# Death Panels

Grassley voted for end-of-life counseling in 2003 (updated)

Via the Iowa Senate blog, I saw this post by Amy Sullivan at Time magazine’s Swampland blog. She re-read the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, which passed with the votes of most Republicans, including our own Senator Chuck Grassley:

Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

At his Winterset town-hall meeting on Wednesday, Grassley said this:

You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life.  You ought to have it done 20 years before you’re going to die.  You ought to plan these things out. I don’t have any problem with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family. We should not have a government program that determines you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”

Some of the current draft health care reform bills would cover counseling to help people create living wills before they ever get sick, which is what Grassley says should happen. In contrast, the 2003 bill he voted for only covered such counseling for people who were already terminally ill.

How interesting that Grassley only recently, under fire from conservative Republicans, decided that counseling on end-of-life options might allow someone “to decide grandma’s lived too long.”

By the way, Grassley convinced Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to drop the end-of-life provisions from that committee’s draft bill. I didn’t think it was possible for Baucus to prove himself to be any more of a tool for Republicans. Talk about negotiating from a position of weakness. I hope Howard Dean is right in predicting that those provisions will be restored in the final version of the bill.

Speaking of Grassley, he now has two likely Democratic opponents. Bankruptcy attorney and former State Senator Tom Fiegen announced his candidacy today and has a campaign website here. His priority issues are full employment and health care for those without. James Lynch interviewed Fiegen for this piece in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Bob Krause has been exploring a Senate bid for several months. You can learn more about his campaign at KrauseforIowa.com.

Neither Fiegen nor Krause is going to beat Grassley next year, but it’s important to have Democrats committed to making the case against him. That could reduce the number of Democratic and Democratic-leaning independents who cross over to vote for the incumbent, and we need as much straight-ticket voting in 2010 as possible.

UPDATE: Dueling statements from Representative Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Grassley are after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: I missed this story on Wednesday–Grassley was promoting Glenn Beck’s book in Winterset. Great partner in constructive bipartisan negotiations!

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Look how Grassley repays Obama's compliments (updated)

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.

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