Earlier this month, when media outlets reported that top Democrats and White House officials seemed set to go it alone on health care reform due to “hardening Republican opposition,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs pushed back on the story by saying the he had “no reason to believe” that Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Olympia Snow (R-ME) weren’t “working in good faith” to forge a bipartisan compromise.
But since then, Enzi and Grassley have taken actions that have called their commitment to bipartisan reform into serious question. On Saturday, while delivering the weekly Republican address, Enzi attacked Democratic reform plans using misleading and false talking points such as claiming that “the bills would expand comparative effectiveness research that would be used to limit or deny care based on age or disability of patients.” Grassley, for his part, sent out a fundraising letter saying he was trying “defeat ‘Obama-care.'”
At the White House press briefing today, Gibbs said he hadn’t seen Grassley’s letter yet, but declared that Enzi’s address meant that he had “clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship”:
GIBBS: The president is firmly committed to working with Democrats, Republicans, independents, anybody who wants to see progress on health care reform. I will say this. I haven’t seen the contents of that letter. Certainly, I think the radio address over the weekend by Sen. Enzi repeating many of the generic Republican talking points — that Republicans are using that have bragged about being opposed to health care — are tremendously unfortunate, but in some ways illuminating. It appears that at least in Sen. Enzi’s case he doesn’t believe there’s a pathway to get bipartisan support and the president thinks that’s wrong. I think Sen. Enzi’s clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided that it’s time to walk away from the table.
“It doesn’t help to have Republicans who say they’re for bipartisanship and say they’re at the table to try to find a solution repeating Republican party talking points about what they know is not true in the bill,” said Gibbs. “It’s bad for this town, but it’s much worse for this country.” Watch it:
Grassley spokesperson Jill Kozeny tells Greg Sargent that the senator’s fundraising letter only “describes the government-run plan in the House and HELP committee bills that President Obama supports and Senator Grassley opposes.” But the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, who uncovered the fundraising letter, writes that Grassley “is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama’s health-care reform effort” and is “not leaving himself political room to compromise on health care.”
Additionally, both Enzi and Grassley have advocated for an unrealistic standard for bipartisan reform, saying that a bill needs 75 or 80 senators supporting it for it to be bipartisan. Considering that Republicans believe that “the No. 1 assignment in 2009 is to kill Obamacare,” it’s hard to believe that the two senators are continuing to negotiate in “good faith.”