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September 8th, 2009
09:50 AM ET

Grassley: Most don't want 'Obama-care'

Looking for a compromise on health care reform, the Senate's so-called Gang of Six, three Republicans and three Democrats will be meeting today. The six negotiators, who are also members of the Senate Finance Committee, will be considering a plan by the committee’s chairman to drop the public option and tax the priciest insurance plans.

Sen. Charles Grassley says the bipartisan approach to health care reform is the best.
Sen. Charles Grassley says the bipartisan approach to health care reform is the best.

One member of the Gang of Six is Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

John Roberts: During the August recess, you said of the efforts to craft a bipartisan bill in the Senate, “I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they're all over the field.” Now that you're back there on Capitol Hill, are you going to walk away from this or are you going to stick with the Gang of Six and try to come up with a plan?

Grassley: Well, we won't know until we meet this afternoon at 2:30. … The good and bad of the president speaking this week is we’ve had to speed up the work of our group to have something ready. … And that's bad because we should have probably taken a little more time than just over this weekend. And then the other issue is that the president, if he does come out with specifics, probably would make up for that criticism that I gave during August that they were all over the ballpark. And they were all over the ballpark.

Roberts: Now, one of the proposals being floated – and it was handed to you over the weekend – is from Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee. It has no public plan but non-profit co-ops that would provide insurance for people who are uninsured. It expands Medicaid eligibility as well, and then levies a fee on insurance companies who provide high-end Cadillac plans to help pay for the overall reform. Is that something that you can support?

Grassley: Well, one thing about the co-ops, if they're going to end up just the way we've known co-ops for 150 years in America, the answer is yes because they're consumer-driven and all the consumers benefit from it. They're organized by members. There's no federal government running the co-ops, etc. And that's the way that Senator Conrad has devised them and I've been discussing that with him and along the lines of what he suggested, it's very favorable. And just in case, that somebody comes along and wants a federal board, the federal government to accept risks so we end up with a health care Fannie Mae, then that would be a no-no for me.

In regard to the tax that you asked about, the only thing I would suggest is both Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation has said that those costs will be passed on to the premium holders. So it's going to drive up the cost of insurance, maybe at a level of insurance that we shouldn't be subsidizing in the first place. But the case is that the extent to which consumers pay for it, that is a concern as opposed to if the corporations would have had to pay for it, the people providing the insurance, it probably would be a better approach.

Roberts: Senator, the president has this speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow evening. He kind of laid down the groundwork for that in yesterday's speech to the AFL-CIO, in which he took on people like yourself who have been critical of his plans for health care. He said, “What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one.” The president charges you don’t have a solution. Let me ask you now, what is your solution to health care reform? What's your plan?

Grassley: Well, don't forget, I've been working the last three or four months with Senator Baucus one-on-one and then later with the Group of Six to come up with a bipartisan plan. And it seems to me that the bipartisan approach is the best. And if you look at the president during his campaign, he wanted to be post-partisan and it seems to me like those statements yesterday were very partisan, contrary to what he promised in the last campaign. But I would be working towards a bipartisan effort.

And if we don't get a bipartisan effort, then of course there are so many things in what I've been working towards that could easily go into my plan or a Republican plan and then don't forget there's already four Republican plans out there introduced by other members of our caucus. But because we're the minority party, you at CNN and other places haven't given our plans much publicity because I suppose we're in the minority and you want to help the president so much so that I hope that if we don't have a bipartisan plan, that you'll start giving some attention to the Republican plans that are out there.

Roberts: Well, I can assure you Senator Grassley, it's not our intention to help any politician, president, you, anyone else. We're just merely telling people what is out there and we will re-double our efforts to illuminate Republican plans.

Grassley: Thank you.

Roberts: You're up for re-election next year. You recently sent out a fundraising letter in which you said to your constituents, “We ask for your immediate support in helping me defeat Obama-care.” Ezra Klein from the Washington Post took a look at that and said, speaking of you, “He is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama's health care reform effort. It is not clear how he could pivot to save it, even if he wanted to do so.” Have you left yourself with this pre-election campaign, Senator, any room for compromise?

Grassley: Absolutely, yes. Because you know what Obama-care is in the public's minds, my constituents' minds? It's all that public option. It's all the eventual nationalization of health care in America, run entirely by the federal government. And that letter associates Obama-care with the public option and the people of my state and I think most of the people in this country don't want the government to take over federal health care.


Filed under: Politics
soundoff (219 Responses)
  1. willie1954

    As an Iowan, I am looking forward to pulling the plug on Grassley next year!!
    This guy is a liar.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  2. Marilyn

    I keep hearing some people say the majority doesn't want this reform. When did they do a poll? I keep talking to people that want something done. I guess it takes someone with insurance to lose all their life's savings because their insurance wouldn't cover everything to wish they had done something but it is too late. Their money is gone just when they are not longer able to replace that money through work because of age. Health reform doesn't mean this country is turning into a socialist country. I never reallized this country is so full of whiney closed minded people.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  3. Iowa Guy

    Grassley has no idea what the people of Iowa want. He holds his meetings, says what he wants, and only answers the questions he wants. I attended two of this meetings in August, and the only thing I took away from them, was he is not interested in helping people, just making sure he get re-elected.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  4. Health Care

    I would like to see a list of all the Republican Senators & Congressmen that received financial support from healthcare lobbying firms. I would like to see the amount they received since the Carter Administration.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  5. branecia

    Bucky Freeman YOU ARE ON THE MONEY MAN-CLEAR HEAD & know your business and politics you are absolutely right on everything you have said-BRAVO BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Nathan

    Grassly is a turn coat, retirement should be in his very near future!!!

    September 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  7. Seb

    @ Rick McDaniel

    You are just absolutely stunningly wrong. The majority of people DO want health-care reform, including a robust public option. Please see

    http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/CBSPOLL_June09a_health_care.pdf?tag=contentMain;contentBody

    and learn some facts.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  8. Ann from Nashville

    Grassley just proved he only cares about his re-election and not the American public. Is he willing to give up his GREAT OBAMA Insurance that he receives through the government. I doubt that. Just another stand for nothing politician. Retire Grassley do us a favor.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Ron

    Americans have to be the dumbest people on the planet. You are afraid that if you have unversal health care, within 30 days you will all be Communists.You'd rather watch your neighbour go bankrupt trying to pay medical bills for a sick family member. You think that Health insurance companies earning millions of dollars in profits a year is preferable. America was built on Corporate profits don't you know! You need to learn to take care of one another. Get your priorities straight. Your motto seems to be, "why should I care about the next guy, I've got mine".

    September 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  10. Bob

    This idiot is partly correct! It is MOST Repubicans who don't want health care because it would take money away from the insurance companies who give them a fortune to run for re-election. After 8 years of an idiot president there only policy now is to be against anything a Democratic president does! Problem is this President cares about the American people more than making businesses richer. Sorry you guys are just going to have to do without a few toys. Keep up the good work Obama and just ignor the idiots, they will pay come election time.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  11. VF

    As a currently uninsured, full time independent contractor at a leading finance company, I am very supportive of a public option. I do not understand where this bill will leave uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions who cannot be covered under the current insurance plans for reasonable rates. Even if you are employed and have health insurance coverage now, you may not in the future and then what will you do.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Julie

    You should be ashamed. The Republicans should be ashamed for spreading all these lies about 'death panels' and doing everything they can to fight anything good the President is trying to do. The Democrats should be ashamed for not having a spine.
    What we need is a system like Canada's. I have spoken to many people there and they are quite happy with their health care. They do not have to worry about being able to afford to go to the Doctor or deciding between making rent or getting that strange lump checked out. Our system is horrible, and all these lies are doing nothing but hurting this country.
    We need universal healthcare. This is no different than providing police or fire emergency service, but it is more important. People's lives are at stake. I know many people the health care system has failed. It has failed me. We want real change, not lip service.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Michael

    I'll tell you what the majority of people don't want.....and that is the mess we have now. We pay 16% of our GDP in health care costs compared to Canada's 10%.....in spite of this, our average life expectancy is about 4 years less that Canada and our infant mortality rate is higher. In the industrial world, we are probably the stupidest country in terms of what we get for what we pay.

    Whatever it's called (and terms like "Obamacare" only serve to whip flames for the right-wing Southern white males) it's better than what we have now.......which is the health insurance companies dictating health care policy in this country not in the best interest of America and Americans, but for their own selfish profit-driven interests.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Churchill

    This man can speak from both sides of his mouth. Whatever happened to the saying "it is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubts"

    September 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  15. Beverly Hope

    Grew up around Des Moines, Iowa and lived most of my adjult life in Phoenix, Arizona.

    You are wrong when you say most people don't want Obama Care. He was elected President of the United States because we, the American People, want Obama Care.

    A lot of people are listening to the lies of the far right, and they are lies. A lot of these people in the meetings I have seen on TV don't know WHAT IN THE WORLD THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT WHEN THEY GET A CHANCE TO SPEAK.

    Talk to people who have lived the middle-class life and then, because of the so called right wing, Wall Street and the Crooks in Congress, have become poor, and can no longer pay the insurance premiums as they rise higher and higher and higher. Senator Grassley does not get that. John McCain does not get that. A lot of people do not get that. Soon the people who think their insurance is okay will get that, because, unless we have a change in medical insurance, the average person will not have medical insurance. It is just that simple.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  16. Gabe

    For all of you against universal health care, you are self centered and heartless. I bet if you lost your job and were in the dumps and your child was turned down for a life saving surgery because you couldn't afford a health care plan, you would be singing a different tune.

    September 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  17. Watchdog

    "The Senate and Congress mostly go to Military hospitals and I don’t see them complaining about their care and if the go to private hospitals they still have coverage." Umm.. their hospitals are not like OUR hospitals, their trains not like our trains, some even have their own airports! (Congressman John Murtha, for instance!)
    "Remember it was the Republicans who were so afraid of Medicare and Social Security" which are both running out of money because they too were set up on a Ponzi scheme, just like government run health care will be...unless they ration care to the most needy, the elderly, where they intend from the beginning to 'steal' money from.
    Private health care can be made MUCH more competitive by removing the hurdles that government puts in front of it! Why do you think, that with 1,300 companies, some states have so few choices! Sure, those other companies would like to have more customers, but not in states where lawyers run ads all day on how to sue your doctor, a drug company, etc! Which do you see more of, health care ads or ads for lawyers and how to sue them?!?

    September 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  18. Ed

    In 2009 we’ll spend $2.3 trillion in healthcare or 18.3% of the GDP. The rate of health care inflation is 6% and insurance rates are increasing 13% every year. By 2070 100% of the GDP will be use in paying health care.

    The bottom line is the system is broken. Both the government and the private sector is failing to address the inevitable. We will go broke paying for health care.

    One more thing, I asked my helath cared provider why my rates are going up 13%. Her answer: the doctors, hospitals, drug companies and lawyers are the one to blames. So I asked my doctor he said the lawyers, insurance companies and drug companies are resposnible for the increase and so on.

    One of this day my paycheck will all go to pay insurance

    September 8, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
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