Grassley to Dems: Let’s keep working together

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the powerful Republican who has spent weeks working on a healthcare reform compromise, is urging Democrats not to abandon bipartisan talks despite growing pressure from liberal activists and White House officials.
 
Grassley reacted Wednesday to news reports of growing sentiment among White House officials that Democrats should pass a partisan healthcare reform package, relying entirely on Democratic votes.
 
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“I’ve said all year that something as big and important as health care legislation should have broad-based support,” Grassley said in a statement to The Hill.
 
“So far, no one has developed that kind of support, either in Congress or at the White House. That doesn’t mean we should quit. It means we should keep working until we can put something together that gets that widespread support.”
 
Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over paying for a healthcare overhaul, struck a conciliatory tone a day after Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) called on Democrats to scrap their proposals and start over.
 
“There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill,” Kyl told reporters.
 
Kyl’s statement and earlier statements from Grassley have led Democratic leaders to more carefully weigh the prospect of passing a reform package without any Republican votes — going alone, just as many liberal activists have demanded.
 
“The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President [Barack] Obama’s healthcare proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told The New York Times.
 
Liberal activists have also called on Democratic leaders to forget about trying to reach a bipartisan compromise with Grassley and other Republican members of the Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six” — Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).
 
Their criticism of Grassley intensified in the wake of several public comments.
 
Last week, Grassley told an audience in Iowa that they had “every right to fear” an end-of-life counseling proposal in the House healthcare reform bill.
 
"There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life," Grassley said. "And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. You ought to have counseling 20 years before you're going to die. You ought to plan these things out.”
 
Then on Monday, Grassley said in a television interview that he would not vote for a healthcare reform deal, even if he thought it was a good one, if it did not win widespread support from Republican colleagues.  
 
“It isn’t a good deal if I can’t sell my product to more Republicans,” Grassley told MSNBC.
 
These comments spurred leading liberal activists to demand that Democrats move on without Grassley.
 
“Sen. Grassley made it pretty clear that the Senate Finance Committee negotiations are a dead end if the goal is getting reform passed that will meet the president’s goals,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, a coalition of liberal and labor groups.
 
“We’re making it really clear to Democrats in the Senate that this is a dead end and they need to move forward on legislation themselves with the goals that the president supports,” Kirsch said.