Republican distortion watch: Grassley edition

Senator Chuck Grassley complained this week that he is not being included in negotiations to merge the health care reform bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee and Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Finance Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, “assured us that Republicans would be at the table through the process of negotiating a single bill,” Grassley said. “And obviously that’s kind of ruled out now by the fact that I am not a part of a bipartisan agreement.”

Look, the HELP Committee adopted about 160 Republican-proposed amendments to the health care bill during the markup process, yet not a single Republican voted to send that bill out of committee. Then Baucus bent over backwards to include Grassley in negotiations all summer, but he joined all the Finance Committee Republicans except for Olympia Snowe in voting against the health care bill. Why should Grassley have a say in how the HELP and Finance bills are combined?

Now Steve Benen catches Grassley “going around the bend” in his criticism of health care reform:

This week, Grassley appears to have completely lost it, offering at least tacit support for radical “Tenther” theories that insist that health care reform may be unconstitutional.

    “I’m not a lawyer, but let me tell you, I’ve listened to some lawyers speak on this. And you know, it’s a relatively new issue. I don’t think we’ve ever had this issue before of having to buy something. And a lot of constitutional lawyers, saying it is unconstitutional or at least in violation of the 10th Amendment. Now maybe states can do this, but can the federal government? So, I have my doubts.”

This was specifically responding to a question about individual mandates — a measure he’s already endorsed as a good idea that he supports.

Obvious inconsistencies notwithstanding, the notion that health care reform is “in violation of the 10th Amendment” is demonstrably ridiculous. The idea that “a lot of constitutional lawyers” see health care reform as unconstitutional is absurd.

For more details on Grassley’s previous public support for an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, read this post by Benen or this one by Jason Hancock.

Grassley’s misleading and inconsistent comments about health care reform have greatly harmed his reputation with Iowa Democrats and independents this year. It will be interesting to see whether he can repair the damage before next November. I don’t see him getting nearly as large a crossover vote as he has in his previous elections.

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