Key Senator Calls for Narrower Health Reform Measure
Republican Grassley Cites Town Hall Anger
By Lori Montgomery and Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a key Republican negotiator in the quest for bipartisan health-care reform, said Wednesday that the outpouring of anger at town hall meetings this month has fundamentally altered the nature of the debate and convinced him that lawmakers should consider drastically scaling back the scope of the effort.
After being besieged by protesters at meetings across his home state of Iowa, Grassley said he has concluded that the public has rejected the far-reaching proposals Democrats have put on the table, viewing them as overly expensive precursors to "a government takeover of health care."
Grassley said he remains hopeful that he and five other members of the Senate Finance Committee can draft a better, less costly plan capable of winning broad support from Democrats and Republicans. But as the group, known as the Gang of Six, prepared to continue talking via teleconference late Thursday, Grassley said the members may be forced to reassess the breadth of their efforts in light of public concerns.
"Not just on health care, but on a lot of other things Congress has done this year, people are signaling that we ought to slow up and find out where we are and don't spend so much money and don't get us so far into debt," he said in a telephone interview between stops in Iowa Falls and Ames, where he has been leading foreign diplomats on a week-long tour of the state. The Finance Committee group is still discussing a "comprehensive" plan for extending coverage to millions of uninsured families, he said, but revisiting that approach would be "a natural outcome of what people may be getting from the town hall meetings."
As the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, Grassley has the potential to attract GOP votes by giving his blessing to a bill, and congressional Democrats and the White House consider him the key to winning bipartisan support for President Obama's top domestic priority. In recent days, however, some Democrats have accused Grassley of trying to undermine the reform effort, for example by refusing to debunk rumors that the Democratic health bills would create "death panels" empowered to decide whether the infirm live or die.
On Wednesday, he denied those claims and fired back at Obama, saying the president should publicly state his willingness to sign a bill without a controversial government-run insurance plan. Such a statement, he said, is "pretty important . . . if you're really interested in a bipartisan bill."
"It's not about getting a lot of Republicans. It's about getting a lot of Democrats and Republicans," Grassley said. "We ought to be focusing on getting 80 votes."
On Wednesday, Grassley made clear that he remains committed to pursuing a health-care bill, provided it does not "make things worse" for people who are happy with their insurance or add to swollen budget deficits. His remarks echoed those of other key Republicans -- including Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.), the other GOP negotiators on the finance panel -- as well as some Democrats, who are quietly urging Obama and congressional leaders to lower their expectations for what can be accomplished this year in the interest of building momentum for future reform.
We must give the reasonable Lord Grassley his way! (Later on, Boehner accuses Obama and the Democrats of refusing to work with them.)
Goddam, this article is obtuse and ridiculously credulous. Grassley wasn't just pressed to debunk death panel rumors. He was asked to repudiate them and perhaps apologize. That's because he was spreading them, as in telling his constituents, "…You have every right to fear… . We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." That was before he called the death panel propaganda he's been pimping "nothing more than a distortion coming from far-left," and pivoted to attack Pelosi and other Democrats. Grassley has said he probably won't support his own bill even if he gets everything he wants from it. Meanwhile, he and other Republicans have floated their 80 vote bullshit earlier in the year – it's funny how the same rules never apply to Republicans in power.
It's appalling that Montgomery and Bacon actually present Grassley, Boehner and the gang as acting in good faith and never question it. If these reporters are too gutless to call them out, they could at least find a Democrat or pundit who isn't. (That's how it's often done.) But at the least, they could note Grassley's many other public statements and how they directly undermine his credibility. By not doing that, they deny their readers essential context. There's plenty to be found from the New York Times, MSNBC, Steve Benen, the Huffington Post, Media Matters and other outlets. (Hell, Doonesbury ran the "distortion of the far left" line as its featured quotation.) Matthew Yglesias comments on the same article and points out the super-supermajority idiocy, but that's but one angle the article could have taken. How about a poll of Grassley's constituents and their views? How about a poll of their views before and after he worked to scare them? How about national polls and support for the public option, or a discussion of what policies might actually work well? How about some recognition that Grassley's one senator in the minority party representing an extremely small state? How about pushing him to defend his claims? What about at least focusing on Grassley himself? The WaPo article is sorta like guilelessly quoting an arsonist who's blaming someone else for burning the house down when he's standing there with an empty gas can and the other news stations have been running footage of him torching the place. Glaring contradictions, hypocrisy, suspect claims and possibly outright lies by the subject of the piece are somehow not relevant, not newsworthy, and don't make a good headline?
It's highly unlikely Montgomery and Bacon were unaware of the high bullshit factor to Grassley's claims. The only values in writing a story like this versus a more accurate and skeptical one are a) not pissing off Republicans, and b) helping sink health care reform. Given the conspicuous omissions, this article doesn't even rise to the level of stenography. It's more of a Republican press release.
My favorite bit is probably their shilling of Grassley's tale of suddenly opposing health care reform based on the feedback of constituents (after he's lied to them). It made me start thinking of analogies:
After consulting with the American people, Joseph McCarthy is convinced Edward Murrow is a dirty commie.
After many town halls, John McCain is convinced that the American people really wanted him to be president last November.
After shilling an argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care, Jonah Goldberg is convinced that liberals are the real fascists. (Also, that he is brilliant.)
After a careful examination of her own butt after tequila shots, Pam Atlas is convinced that Barack Obama is Malcolm X's love child - and born in Kenya.
After an exhaustive search for the real killers, O.J. Simpson is convinced of his own innocence.
Make your own…
As DDay and others have noted, "The only way you can really get to a Max Baucus or a Charles Grassley is by threatening their job security." The Democrats can strip Baucus of his chairmanship, and Grassley is up for re-election next year. A strong Democratic challenger could do for Grassley what conscience and basic shame have not.