On MSNBC this morning, host Dylan Ratigan asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) what he would “define as success” regarding health care reform and his political legacy. “I’m not worried about legacy, I’m worried about good policy,” replied Grassley. “Good policy is the best politics.” Grassley, whom President Obama praises as someone “sincerely trying to figure out…a health care bill that works,” then outlined what elements he was seeking in a health care bill he could support:
GRASSLEY: I don’t want government takeover of health care, I don’t want bureaucrats getting between doctors and patients. I want affordability and accessibility for health care. I want to change the perverse incentives that are in our present way of paying health care providers, so that we move from, so that we move from reimbursement based on quantity to reimbursement based on quality, to pay for performance. And I want something that’s going to zero in, in a coordinated way, to the the chronic diseases that eat up 75 percent of our health care dollars.
But moments later, Grassley seemed to abandon his emphasis on “good policy.” When MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked him if he was “willing to be one of just three or four Senate Republicans that support an eventual deal if you get what you want out of the Senate Finance Committee and it’s an agreed upon deal with the Gang of Six,” Grassley replied, “certainly not”:
GRASSLEY: Certainly not. And I told the president that a week ago Thursday and I told Max Baucus that over a period of three or four months, so I’m not telling you anything new. In fact, let me build on what you said and why I say that I wouldn’t be. I’m negotiating for Republicans and if I can’t negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I’m not a very good representative of my party. And secondly, we’re talking about health care, that’s life or death for every American and we’re talking about one sixth of the economy. And that ought to be done, as Senator Baucus said, in a consensus sort of way where it passes with an overwhelming vote in the United States Senate.
Pressed by Todd about voting against what he thought “was a good deal,” Grassley claimed “it isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans.” Watch it:
Summing up the exchange, NBC News’ Mark Murray writes that “[i]n short, Grassley says he’s willing to walk away from legislation in which he gets everything he wants.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein remarks that Grassley “is working backward from the votes” and because “it seems virtually impossible” that such a consensus vote will occur, “it seems similarly unlikely that Grassley will sign his name to the final bill.”
In June, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne reported that Grassley is “under immense pressure from Republican colleagues not to deal at all.” Dionne also reported that Grassley had “informed Baucus that he cannot sign onto a bill if it is supported by only one other Republican.” Apparently now Grassley needs “more than four Republicans.”