Skip to content

Grassley Defends Role in Health Care Debate

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) on Tuesday defended his strategy of negotiating a health care compromise and rebuffed Democratic charges that he and his fellow Senate Republicans are playing politics on the issue.During his weekly conference call with home-state reporters, Grassley said Democrats would have a better chance of implementing a public insurance option if he wasn’t in talks with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and other “reasonable Democrats— on a bipartisan health care compromise. Grassley also criticized as misguided a strategy employed by some Republicans to try to force President Barack Obama to the negotiating table by spurning bipartisan negotiations and trying to bring the Finance talks to a halt.Grassley is one of three Republicans and three Democrats on the Finance Committee who have been trying to negotiate a health care reform deal. Negotiators failed to reach an agreement before the August recess, and it remains unclear if a breakthrough will occur in time to meet Baucus’ Sept. 15 deadline. The Finance negotiators include Baucus, Grassley, Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).“There’s a feeling that the only way to get a bipartisan agreement is to defeat a Democratic proposal in the first hand and then the Democrats will come to Republican leadership. And then at that point, they’ll know the only way they’re going to get health care reform is bipartisan. But my position has been that if that strategy doesn’t work and the Democrats go ahead and establish a public option, for instance, or a play or pay as a way of putting an 8 percent tax on payrolls for people who don’t offer health insurance — and dozens of other bad things — including leading us to Canadian-style single payer plan, then, if the Democrats are successful in doing that, we’ll be stuck with that plan forever,— Grassley told reporters. “So I’ve been taking to Max Baucus and other Democrats trying to ward off such a role of the dice, and ward off any chance that we’d end up with a government-run, federalized health insurance program like Canada has.—Grassley also said it is inaccurate for Democrats to accuse Republicans of being against health care reform, noting that numerous GOP Senators have introduced health care bills this Congress. Grassley, who is up for re-election in 2010, referred to an Associated Press story that quoted Baucus as saying that the Republican Party is pressuring Grassley, Enzi and Snowe not to participate in the Finance talks.“It’s not quite fair for Max to say that everything’s been political, because Republicans have bills in to reform health care,— Grassley said, referring to one bill in particular that was proposed earlier this year by GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.). Grassley said it is too early to write off the bipartisan Finance talks or give up hope for a compromise on health care generally, saying he needs to take the temperature of his colleagues in the House and Senate when Congress resumes its work next week. But signaling the challenges that lies ahead, Grassley reiterated that his support for health care legislation is predicated on it being able to garner the support of more than just a few Senate Republicans.“In fact, I told the president I wouldn’t be for a plan that only got 60 [votes],— Grassley said. “Max Baucus and I have been saying since the first of the year that you’re restructuring one-sixth of the economy, it ought to be done with a broad bipartisan consensus. And we’ve been thinking in terms of 75 to 80 votes.—

Recent Stories

Supreme Court sounds skeptical of cross-state air pollution rule

Another year, another disaster aid gap as funding deadline nears

Tall order for lawmakers to finish spending bills next week

Capitol Ink | It’s gotta be the shoes

Truck rule is first test drive of federal autonomous vehicle oversight

One plan to modernize Congress? A coworking space