For months, White House officials and Senate leaders praised the "gang of six" negotiations toward a bipartisan deal on health care reform, even as other observers doubted the Republicans in that group were negotiating in good faith. At the beginning of the summer recess in August, Senator Jay Rockefeller (who was shut out of the deal-making) warned:
Changes to the bill have been frustrating, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) told reporters at a press conference, particularly given that the Republicans -- Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Olympia Snowe of Maine -- are, in his opinion, just stalling for time.
"You just watch as the bill diminishes in its scope, in its coverage, in its ferocity to try to attack the problem. I don't know where it will come out," Rockefeller said. "My own personal view is that those three Republicans won't be there to vote it out of committee when it comes right down to it, so that this all will have been a three-or-four-month delay game, which is exactly what the Republicans want."
No Republicans stood with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus last week as he finally unveiled what David Waldman described as "a plan that amounts to capitulating to every Republican demand, and then adding a heaping pile of political suicide on top of it." The bill is in markup this week, and CA Berkeley WV has been blogging the Senate Finance Committee meetings for Congress Matters (day one, day two and day three).
Where does ranking Finance Committee member Grassley stand after Baucus bent over backwards to keep negotiating with him all summer? After the jump I've posted the relevant portion of a transcript from Grassley's September 24 telephone news conference with Iowa reporters. The short version is, he's against the bill because:
1. The individual mandate to buy health insurance amounts to "[q]uite a steep tax for people that maybe don't pay a tax."
2. Democrats supposedly were "not willing to go far enough" on enforcement to make sure illegal immigrants wouldn't be covered.
3. Democrats supposedly "weren't willing to go far enough to make sure that the subsidy through the tax credit was not used to finance abortions."
4. You shouldn't be "increasing taxes and cutting Medicare" when "we're in depression."
I told Iowa Republicans not to worry about Grassley voting for any health care reform bill. Senate Democrats should reject the concessions Baucus made to win GOP votes that are now off the table.