Grassley Under Fire Over Opposition to Public Option

A Democratic interest group on Monday launched a television ad campaign targeting Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) over his opposition to a public insurance option, signaling that the fight over health care reform is far from over.Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political action committee, has put very little funding behind the one-minute spot, which is slated for a limited run on broadcast and cable television in Iowa and on cable only in Washington, D.C. The group is advertising the spot on left-leaning blogs and in the Democratic activist community generally in the hopes of raising enough money to increase the ad buy. Grassley is up for re-election in 2010 and is part of a bipartisan group of six Finance members negotiating a health care reform deal.A PCCC official said Monday afternoon that the organization had raised $25,000 in five hours, allowing it to make immediate plans to increase its buy in Iowa and Washington. The initial buy was worth just 200 spots on Iowa broadcast and cable and 100 spots on D.C. cable. The spot targeting Grassley features a self-described Republican voter demanding that the Senator support the public insurance option, which would compete with private insurers.“I voted for Reagan, Nixon, George W. Bush, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, too,— Kevin Shilling of Greenfield, Iowa, says as the ad opens. “I’ve talked to friends and neighbors around Iowa, and one thing is clear: No matter what the politicians in Washington, D.C., say, Democrats and Republicans back home want a public health insurance option.—“I voted for Sen. Grassley in the past,— Shilling continues in the spot. “But when Grassley takes over $2 million from the big health and insurance industries that have opposed reform and then says he won’t give Iowans the choice of a public option, I have to ask, Senator, whose side are you on?’—Since June, Grassley has been one of three Republicans and three Democrats trying to negotiate an agreement on a bill that would win solid bipartisan support in the Senate. The Finance negotiators include Grassley, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).Grassley has opposed the public option from the outset of this year’s reform effort. In several town-hall meetings over the August recess, he got an earful from constituents who strongly urged him to maintain his stance.Grassley hasn’t shown any signs of backing down. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Iowa Republican sent a fundraising letter to supporters on Aug. 10 asking for their “immediate support in helping me defeat Obama-care,’— a reference to President Barack Obama and his support for a public insurance option and other health care policies opposed by Republicans.“I am working in the Senate to develop a viable alternative that is free-market based and rejects the pitfalls of government-run insurance,— Grassley wrote in the appeal.Supporters of health care reform have expressed hope over the last five days that the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a longtime champion of health care reform, would inspire bipartisan cooperation on the issue. However, since Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer last week, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate haven’t appeared to signal a shift in their positions on key policies, including whether to implement a public insurance option as a part of reform.Grassley on Monday was not the only Member to face the advertising firing line for his health care stance over the recess.The National Republican Congressional Committee launched television and radio ads targeting some Democratic House Members serving in conservative-leaning districts. The NRCC accused the Members of working too closely with Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).“President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are cooking up a risky experiment on health care. Higher costs, tax hikes, and, get this, massive cuts to Medicare,— the narrator says in a television spot targeting Rep Bill Foster (D-Ill.).“Markey and Pelosi are considering a health plan that would raise taxes on small businesses ... explode the deficit ... incentivize companies to drop their good private coverage,— the narrator says in a radio ad targeting Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.).

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