Grassley Chides Democrats, White House for ‘Artificial’ Timeline

Posted September 15, 2009 at 7:16pm

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) late Tuesday delivered his strongest signal yet that he will not back a health care reform bill due to be formally introduced on Wednesday by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

In a statement released following another session Tuesday evening of the gang of six bipartisan Finance negotiators, Grassley blamed the White House and Senate Democratic leaders for imposing an artificial and counterproductive timeline on the talks, which he says contributed to the group’s failure to reach a deal on health care reform legislation. Grassley said he would continue working with Baucus and the other four negotiators, but said key policy differences that remain prevent him from signing on to the bill in time for Baucus’ Wednesday unveiling.

In explaining those differences, Grassley criticized Baucus’ bill as not delivering on the goals of overhauling the health care system to improve affordability and accessibility. Grassley also cited worries that whatever bipartisan deal the Finance Committee might reach could be gutted in a merger with reform legislation passed in July by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, not to mention in a Conference Committee with the House.

Grassley’s full statement follows below.

“Over the last several months the bipartisan group of six senators has worked diligently to develop a bipartisan bill for the Finance Committee to consider.  

“I applaud the efforts Chairman Baucus has made to provide a venue for us to work together toward bipartisan legislation that we all can support, and we’ll continue to work with him and Senators Conrad and Bingaman — and any other members interested in real bipartisan reforms — as the process moves forward.   

“Unfortunately, we’re operating under an artificial deadline set by the Democratic leadership and the White House.  I’m disappointed because it looks like we’re being pushed aside by the Democratic leadership so the Senate can move forward on a bill that, up to this point, does not meet the shared goals for affordable, accessible health coverage that we set forth when this process began. In addition to concerns about costs to taxpayers and affordability for individuals, there are still some serious outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved like preventing taxpayer funding of abortion services and the enforcement against subsidies for illegal aliens. I have also pressed for alternatives to the individual mandate and ways to lower the overall cost of the bill, as well as tougher medical liability reform measures.  

“On top of all that, there’s no guarantee that a Finance Committee bill, even if it becomes bipartisan, will stay that way after it leaves the committee.  An overriding issue for some time has been the fact that members of the Democratic leadership haven’t made a commitment to back a broad bipartisan bill through the entire process.

“We’ve been clear from the start that we’re willing to stay at the table. There’s no reason not to keep working until we get it right.  In the end, legislation that impacts every American should have strong bipartisan support.—