New Book Confirms Grassley Was Not Interested In Compromising On Health Reform

The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent pulls out the following quote from Richard Wolffe’s new book, which suggests that the Republicans — namely Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member and ‘gang of six’ attendee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — were never serious about compromising with Democrats on health care reform. The following conversations occurred during the summer of 2009, possibly days before Grassley went home to Iowa and claimed that health reform contained death panels:

Just before [Grassley] returned to Iowa, he met with DeParle for another strategy session.

“If we do everything and resolve all the policy issues the way you want, with no public plan, do you think you’ll be able to support the bill?”

Grassley looked away. “I don’t know.”

Grassley went to the Oval Office for a similar conversation with the president and his fellow Republican and Democratic negotiators. He asked Obama to say publicly that he would sign a bill without a public option of a government-run plan. Grassley believed this would be a reasonable, minimal demonstration of Obama’s desire for a bipartisan deal. But the president declined to confront his own party base so explicitly. Obama asked Grassley the same question DeParle had posed: With every concession he wanted, could he support the bill?

“Probably not.”

“Why not?” asked an exasperated Obama.

“Because I’d have to have a number of Republicans,” said Grassley. “I’m not going to be the third of three Republicans. I’ve defined a bipartisan bill as broad-based support.”

Indeed, Grassley had said in June and then again in July that reform “ought to be from 80 people in the center of the Senate, I would think.”


Throughout the summer of 2009, he went to such great lengths to discredit and misrepresent health reform that many progressive advocates began to have doubts about his commitment to the effort. Here on the Wonk Room, I started something called ‘Grassley Watch’ a tongue-in-cheek feature dedicated to tracking Grassley’s distortions. We compiled a document of Grassley’s most flamboyant attacks, hinting at the very thing that Wolffe is now reporting: rather than finding common ground with Democrats, Grassley was doing everything he could to obstruct and undermine consensus.

Below is a sampling of his greatest hits:

– Claims He Won’t Vote For ‘Imperfect’ Health Care Bill: “Now is the time to do this right or not do it.”…”We need to slow down and do a little less,” Mr. Grassley told another town-hall gathering in Pocahontas, Iowa, Monday afternoon. “We need to fix what’s broken and leave alone what’s working well.” In an interview, he vowed not to vote for an “imperfect bill” that includes a public option or gives the government too much control over end-of-life issues. [WSJ, 8/25/2009]

– Government Will Pull Plug On Grandma: “There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life, And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear….We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.” [8/12/2009]

– Sends Fundraiser To Defeat ObamaCare: “I’m sure you’ve been following this issue closely. If the legislation sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Chairman Ted Kennedy in the Senate is passed it would be a pathway to a government takeover of the health care system. lt would turn over control of your health care decisions to a federal bureaucrat … and take it away from you and your personal physician. It would mean government rationing in the name of cost controls. [Letter, 8/09/2009]

– Uses Kennedy’s Brain Tumor To Spread Fear Of Rationing: “I’ve been told that the brain tumor that Sen. Kennedy has — because he’s 77 years old — would not be treated the way it’s treated in the United States. In other words, he would not get the care he gets here because of his age.” [8/5/2009]

– Reform Will Place Bureaucrats In Charge: “PTL BluDogs Keep barkin Pelosie bill is Govt takeovr of healthCare Breaks Obama promise”keep what u hv” Puts Wash Burocrats in chrg MUSTSTOP.” [@ChurckGrassley, 7/24/2009]

– Proud To Obstruct Health Reform: “I take pride with being an obstructionist,” he said, if that means scuttling a public option that could lead to a single-payer system. [7/6/2009]

– Bipartisanship Means ‘No Public Option’: Asked “what needs to be in” a health care reform bill “for it to be bipartisan,” Grassley declared, “We need to make sure that there’s no public option.” [6/24/2009]

– Nonsensically Attacking Obama: “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delvr on health care’ When you are “hammer” u think everything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.” [@ChuckGrassley, 6/7/2009]

At some point during that summer, Grassley also abandoned his past support for the individual health insurance mandate. During his re-election bid, Grassley claimed that he changed his mind about requiring Americans to buy health insurance in April or May of 2009, but that’s just not true. In August of 2009, Grassley was asked, “how does this bipartisan group that you`re a member of get to more health insurance coverage if you don`t mandate that employers provide coverage.” He replied, “through an individual mandate and that`s individual responsibility and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility.” Here he is expressing that very belief in June of 2009 on Fox News Sunday.