Grassley votes no as Senate Finance Committee approves health care bill

The Senate Finance Committee approved its health care reform bill on a 14-9 vote yesterday, with all Democrats and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine voting in favor. Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley, a key member of the committee’s “gang of six” negotiators this summer, joined the rest of the Republicans in voting against the bill. Speaking to the Des Moines Register Grassley “said he has no regrets about working with majority Democrats on the committee, only to oppose the bill. Given more time, he might have struck a deal, he said.”

This guy is the perfect picture of a bad-faith negotiator. From the Register:

Grassley said he objects most to provisions in the bill that would require Americans to obtain health insurance. But Grassley also said the bill does too little to block federal money being spent to provide abortions and provide coverage for illegal immigrants.

“Those aren’t the only things, but I think they are the most controversial or the most difficult to deal with,” Grassley told The Des Moines Register.

As Jason Hancock reported for the Iowa Independent last week, Grassley publicly supported the idea of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance this summer. I agree that requiring individuals to purchase insurance is problematic if there is no broad-based public health insurance option (because then the government is just subsidizing private insurers), but of course Grassley opposed the public option too.

In addition, the “gang of six” made changes in the bill before markup to address groundless Republican claims about illegal immigrants. According to PolitiFact, the “Baucus plan explicitly states that no federal funds – whether through tax credits or cost-sharing credits – could be used to pay for abortions (again, except for rape, incest, or the life of the mother).”

Trying to cut deals with Grassley is a waste of time. For more on that point, check out the skipper’s recent diary.

Speaking of Grassley, Cityview’s Civic Skinny thinks he should be worried about a potential race against attorney Roxanne Conlin. When a reporter asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack whether his wife, Christie Vilsack, might run against Grassley, he replied, “You should ask her about that.” (UPDATE: Dave Price did ask her and wonders whether she is the mystery candidate.)

As for the health care bill, the Finance Committee and HELP Committee versions have to be merged before a floor vote. It’s imperative that a public option be included in the version sent to the floor, and HELP Committee representative Chris Dodd says he will fight for that. On the other hand, Snowe and a few Democrats, like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, might vote against the bill on the floor if it contains a public option. Chris Bowers wrote more at Open Left about the merging process in the House and Senate.

Continue Reading...

Grassley's case against health care reform

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.

Continue Reading...

What a real public option would look like

BruceMcF breaks it down for you:

So: (1) Public Choice

“No Taxation without Representation”. Every single person facing an individual mandate must be provided with the choice of a publicly administered plan. Otherwise the government is forcing the citizen to pay without the elected representatives of the citizen controlling the spending.

You want to put a trigger on the public option. Fine, except the exact same trigger applies to the individual mandate.

You want to restrict access to the public option to some smaller group? Fine, except the same restriction applies to the individual mandate.

The system is not politically legitimate if it requires payment to for-profit commercial corporations.

(2) Robust

It cannot be lumbered down with any restrictions not faced by private insurers.

State by state public options? Really? You are really prepared to restrict the corporations to firms with no commercial activity across state lines? If they are free standing state by state public options, it has to be state by state for profit corporations. Oh, not allowing [United Healthcare] into the exchanges defeats the purpose of lining private pockets at the public expense? Yeah, kind of thought so.

BruceMcF has long been one of my favorite transportation bloggers and has written great stuff on health care reform too, including Axelrod: Government by Consent of the Corporation. His home blog is Burning the Midnight Oil, but he frequently cross-posts his work at Progressive Blue, Daily Kos, My Left Wing, Docudharma, and the Hillbilly Report.

Speaking of real and fake public options, Timothy Noah explains “the sorry history” of triggers enacted by Congress, and slinkerwink has suggestions and talking points to use when contacting House Progressives about health care reform. I still think it’s worth urging Populist Caucus members as well as Progressives to insist on a real, not fake or triggered, public option in the final health care bill.

Bruce Braley (IA-01) leads the Populist Caucus, and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) both belong to the caucus. All of them have advocated for the public option, but to my knowledge none has pledge to vote down any bill that lacks a public option.

For those interested in the nitty gritty of legislative wrangling, David Waldman ponders what might happen if the Senate Finance Committee members can’t agree and consequently fail to report out a health care bill.

Continue Reading...

New thread on possible challengers for Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley already has two likely Democratic opponents (Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen), but rumors persist that a better-known Iowa Democrat is thinking seriously about this race.

I still don’t buy the rumors that Representative Bruce Braley will take on this challenge, even though Braley sharply criticized Grassley in a guest piece for the Huffington Post on Friday. With Grassley’s approval ratings still outside the danger zone for an incumbent, I would hate to see Braley give up a safe House seat and a good committee assignment to run in 2010. He is young enough to wait until either Grassley or Harkin retires.

Whether or not Braley intends to run for Senate next year, he could raise his profile and support by promising to work as hard to keep a strong public option in the health care reform bill as Grassley is working to keep one out. (Progressive activists have now raised nearly $400,000 for House Democrats who promise not to vote for any health care bill lacking a strong public option.) A joint statement on behalf of Braley’s Populist Caucus would do even more to bolster Braley’s reputation as a fighter for a strong health care reform bill.

Other names being floated on various blogs include former first lady Christie Vilsack, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Mike Blouin, a former member of Congress who headed the state Department of Economic Development when Tom Vilsack was governor. Blouin narrowly lost the 2006 gubernatorial primary to Chet Culver, so he has recent experience campaigning statewide. On several issues Blouin and I are as far apart as any two Democrats could be, but I thought displacedyankdem made a strong case for him:

Even if he’s not in the very highest tier of candidates (Vilsack, Miller, and Braley), he is:

a)several tiers higher than Grassley’s past 3 opponents

b)likely to automatically get at least 35% and likely 40% of the vote (somewhere between 7 and 12 points higher than the last 3)

c)a strong enough candidate to take advantage if there is a Macaca moment a la Jim Webb 2006

d)likely to tie down millions of dollars in GOP money

e)risk free in that he’s not giving up an office

f)just young enough to be on the edge of viability (maybe I’m making too much out of the seniority thing)

Since running against Grassley will be an uphill battle, I would like Democrats to nominate someone who doesn’t have to give up a current elected position.

On a related note, Grassley is still playing rope-a-dope with the White House, this morning backing down on his ridiculous comments about pulling the plug on grandma. I hope key people in the Obama administration finally understand that nothing is to be gained by seeking a compromise with Grassley. The Senate Finance Committee “gang of six” is taking two weeks off from negotiating, probably because delays help Republican efforts to defeat health care reform.

Share any thoughts about Grassley or the 2010 Senate race in this thread.

Continue Reading...

Chuck Grassley, bad-faith negotiator

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.

Continue Reading...
View More...