At yesterday's town-hall meeting in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama had nice things to say about Senator Chuck Grassley:
"Now, I think that there are some of my Republican friends on Capitol Hill who are sincerely trying to figure out if they can find a health care bill that works - Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe from Maine have been - yes, I got to admit I like Olympia, too. They are diligently working to see if they can come up with a plan that could get both Republican and Democratic support."
In addition, Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register noticed that Organizing for America is not mobilizing Obama's supporters to show up at Grassley's town-hall meetings in Iowa. Instead, Organizing for America is trying to drive turnout to events hosted by Iowa's Democrats in Congress.
Grassley's holding four public events today, and @iahealthreform is helpfully liveblogging them on Twitter. Look at how Grassley talks about health care reform and tell me whether Obama should praise Grassley's efforts.
Grassley told a crowd in Afton that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world and that he won't nationalize healthcare or "do anything that allows Washington between a doctor and you." Grassley also claimed that Obama "is pursuing a partisan bill." While in Winterset, Grassley promoted the latest bogus Republican talking point about killing Granny.
Yes, he went there. Iowa Independent has more:
"In the House bill, there is counseling for end of life," Grassley said. "You have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma"
A few hours later in Panora, Grassley did it again:
I don't want the government involved in end of life decisions. I'm not going to decide to plug the plug on grandma.
Never mind that even Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia has denounced this paranoid reading of a provision that "empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you." Never mind that the Iowa legislature has already passed (with bipartisan support) a provision to encourage people to create living wills.
Grassley's involvement in health care negotiations cannot improve whatever bill emerges. He could be negotiating in bad faith so that delays prevent Democrats from passing health care reform through budget reconciliation. (Grassley told the Panora crowd that he's in negotiations, but "things can fall apart at any time.")
Alternatively, Grassley could be negotiating in good faith to produce a bipartisan bill with no meaningful public option. An individual mandate to buy overpriced private insurance, with no public plan to compete, would be a gravy train for private insurers. I agree with Daniel De Groot that the failure of Grassley and other conservatives to oppose an individual mandate shows what an "utter sham and fraud" movement conservatism is.
It's past time for the president to stop praising the Republicans whom Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is bending over backwards to accommodate. No matter how many nice things Obama says about Grassley, Grassley will repeat Frank Luntz's talking points on health care and keep trying to move the bill to the right.
What Chris Bowers wrote two months ago is still true:
the goal of health care legislation is to reduce the cost of health care and increase access to health care. By contrast, the goal of bipartisanship is to get Democrats and Republicans to agree with each other. Those are different goals with no inherent connection. [...]
The purpose of bipartisanship is so that, in the event that you pass legislation that is unpopular and / or does not end up working, then it is impossible to take all of the blame for it.
That is the purpose of bipartisanship in health care reform legislation. Not reducing costs or increasing access.
Obama should start drawing lines in the sand. If the president wants "a health care bill that works," he should be clear about what that bill must contain. Hoping for some Republican votes isn't going to cut it.
UPDATE: Representative Bruce Braley issued the following statement:
Wednesday August 12, 2009
Braley Statement Reacting to Grassley Claim on End-of-Life Care in Healthcare Reform Bill
Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement in reaction to comments made by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley at a town hall in Winterset, Iowa, today regarding provisions on end-of-life care in healthcare reform proposals being considered by Congress:
"I'm shocked that Senator Grassley would reinforce the ridiculous claim that paying doctors to discuss end-of-life care with their patients is somehow 'pulling the plug on grandma.' This comment is demeaning to seniors who want the choice of consulting with their doctor about important end-of-life healthcare decisions. Now is the time for a rational discussion of healthcare concerns, not a time to spread fear among seniors," said Braley.
Numerous organizations have debunked as false the claim that the government would make end-of-life decisions on behalf of seniors. Provisions in healthcare reform proposals merely allow Medicare to reimburse healthcare providers for multiple end-of-life care consultations, allowing seniors greater choices and flexibility in their care.
· Republican Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) stated: "How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as [euthanasia] is nuts... The problem you got is that there's so much swirling around about health care and people are taking bits and pieces out of this. This was thoroughly debated in the Senate MVP. It's voluntary. Every state in America has an end of life directive or durable power of attorney provision." [Washington Post, 8/11/09]
· AARP stated: "This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves, but also better ensure that their wishes are followed... To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion..." [7/24/09]
· USA Today stated: "...lies appear to be in full sprint as the nation's health care debate goes local... In this case it's a section of a House bill inserted by members of both parties to allow Medicare to pay doctors for optional end-of-life counseling, something that's already covered in a new patient's first Medicare visit... But critics have twisted this into a sinister, cost-saving plot by the government to force seniors to end their lives early... Neutral arbiters have rightly demolished this." [USA Today, 8/10/09]
· The Associated Press stated: "Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes." [AP, 8/11/09]
The Iowa Senate Democrats also issued a long statement with details about the "end-of-life care" provision that passed the legislature in 2008 with large bipartisan majorities in both houses (including Chuck Grassley's grandson, State Representative Pat Grassley). Radio Iowa posted the full release, which includes the relevant portions of House File 2539. Here is an excerpt:
Statement by Iowa State Senator Joe Bolkcom, chair of the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee and former member of the Iowa Health Care Reform Commission
"U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley today disappointed the vast majority of Iowans when he engaged in the lowest form of political mudslinging by repeating the vicious slur that health reform may 'pull the plug on grandma.'
"Here are the facts. The provisions in the health reform bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives which extremists have mischaracterized as "death panels" refer to helping patients, families and their doctors develop living wills. As anyone honestly dealing with health care issues knows, living wills are a wise way for patients to manage their end-of-life care and make sure their dignity and wishes are respected.
"Senator Grassley should understand the value of this legislation. If he has sincere concerns, he could ask his grandson about the issue. Pat Grassley, who now holds Senator Grassley's former seat in the Iowa House of Representatives, voted in 2008 for the same legislation that Senator Grassley now calls pulling the plug on grandma.
"Is Senator Grassley, said to be the leading Senate Republican on health reform, so misinformed that he honestly believes this outrageous distortion? If so, then I question his ability to ever make an informed judgment on the health needs of Iowans.
"However, I don't think Senator Grassley is misinformed. I think it is more likely that he has decided to pander to the most extreme members of the Republican base by repeating outlandish statements that he knows to be false.
"Today, at Iowa town meetings which were closely followed by the national media, Senator Chuck Grassley let down the majority of Iowans who want real health insurance reforms, reforms that will bring them lower costs, more choices, and protection from insurance company abuses."
FACT: On April 25, 2008, Senator Grassley's grandson VOTED for similar "end-of-life care" legislation in the Iowa Legislature
In 2008 the Iowa Legislature overwhelmingly approved House File 2539, a major health reform bill that was later signed into law by Governor Chet Culver. [...]
The legislation included a section titled "End-of-Life Care." In this section the Iowa Department of Public Health was directed to consult with various medical and advocacy organizations to "develop educational and patient-centered information on end-of-life care for terminally ill patients and health care professionals." It also directed the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs to develop a long-term care options public education campaign.