Grassley: Dems will get their way during healthcare conference

Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday that Democrats will likely "huddle secretly" to get their way on contested provisions between the two healthcare bills when lawmakers meet to merge them next month.

The Iowa Republican said that members of his party who are named conferees will probably not have much input on the final healthcare bill. 

"I think that this will be one of those instances where, following along on the stimulus bill of last February, I will be a conferee but Democrats will huddle secretly and come to the conclusion of what they want to do and then announce it and, you know, it's a take it or leave it," he said in a news conference with Iowa reporters.

"It will pretty much be partisan in conference," he added.

House and Senate Democrats will still have major issues to iron out between their two bills.

The House bill includes a public healthcare insurance option and stricter abortion language while the Senate bill has a national nonprofit health insurance plan and has looser abortion language than the House bill.

The House bill also imposes a surtax on people making over $500,000 per year, but the Senate bill places an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans.

There has even been dispute on whether or not to hold a formal or informal conference to merge the two bills. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will appoint members to the conference committee; three Democrats and two Republicans from each committee responsible for drafting the healthcare bill, Grassley said.

As ranking member of the Senate Finance Commmittee -- one of the key committees on healthcare reform -- Grassley expects to be named as a conferee.

If given a chance to change the bill, Grassley said he would implement strict limits on medical malpractice awards and then use the savings to help plug the Medicare Part D coverage gap.

The Iowa senator added that the conference would run differently if Republicans were still in the majority.

"My guess is that it's going to be a lot different than when I was chairman of the [Senate Finance] committee [and Democrats were involved in negotiations]," he said. "I hope it is otherwise."

More in News

Carson: Biden will beat Clinton for Dem nomination

Read more »