Grassley: Bipartisan health bill would have been possible within weeks

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would have been able to craft a health bill with broad bipartisan support had he been given more time, a key Senate colleague claimed Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, argued that Baucus, the committee's chairman, might have unveiled a bill with a more positive reception had he not come under political pressure.

"The sad commentary is that we were working to practically completion of a bill," Grassley told CNBC during an interview this morning. "Another couple weeks would have given us an opportunity to have a bipartisan bill that I think would have gotten broad-based support."

Baucus introduced his bill to a tepid reception on Wednesday. While the Finance Committee's draft had previously been seen as the best chance for a bipartisan package, liberal Democrats bristled at the draft's exclusion of the public option, while Republicans derided many of Baucus's proposals.

Grassley blamed White House officials, along with House and Senate leaders, for having bore down pressure on Baucus to speed up negotiations over his package.

"The White House, the Senate leader, and I suppose Speaker Pelosi -- they're getting anxious to move something along," Grassley explained. "So I would like to consider what is going to come before our committee next week as sort of an incomplete package."

Grassley maintained that the committee's Republicans and Democrats had still been committed to hammering out a package, without acrimony having seeped into negotiations.

"We were working through it, we were still at the table," he said. "Do you think we would have put in hundreds of hours if we didn't think that we didn't think we had a chance to have success?"

"What's happened here is that politics has taken over," he said. "Quite frankly, the politics stepping in is going to make it very, very difficult."

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