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Deal: Health reform needs more time, common ground
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While Democrats in Congress worked Friday to salvage a health care reform plan and repair dissension in their ranks, leading Republicans were less than supportive of the majority party’s efforts so far.

Among those was U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville, who joined a group of GOP members from the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a news conference Friday on Capitol Hill.

Deal, ranking member of the Health subcommittee, said the Obama administration and House leaders should have given members of Congress more time to consider the proposed major changes in health policy.

"Most of us believe that the decision as to major reform of how Americans get their health care in this country deserves at least as much time and deliberation as it would take to select a puppy to reside in the White House," Deal said, referring to the first family’s search for a dog earlier this year.

"It took the president six months to decide ... which puppy he was going to have, and to expect Congress to do something on major health care reform in six days is totally irresponsible."

While Deal opposes the Democrats’ attempts to overhaul the nation’s health insurance system with a government-funded program, he said there is common ground that can be found between the parties.

"We believe the current system needs some reform," he said. "We believe that the private enterprise system of delivering health care through private insurance companies has some things that need to be fixed.

"For example, we believe that exclusion for pre-existing conditions must be addressed. That the portability of insurance must be involved in any plan that is adopted because people shouldn’t have to worry about losing their health insurance just because they might lose their jobs."

Deal also discussed whether illegal immigrants should be included in any publicly financed health system.

"We have a number of amendments that will assure the taxpayers of this country that they are not going to be using their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for people who are illegally in this country," he said. "Those are things that I think resonate with my constituents, and certainly with most people across this country."

Deal is a candidate for Georgia governor in 2010.

While Republicans offered their views, House Democrats worked on an agreement to stem the growth of Medicare, one key element in a split between the party’s leadership and several of its conservative members.

Congressional leaders say it is unlikely they will approve legislation before their monthlong August recess.

President Barack Obama has continued to push the plan in public appearances, interviews, meetings with lawmakers and a prime-time news conference this week.

"I’m fully committed to making that happen," Obama said in an interview with the AP and other reporters Friday on health care.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.