama has no plans to do so but is willing to hear Republicans’ ideas.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Monday that the first question for Obama should be: “Did you lie about moving forward on malpractice reform?” He was alluding to the president’s earlier remarks about possibly curbing malpractice lawsuits, which is not included in the health bills passed separately by House and Senate Democrats in December.

In the first major move to jump-start his healthcare agenda after his party’s loss of a filibuster-proof Senate majority, Obama on Sunday invited GOP and Democratic leaders to discuss possible compromises in a half-day, televised gathering on Feb. 25.

It comes amid widespread complaints that Democrats’ efforts so far have been too partisan and secretive.

The meeting’s prospects for success are far from clear. GOP leaders insisted on starting from scratch. But many Democrats want to use their party’s remaining parliamentary muscle to enact their plans with as few changes as possible.

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