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The Laborers International Union of North America on Tuesday announced plans to target Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) with a cable television spot in Des Moines even as it cut short ad buys in Montana and North Dakota at the request of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Grassleys office appeared unfazed by the three-day ad buy designed to discourage the Finance panel ranking member from supporting a proposal to tax the value of health insurance benefits like regular income. Ending the tax exclusion for medical insurance benefits is one of the proposals being considered by the Finance Committee to help pay for health care reform. Grassley is up for re-election in 2010 and is working with Baucus to craft a bipartisan health care bill.
Sen. Grassley has said its up to [President Barack Obama] to make the case for changing the taxation of health benefits after the way the Obama campaign denigrated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the subject in 2008, Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said Tuesday afternoon.
Obama campaigned against taxing health care benefits and criticized McCain, then the GOP presidential nominee, for supporting such a proposal.
On Monday, LIUNA announced it would run television and radio ads urging Baucus and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to oppose taxing health insurance benefits. The labor union announced Tuesday that it was suspending the ad buy targeting Baucus and Conrad at Baucus request. Roll Call reported earlier Tuesday that LIUNA was pulling the ads under pressure from Baucus.
LIUNA spokesman Jacob Hay said the union would consider suspending the Grassley ad if the Finance Committees top Republican, like Baucus, offered to meet with LIUNA President Terry OSullivan to discuss the issue. Hay suggested the union would go back on the air with ads targeting Baucus if the Finance chairman does not reverse his position on taxing health care benefits.
We are firm in our stance against the tax. Sen. Baucus office requested the meeting and asked us to suspend the ads in the interim. We agreed, given that it is possible the Senators position has changed, Hay said. If the Senator continues to support taxing health care, then our efforts will continue and the ads will likely be back up.
Grassley was traveling in Iowa on Tuesday and holding town-hall meetings to discuss health care reform with his constituents.
On his Twitter page, Grassley described one town hall of 175 people in Elkader in northeastern Iowa this way: All abt Health Care and Why are we losing ourFredom?
In another Twitter post, Grassley characterized a town hall meeting of 200 people in Waukon this way: Biggest turnout ever in Waukon. Health Care and Obama power grab biggest issues.