Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) on Tuesday defended his strategy of negotiating a health care compromise and rebuffed Democratic charges that he and his fellow Senate Republicans are playing politics on the issue.During his weekly conference call with home-state reporters, Grassley said Democrats would have a better chance of implementing a public insurance option if he wasnt in talks with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and other reasonable Democrats on a bipartisan health care compromise. Grassley also criticized as misguided a strategy employed by some Republicans to try to force President Barack Obama to the negotiating table by spurning bipartisan negotiations and trying to bring the Finance talks to a halt.Grassley is one of three Republicans and three Democrats on the Finance Committee who have been trying to negotiate a health care reform deal. Negotiators failed to reach an agreement before the August recess, and it remains unclear if a breakthrough will occur in time to meet Baucus Sept. 15 deadline. The Finance negotiators include Baucus, Grassley, Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).Theres a feeling that the only way to get a bipartisan agreement is to defeat a Democratic proposal in the first hand and then the Democrats will come to Republican leadership. And then at that point, theyll know the only way theyre going to get health care reform is bipartisan. But my position has been that if that strategy doesnt work and the Democrats go ahead and establish a public option, for instance, or a play or pay as a way of putting an 8 percent tax on payrolls for people who dont offer health insurance and dozens of other bad things including leading us to Canadian-style single payer plan, then, if the Democrats are successful in doing that, well be stuck with that plan forever, Grassley told reporters. So Ive been taking to Max Baucus and other Democrats trying to ward off such a role of the dice, and ward off any chance that wed end up with a government-run, federalized health insurance program like Canada has.Grassley also said it is inaccurate for Democrats to accuse Republicans of being against health care reform, noting that numerous GOP Senators have introduced health care bills this Congress. Grassley, who is up for re-election in 2010, referred to an Associated Press story that quoted Baucus as saying that the Republican Party is pressuring Grassley, Enzi and Snowe not to participate in the Finance talks.Its not quite fair for Max to say that everythings been political, because Republicans have bills in to reform health care, Grassley said, referring to one bill in particular that was proposed earlier this year by GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.