THE NON-EXISTENT GOP ALTERNATIVE…. When inviting participants to the White House health care summit, President Obama urged Republicans to “put forward their own comprehensive bill … and make it available online,” just as Democrats have done.

We’ve known for a while that GOP leaders would ignore the request and not offer a comprehensive bill. The big hint came last week when a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We will not be offering a comprehensive bill.” Another senior GOP aide added today that Republicans “fundamentally disagree” with the very idea of putting together a comprehensive bill.

But this only encourages the White House to keep talking about it. Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote an item today emphasizing the importance of giving the public an opportunity to evaluate competing approaches to the problem.

That’s why yesterday the White House posted online the President’s proposal for bridging the differences between the Senate- and House-passed health insurance reform bills. The proposal puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. It makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle-class tax cuts for health care in history, it ends discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, holds insurance companies accountable, and reduces our deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years.

But you don’t have to take our word for it: the proposal is posted right here at for everyone to examine. You can read through the plan’s bipartisan ideas section by section, or you can select your health care status and find out what the proposal would mean for you. You can even submit a question for our policy staff to answer.

What you can’t do just yet is read about the Republicans’ consensus plan — because so far they haven’t announced what proposal they’ll be bringing to the table.

In an interesting little twist, the administration has even offered to publish a Republican alternative proposal on the White House website, posting them side by side for Americans to review and evaluate.

The Republicans offered a response yesterday. It wasn’t very good.

House Republican Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office urged Gibbs instead to “talk with his boss,” who only last month discussed healthcare reform with the chamber’s GOP members at their annual retreat.

“Our health care alternative — the full text of the legislation — has been available at for months, which President Obama knows, since he discussed it with us in Baltimore a few weeks ago,” spokesman Michael Steel said.

There are three problems with this. First, the GOP alternative is made up of four key areas — all of which have already been incorporated into the Democratic proposals.

Second, this is the House GOP bill. The goal is to see a Republican proposal embraced by both chambers’ caucuses — an official GOP proposal for the party.

And third, House Republicans posted this months ago. Is it still their plan? Has it evolved or adapted at all? Democrats don’t know unless the GOP says so. If this is the Republican plan on health care policy, GOP leaders can present it as such. They haven’t.

This is a real area of vulnerability for Republicans, and they know it. Democrats have presented (and passed) a solid piece of legislation that addresses a serious national crisis. It’s paid for and it’ll work. Republicans have presented … not a whole lot.

There’s a leadership gap between the parties and it’s showing.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.