The Obama administration's messages to lawmakers about whether or not it supports a public option have only resulted in confusion for one key healthcare negotiator, Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill Lawyer: Kushner is 'the hero' in campaign emails regarding Russia MORE (R-Iowa).

Grassley told Iowa reporters Wednedsay that he'd suggested to President Obama in a meeting in early August that he needed to make clear whether or not he could support a bill without a public (or "government-run") option.

"I thought a statement from him would be very helpful," explained Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, the lead group negotiating a bipartisan health bill in the Senate.

But while Grassley said that statements this past weekend about Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJohn Roberts has tough job of keeping faith in Supreme Court Price was a disaster for HHS — Time for an administrator, not an ideologue Trump says he's unhappy with Price MORE about the necessity of the public option seemed like a trial balloon, White House backtracking has only resulted in confusion about the president's stance.

"When Sebelius said what she did -- I thought maybe it was a trial balloon," Grassley said. "But then I saw so much backtracking by White House personnel."

"I don't know, but I can tell you that we've had these trial balloons before," the Iowa Republican added. "So you just don't know is the best answer to your question."