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Grassley Opens Up on Obama Lunch

By Shailagh Murray
Usually White House meetings yield only a trickle of details. But today Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) provided a colorful play-by-play of his hour-long lunch with President Obama.

The 75-year-old Republican, who is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, twittered this after his lunch today with Obama, Vice President Biden, and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.): "Just had a hamburger w obama at WH. Hour lunch discussing health care reform and four Ag/EPA issues."

Later, in a lengthy interview with Radio Iowa, Grassley set the scene: "We were in a small room that presumably is where . . . three or four people meet to have lunch," he said. "No staff was present."

Grassley said the meeting's primary focus was more procedure, rather than policy, primarily about the challenges of moving a health care bill this summer. He said he urged Obama to add his own voice and leverage. "The president needs to be in the center of this thing to move things along," Grassley said he urged Obama.

Grassley said Obama assured him that the White House was sincere about not wanting to resort to a special budget rule known as reconciliation to push health-care reform through the Senate. The rule would protect the legislation from a Senate filibuster, and has been used many times over the years by both parties to ease the path of complex and controversial bills.
But GOP senators, including Grassley, view reconciliation as the death knell for the bipartisan efforts now underway.

"I got a great deal of confidence that the White House prefers a bipartisan agreement," Grassley told Radio Iowa. "It's the difference between passing a bill by 51 or 52 votes versus 78 or 80 votes."

The senator said the prospect of a "public option" for health coverage was raised, as an alternative to private insurance, but remarked that when he called it a "major problem" for him and many of his GOP colleagues, "there was no indication of any line being drawn in the sand."

Grassley used his face time with Obama to raise a few agriculture issues related to the Environmental Protection Agency that had surfaced with his Iowa constituents. He also said the impending Supreme Court vacancy was discussed.

"The implication was that there's not going to be some -- so I want to make sure that this is an implication in my words and not in somebody else's words -- that it's not going to be somebody that's a bomb-thrower," said Grassley, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee.

But Grassley did hold back on one subject. Although he revealed his menu choice, he told Iowa Radio, "I'm not going to tell you what other people had . . . except they're more conscious of eating right than I am."

By Paul Volpe  |  May 6, 2009; 5:33 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama Offers D.C. Voucher Program Extension for Existing Students
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Empty suits. It ain't how you do it, it's what you do. A national low-level HMO is a recipe for more lunches for more empty suits.

Posted by: asnet | May 8, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Senator Chuck Grassley has always been a yes man for the Republican party. He has never used his own initiative or common sense when voting in congress. Here is a Senator who wanted millions of dollars to create a tropical rain forest in Iowa or some stupid thing like that and yet voted against the stimulus package. The Republicans talk about bi-partisan yet do all they can to undermine President Obama. They have listened to Rush (windbag) Limbaugh to much.

Posted by: deljaramillo | May 7, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

While I often admire Sen. Grassley's plain-spoken manner I was very disappointed in his use of "bomb thrower" as well as yesterday's reference to the Chinese as "stupid" in re: to banning the import of Iowa pork products. Yes, we know that the ban is not sensible nor based in scientific fact but I do expect Senator Grassley to choose his words more wisely and more befitting of his office. Heaven knows, we have a disgusting verbal "bomb thrower" in Rep. Steve King...not someone any person should aspire to emulate.

Posted by: IAPolitico | May 7, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Grassley said: "We were in a small room that presumably is where . . . three or four people meet to have lunch,"
That room is the President's private dining room which is near the Oval Office. Obama and Biden usually eat in there once a week. I guess Bush never invited Grassely over for lunch before.

Posted by: leahbethm | May 7, 2009 2:55 AM | Report abuse

I like the plain-spoken Iowa republican. He says what he thinks. You can relax in the company of a person like that.

He does Iowa proud - I think he represents the way many of its citizens are.

There's no shame in being honest, hard working and straightforward.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | May 6, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

With no staff around the President should have roughed up the fat barbarian.

Posted by: kase | May 6, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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