House GOP resents Grassley SCHIP end run

What works in the Senate doesn’t necessarily work in the House, a truism that Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) has been reminded of during the debate over children’s health insurance.

Grassley has taken a notably activist stance in moving a $35 billion bill through the House that would reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), working side by side with the House Democratic leadership and trying to convert rank-and-file House Republicans over to his position against the wishes of their leaders and President Bush.

Grassley has maintained that he only wants to strengthen the program, and that attempts by Democrats or Republicans to move forward without a bipartisan compromise are doomed to fail.

Nevertheless, the Senate Finance Committee ranking member has raised hackles among Senate and House Republicans for going against the grain on one of the most contentious domestic policy issues before Congress this year.
Last week, Finance Committee Republican aides, under Grassley’s direction, circulated talking points promoting the SCHIP bill to House Republican members.

The talking points were targeted to House Republicans whom Grassley believed could be convinced to vote for a revised version of the SCHIP bill that hit the House floor last week. According to the talking points, the new version of the bill directly addressed the concerns that were expressed in a letter that 38 House Republicans sent to Bush earlier this month.

A lawmaker making a sales pitch for a bill he co-authored doesn’t qualify as unusual, but Grassley did not share these documents with the House Republican leadership before delivering them to rank-and-file GOP members.

Instead, he showed them to House Democratic leadership staff for review before sending them out, House Democratic and Republican aides said.

House Republican leaders have loudly complained that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has frozen them out of the SCHIP negotiating process. House GOP leadership aides indicated that they also were less than pleased with what they perceived to be Grassley’s aiding and abetting the opposition.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children MORE (R-Ohio) said that Grassley didn’t engage the House Republican leadership on SCHIP until after the House passed its second SCHIP bill in September.

“He wasn’t involved [with the GOP leadership] in the House side prior to House passage,” the spokesman said.

“In the House, we stick together,” said a spokeswoman for Minority Whip Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity GOP group targets McConnell over election security bills in new ad Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Mo.). Grassley’s efforts to change the votes of individual House Republicans were bound to fail because the culture of the House, unlike the Senate, is more cohesive within the parties, she added.

“With a Senate Republican coming over to the House and trying to sway House Republican members, it’s just not going to be effective,” she said. Member-to-member deal-making on major bills is “not really how the House works.”

As a case in point, when the House voted on the revised bill, not one Republican changed his or her vote from “nay” to “yea.” Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) even withdrew his prior support to protest Pelosi’s decision to stage the vote against the objections of members who wanted more time to review it and a number of Californians who had left Washington to survey their state’s wildfire damage.

Grassley’s decision to invite BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children MORE and Blunt to a meeting on the SCHIP bill on Tuesday represents an acknowledgment that House Republicans cannot be engaged if their leadership is not, Blunt’s spokeswoman said. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) and committee members Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) also attended the meeting.

Grassley’s move to reach out to the House GOP leadership at this point was influenced by Pelosi’s insistence on not putting off last week’s vote, a Grassley spokeswoman noted. Grassley had no intention to exclude House Republican leadership from the process, and in fact kept open a line of communication with them, she added.

“Sen. Grassley didn’t cut out House Republican leaders in the discussions leading to last week’s House vote,” she said. Grassley and Hatch met with Boehner and Blunt two days before the vote, she noted, and their aides met afterward.

The senator wasn’t trying to circumvent leadership but merely target his outreach to rank-and-file members whose votes he believed he could win, she added.

“He was just trying to work with people who might support the bill,” she said. Were Grassley to have met with lawmakers opposed to the legislation, “I don’t know that it would have been a good use of anyone’s time.”

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Grassley made the point more bluntly: “It makes no sense to negotiate with members who are trying to kill the bill.”

Grassley said that many Republican criticisms of the SCHIP legislation amounted to “a very sad mischaracterization of the bill,” but that he was working on an amendment to the House-passed SCHIP measure that he hoped would attract more Republicans.

Meanwhile, some House Republicans outside of leadership also have expressed frustration with the senator’s collaborations with House Democrats. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said that while he understands Grassley’s drive to usher the SCHIP bill to completion, Senate Republicans should have been more insistent that their House counterparts be included earlier in the process.

Price reserved strong opprobrium for the House Democratic leadership, saying its intransigence on SCHIP negotiations created the circumstances that led Grassley to focus on individual House Republicans.

“It speaks to the remarkable lack of foresight and ability of the Democratic leadership in the House to work with the Republican leadership,” said Price, who was one of the co-authors of the October letter to Bush and among those GOP House members whom Democrats unsuccessfully tried to win over for last week’s vote.

Though Price said he wouldn’t single out individual senators, he nevertheless complained that GOP senators who support the SCHIP bill haven’t done enough to force Democrats to include House Republican leaders. “For the Senate Republican leadership to not be, evidently, willing to … support House Republican leadership, it undercuts one leg of the stool,” he said.

The Senate Republican leadership has lodged its own complaints about Grassley. On Tuesday, Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) protested that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons MORE (R-Ky.) were not invited to the meeting between the Finance Committee members and the House GOP leaders.

Republican leaders are “blowing a bunch of blue smoke,” Grassley said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” Wednesday. “Leaders are grown-up people. I don’t know what they’re complaining about. … As far as I’m concerned, anyone can come,” he said.

The Senate on Wednesday held its latest vote on SCHIP legislation, with the outcome mirroring past roll calls. Although the bipartisan group of negotiators is still trying to win support for a revised measure, the Senate invoked cloture on SCHIP, 62-35, setting up a floor vote on the bill and possibly on amendments from both sides. Excluding absent senators, the only change from the last SCHIP vote, in August, was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who withdraw her support.

Grassley, Baucus, Rockefeller and Hatch held another meeting on SCHIP Wednesday with House Republicans, including. Reps. Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtHouse advances B agriculture bill Dems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts Maryland raises legal tobacco purchasing age to 21 MORE (Ala.), Mike Conaway (Texas), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryHouse Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (Neb.), Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettBiz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank MORE (N.J.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.), Ric Keller (Fla.) and Randy Kuhl (N.Y.).

House Democratic leaders met with some of the same lawmakers on Monday and plan to sit down with more House Republicans as the week goes on.

Jonathan E. Kaplan and Manu Raju contributed to this report.