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Grassley Blames White House for Botching Health Care Deal

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday lashed out at President Barack Obama and his chief political adviser, David Axelrod, for accusing him of putting politics over bipartisanship in the contentious fight over health care reform.Grassley said it is the White House’s fault that the bipartisan group of six Finance Committee Senators was unable to reach a consensus on health care reform. The Iowa Republican made the comments after the Finance Committee met to go over Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) $856 billion health care package, which he unveiled Wednesday.“I’ll tell ya, there’s some things the president has since then that I took very personally,— Grassley told reporters. “He gave some speeches during August in which he was associating me with efforts to make [Baucus’ bill] a political document and with efforts that other people in the country were [making] to give extremes — like on the end of life situation. And associating me with things that — I used the words he said — but associating me with other efforts to kill it.—“I was answering a question for a constituent at a town meeting in Iowa, stating a position that I’d stated here back in March,— Grassley continued, referring to a town hall meeting in which he vowed to oppose any health care reform legislation that would result in the federal government “pulling the plug on grandma.—“I kind of resent, that when I’ve been very candid with the president of the United States face to face — like when he asked me, would I support a bill, a bill that’s three Republicans and 58 Democrats. I said that’s not a bipartisan bill,— Grassley added. “I’ve leveled with him. I’ve leveled with him going back to the meeting we’ve had on March the sixth … And then, we’re accused by Axelrod of making political things and maybe not being serious in our negotiations. I just stated, you know, that we’ve had 31 meetings of this group of six, we’ve had nine walk-throughs, I’ve had 156 meetings in my office dealing with health care — either with constituents or with other Members. And if that isn’t evidence enough that we were serious to arrive at it — then being accused of being political in the month of August, when I didn’t say anything different in Iowa than I’ve been saying in Washington, you know, that’s not a very good environment to carry on a conversation.—Much of what’s in Baucus’ bill is a direct result of the gang of six negotiations, and Grassley said there was a point last week when he thought the group would be able to reach a deal in time for Baucus to unveil the package. But Grassley, who is up for re-election in 2010, said several issues remain unresolved, preventing him from signing on. Grassley asserted that differences within the gang of six could have been worked out if the White House and Senate Democratic leaders hadn’t pushed Baucus to release the legislation this week.The gang of six includes Baucus, Grassley, Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine). Grassley indicated he would be offering amendments to Baucus’ package when the bill is marked up next week, but he did not sound optimistic about being able to vote it out of committee.“Sen. Baucus needs to be commended time after time after time for being entirely fair and entirely thorough in everything that’s gone on. Unfortunately, he’s had to move ahead — I don’t believe by his choice,— Grassley said. “I believe [he’s] being pushed by the White House and Senate leadership to move ahead, when there are still some things unresolved, and some of those are contentious things that need to be resolved. But I think they could have been resolved.—

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