On this much both sides agree: On Wednesday, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Snowe (R-Maine) to invite her to the Blair House meeting with the president and lawmakers from both parties. She declined, saying she did not want to go around the established rules for including participants.
White House officials said President Obama had long ago told Snowe he wanted to include her in any public discussion about health care, and was trying to make good on that promise. When he saw that she was not on the list of members chosen by Republican leaders, he had Emanuel call to invite her, and did the same for Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Oregon).
But a top aide to Snowe disputed that account on Thursday. “The President never once in all their meetings or discussions ever told Senator Snowe she had an open invite to attend any future health care meetings,” John Gentzel, Snowe’s communications director, said.
“The first time they reached out to her about attending today’s summit was yesterday morning at 10 a.m. when Rahm called her – 24 hours ahead of time,” Gentzel said. “And if she had a standing invitation, why would they call to invite her? In fact, Senator Snowe talked to the President last Wednesday and he never mentioned the summit or health care. Sounds like they’re trying to create some history.”
A statement from her spokesman, John Gentzel:
“Senator Snowe did receive a call from the White House this morning to attend tomorrow’s bipartisan health care summit. While she greatly appreciates the invitation, the Republican leadership understood the rules of the summit, as established by the Administration weeks ago, were that the Democratic and Republican leadership would select their own members to participate in the event. The Republican leadership had long since selected their team and therefore, it would have been inappropriate for Senator Snowe, under those circumstances, to accept the invitation. This is a summit between the leadership and the President and she believes it is a critical opportunity for the respective leadership teams to convey their ideas directly with the President. Throughout this process, Senator Snowe has been sharing her views with the White House and she assured the White House today that she will continue to play a leadership role on this vital issue in the days and weeks after tomorrow’s event.”