Grassley praises 'co-op' compromise on healthcare

The top Republican Senator helping to negotiate healthcare reform offered measured praise for a compromise offered by a Democratic colleague, signaling the prospect of growing GOP support for the "co-op" alternative.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that Sen. Kent Conrad's (D-N.D.) plan to set up non-profit cooperatives instead of a public (or "government-run") option could be the key to a bipartisan agreement.

"You've got to understand that in a lot of parts of rural America...cooperatives are a very essential part of our society," Grassley said in an interview with CBS. "Setting up a cooperative along that line might be a way of compromising between Democrats that want government to run everything -- and not all Democrats run that -- and Republicans who don't want the government more in everything."

Grassley's comments come on the heels of the Senate's GOP leader, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), signaling Friday that he's open to the co-op compromise.

Grassley said that President Obama has been open to discussing Conrad's compromise during meetings, as well.

"I found the president to be very flexible on almost every point except getting it done," Grassley said. "On other points, including even the government-run plan -- he very much supports that, but I found him to be very reasonable. One major part of that would be discussing the public plan, for example."

The Iowa Republican also said that the bill is on track to come to the floor of the Senate by July, though he cautioned that something could develop in negotiations that could push back the bill's progress past deadlines preferred by the president and congressional leaders.

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