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Grassley Downplays Legitimacy of Health Care Negotiations

PANORA, Iowa — As he did at two previous town-hall meetings on Wednesday, Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made a point at his third event to tell his constituents that he won’t compromise his principles for the sake of getting a health care deal.Grassley, a chief Senate health care negotiator, downplayed the ongoing bipartisan Finance Committee talks, saying his decision to stay at the table allows him to keep his constituents and fellow GOP Senators informed. Grassley told town-hall attendees that he suspects President Barack Obama may not be interested in a consensus after all, which would render the Finance talks moot.“I don’t even think it’s right for me to call [the Finance discussions] negotiations,” Grassley said, inside a steamy community center packed with a standing-room-only crowd of about 350 people. “We’re talking.”Grassley is among the six Finance panel Senators who have been huddling for weeks to craft a health care compromise. Others include Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) as well as Republican Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).Grassley on Wednesday offered high praise to his fellow Finance negotiators for their efforts and credited them with slowing down Obama’s push to quickly pass health care reform. The Iowa Republican, who is up for re-election next year, also said he does not plan to vote for a bill that does not attract the broad support of the Senate Republican Conference.“I kind of feel like I’m a finger in the dike,” Grassley said.The attendees at the Panora event were slightly more politically diverse than at Grassley’s two earlier town halls, which were mostly attended by conservatives.But the overwhelming majority of the participants were vocal in their opposition to proposals offered by the president and Congressional Democrats. One self-proclaimed Grassley supporter stood up during the question-and-answer portion of the town hall and urged the Senator to oppose the Democrats’ health care plans, whether there is bipartisan support for a bill or not.“I would like you to be a road block in this health care debacle that’s going on,” the man said.The Senate returns to work in September with a goal of taking up a bill and getting it to the president by year’s end. The Finance negotiators have set a deadline of Sept. 15 to come up with a bipartisan package. If they fail to meet that timeline, some Democrats have suggested pursuing a partisan measure.

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