EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the coming month, ThinkProgress will be traveling to town hall events across the country to report on what we’re seeing on the ground. This is our third eyewitness report.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Senate GOP’s lead negotiator on health care reform, has stated repeatedly that he opposes a bill that includes a public option, having once called it a “deal breaker.” “We need to make sure that there’s no public option” for the bill to be bipartisan, Grassley has said. Grassley even admitted this month that his GOP colleagues are urging him to block the public option in his negotiations.
However, a Des Moines Resgister poll released in May found that 56 percent of Iowans support the public option (and indeed, large majorities of Americans nationwide do as well). On Wednesday in Winterset, IA, ThinkProgress asked Grassley if he is willing to buck the will of the majority of Iowans. “That poll is old,” Grassley replied dismissively. “I base my decisions not on polls but on town meetings and mail,” he added. Watch it:
Unfortunately, a large majority of local Iowans who attended Grassley’s four town hall meetings on Wednesday were adamantly opposed to the public option, with some calling it “socialism,” a “government take over” and an encroachment of freedom. Citing Iowa public opinion, a recent Des Moines Register editorial urged Grassley to support the public option:
Congress should give Americans the choice of buying into a health-insurance plan administered by the government, in addition to private-sector plans. A public option could bring down administrative costs in health care, give Americans another alternative for insurance and force the private sector to offer adequate coverage or lose business. Yet Grassley remains opposed to such a plan.
Also on Wednesday, Grassley said that he opposes the public option because of a recent Lewin group study (an inaccurate study that doesn’t reflect the bills currently before Congress). When a town hall attendee later noted that “the Lewin Group is a subsidiary of [a] big health care company,” Grassley replied, “I didn’t know that.”