Grassley: Town halls could force senators to start over on healthcare

The boisterous town hall meetings taking place across the country could possibly result in lawmakers starting over from scratch on healthcare reform, one key Senate Republican said Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee who has been locked in negotiations to craft a bipartisan health bill, suggested that, as the August recess plays out, the current reform legislation before Congress may have to be delayed or ditched entirely.

"We won't really know until we get back there the full impact," Grassley said in a news conference with Iowa reporters. "But it could have the impact of stalling it. It could have the impact of starting all over again."

"Or, who knows -- it could have the impact that nothing's changed and you just move ahead," he added.

The August recess has seen the usual district meetings turn raucous over healthcare proposals before the House and Senate, all that amid polls that show public opinion souring modestly about the overhauls.

Grassley said that if the Senate continues work on the current bill, it will still be a while before the Senate sends the president a bill.

"If we start over again, you know, it'll probably be more incremental, probably less controversial and maybe get done, but it still will take time to do that," he said.

And if negotiations do continue, Grassley was less than confident about his ability to assemble bipartisan legislation before the September 15th deadline put in place by the committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

"And who knows, maybe I won't be able to work a bipartisan compromise in our committee," Grassley said. "But if I can't, then maybe it'll be just a Democrat bill."

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