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Obama healthcare summit opens: bipartisanship scarce, so far

Obama began Thursday's healthcare summit by asking lawmakers to 'focus on where we agree.' But some tense exchanges, including with former campaign opponent John McCain, showed limited success on the bipartisan front.

President Barack Obama holds a bipartisan healthcare summit to discuss health reform legislation at the Blair House in Washington on Thursday.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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President Obama opened his highly anticipated bipartisan healthcare summit Thursday with a plea to drop the usual talking points and focus instead on areas of agreement.

Halfway through, it appears the president isn’t getting very far. He scolded some Republicans, including his adversary in the 2008 campaign, who did not hesitate to fire back. His own team, Democratic members of Congress, also stuck to a fairly predictable script, recounting healthcare horror stories that they say demonstrate the need for major reform. (For more on the healthcare proposal that Obama put forward this week, click here.)

“What I’m hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus not just on where we differ, but focus on where we agree, because there actually is some significant agreement on a host of issues,” Mr. Obama said as he opened the session, adding that he has looked “very carefully” at various Republican plans.

Obama also sought to shoot down some of the standard Republican rhetoric, such as the repeated claim that Obama and the Democrats seek to enact a federal takeover of the American healthcare system.

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