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Column: Reform needs healthy bipartisanship

As the outlines of the current version of health care reform begin to emerge, one thing has become perfectly clear: The majority party in Washington has no intention of bipartisanship.

Before the televised summit at the Blair House in Washington, President Obama submitted an 11-page proposal that included "targeted changes" to the 2,700-page Senate bill. Following the summit, the president voiced support for a small number of reforms proposed by Republicans to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in our medical system.

In a modest attempt to address concerns about the runaway medical liability system, he suggested state "demonstrations" that might begin to stem the tide of junk lawsuits that reward trial lawyers, drive up costs, and diminish the quality of care. He also indicated possible support for expanded access to Health Savings Accounts and improved reimbursement for doctors who serve Medicaid patients - steps that will expand access to care.

These ideas would undoubtedly improve the legislation, but one simple fact remains: A government takeover of health care that also happens to reduce medical fraud or modestly enhance health savings is still a government takeover of health care.

The American people have already rejected the legislation crafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid. They do not want a bill that puts federal bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions.

They do not want more than a trillion dollars in new spending paid for with budget gimmicks and on the backs of workers and job creators through a punitive new tax on jobs. They do not want a bill that fails to control and lower health care costs.

Through town hall meetings and tea parties, and at the polls and ballot boxes, the American people have spoken.

But evidently, majority leadership cannot or will not take no for an answer, operating under the arrogant assumption that Americans simply do not understand the bill, and if they did, they would support it.

It is that same conceit that they are using to justify procedural tricks to orchestrate this unparalleled power grab.

Of course, it's not too late to start over.

The American people want a step-by-step approach to reform that will bring down health care costs.

If majority leadership had embraced this strategy from the outset, meaningful reforms could have been signed into law months ago. The American people could already be reaping the benefits of commonsense, bipartisan solutions that lower costs, increase access, and prevent abuses in the health care system.

If the president is serious about bipartisan reform, it is within reach, but he must stop his unnecessarily urgent appeals to Congress for immediate action. Americans deserve better than the false choice between sudden, radical changes to health care or no changes at all.

During the televised health care summit at the Blair House, Republicans put substantive reform policies on the table. We debated ideas and sought common ground.

Pelosi and Reid control the levers of power in Washington. Now they must decide whether to work with us on bringing down health care costs one step at a time, or move full-speed ahead with their plan to create a massive new federal entitlement program and upend one-sixth of our economy - all against the wishes of the American people. The choice is theirs.

Republican John Kline can be reached at (952) 808-1213 or