In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a key Finance Committee Republican, raised serious doubts about the prospects of a bipartisan deal on health care in the Senate. He also offered a pointed criticism of Barack Obama’s hands-off strategy to health care reform negotiation, which is based on the idea that the president should not dictate specifics to Congress, only broad principles. Said Grassley:
I don’t think it’s going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they’re all over the field — all over the ball park, I guess, as we say. And, you know, one weekend, the secretary of HHS is saying you don’t have to have a public option. The next day, the administration gets hit from the left, so the Obama says public option is still very, very important to them.
Tough stuff. After the jump, I reproduce the entire exchange.
QUESTION: Good morning, Senator.
Senator, I was wondering if you see any light at the end of the tunnel in terms of any type of compromise on health care reform? Do you anticipate there will be some way that you can work that measure out with the administration?
GRASSLEY: I don’t think it’s going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they’re all over the field — all over the ball park, I guess, as we say.
And, you know, one weekend, the secretary of HHS is saying you don’t have to have a public option. The next day, the administration gets hit from the left, so the Obama says public option is still very, very important to them.
And you know what public option is? It leads to single-payer, completely government-run health care system and no choice. And we want to preserve choice for our people — and so, from that standpoint.
But, yes, I do believe it’s possible to reach an agreement. But I have to confess to you to be a little more cautious when I say that now, because I’ve been out here listening to my constituents. And if — and if other members of Congress are hearing what I’m hearing, they’re saying, “Slow it down. Do it a little more carefully. Make sure you know what you’re doing. And maybe do it even a little more incrementally.”
Now, that’s my take home from my town meetings. There is some there, though — that I need to be fair to the other side — that are still pushing government-run health care, but I don’t think they’re — they’re surely not as numerous as the people that are showing up that want us to be more cautious.
So, you know, that’s my analysis of Iowa. There’s other Iowan congressmen that I want to hear their analysis. But also how is this going on in the other sections of the country? We’re hearing from Pennsylvania and Maryland and Missouri — very controversial and raucous town meetings. And so we got to get back and analyze the impact.
It may cause us to change course. I doubt if it will drop negotiations. It might even open the door for other Republicans that have plans to come into the discussion.
So, you know, I just don’t know where it’s going to take us. But there is some re-analysis that are necessary as a result of the August recess.