Senator Jay Rockefeller speculated two weeks ago that the Republicans working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on a health care bill were only trying to delay reform and diminish the bill as much as possible before voting against it. On Monday, "gang of six" member Senator Chuck Grassley went on MSNBC and in effect admitted Rockefeller was right:
"I am negotiating for Republicans," he said. "If I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a good negotiator."
When NBC's Chuck Todd, in a follow-up question on the show, asked the Iowa Republican if he'd vote against what Grassley might consider to be a "good deal" -- i.e., gets everything he asks for from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D) -- Grassley replied, "It isn't a good deal if I can't sell my product to more Republicans."
Grassley's problem isn't not being a good negotiator, it's his failure to negotiate in good faith. Remember, three months ago he was dangling the possibility of 70 to 80 Senate votes for health care reform if only Democrats would take a bipartisan approach to the bill.
Up to now, Baucus and the White House could use Grassley as cover for giving away the store to corporate interests. (Republicans conveniently insist on the same things the drug and insurance lobbies want in or out of the bill.) But if Grassley won't even commit to voting for a bill that contains everything he wants, what is the point of continuing this charade?
Unfortunately, negotiating with Grassley has already done considerable harm. His comment at a town-hall meeting last Wednesday was telling:
"...If (Democrats) do go ahead (on their own), this is what I fear. They get done what they want, they're going to change our health care system forever. You understand I feel a little bit like the boy sticking his finger in the dike, trying to stop the ocean from coming in...If I had not been at the table, there would have been a bill through the (Senate Finance) Committee the week of June 22 and it would have been through the senate by now because there's 60 Democrats so I think that I have, by sticking my finger in the dike, I've had an opportunity to give the grassroots of America an opportunity to speak up as you're seeing every day on television and I think that's a good thing."
Iowa Republicans who can't see how much Grassley is helping their cause amaze me.