Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Fact-checking Obama and Republicans at GOP retreat

President Obama takes questions at a retreat for House Republicans
President Obama takes questions at a retreat for House Republicans

President Barack Obama's meeting with congressional Republicans in Baltimore on Friday provided a remarkable glimpse into relations between the president and the GOP.

Republicans complained that Obama and the Democratic leadership hadn't taken a serious look at their policy proposals. Obama complained that Republicans were often more focused on scoring political points than in solving problems.

Obama challenged their facts and, during an exchange with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, said, "I am happy to have any independent fact-checker out there take a look at your presentation versus mine in terms of the accuracy of what I just said."

We accept.

We've examined these claims:

• Rep. Jeb Hensarling did some extreme cherry-picking to suggest that deficits have ballooned under Obama. But using the Hensarling technique, you could also say they were bigger under President George W. Bush. Hensarling earns a False.

• Rep. Tom Price complained that Obama and his aides have repeatedly said that Republicans "have no ideas and no solutions" on health care. We rated that True.

• Obama again cited numbers to complain that he inherited a budget mess when he took office. We rated that Mostly True.

• Another point Obama and the House Republicans sparred over was health care reform. Republicans told Obama they did have positive solutions to improve the health care system, but their efforts were ignored. Obama replied that he is always willing to look at Republican ideas, but those ideas have to be realistic and effective.

"There's got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, 'Is this something that will actually work or is it boilerplate?'" Obama said. "It can't just be political assertions that aren't substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy, because otherwise we're going to be selling the American people a bill of goods."

Here at PolitiFact, we examined a GOP plan for health care in November 2009, so the Republicans are correct that they have produced a proposal. The plan favored consumer choice, addressed medical malpractice lawsuits, and had a much lower price tag than Democratic plans. But experts also said that it did not do much to reduce the number of the uninsured and could reduce consumer protections.