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Chuck Grassley Gives Up The Game

In an interview with The Washington Post, Chuck Grassley said that the town hall meetings have convinced him to revisit the breadth and scope of what the Gang of Six is considering. The calls for reform are "not quite as loud as people that say we ought to slow down or don't do anything," Grassley said. " And I've got to listen to my people."

So that's it then. A bipartisan bill is a smaller bill. The search for compromise hasn't led to a compromise bill. Rather, it's leading to a call for compromising on what was supposed to be the compromise.

There's been a lot of focus on the question of whether Grassley is negotiating in "good faith." That's the wrong question. Grassley may be very serious about negotiating a bill he can support. But that may not be a bill that is sufficient. Bad-faith negotiations would be if Grassley expressed support for reform in public but held all the recent opinions he's been expressing privately. As it is, he's been perfectly clear about his approach, his unwillingness to vote for a bill that doesn't attract substantial Republican support, and his belief that health-care reform should be a very modest effort. The question isn't whether Grassley wants to negotiate towards an outcome he finds acceptable. It's whether Democrats -- and in particular, Max Baucus -- should think that an acceptable outcome to negotiate towards.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 20, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is such bull. The Republicans want to delay as the way to kill. That has been clear from the beginning.

Only headline you need is: Grassley, and the other Republicans, want to kill any reform, and anything else Obama wants.

Period.

Posted by: AZProgressive | August 20, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what more Obama needs. Really. This is just embarrassing.

Posted by: impikk | August 20, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

And of course what's good enough for Grassley won't pass the House. Or shouldn't. So we are entering stalemate territory, and that's what reconciliation is for.

Posted by: Mimikatz | August 20, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I've said this before in the comments. A compromise is when you give up something you want you and you give the other side something they want. The Democrats are signaling they will give up something they want (the Public Option) and accept something else they want a little less (co-ops). This is NOT a compromise in any meaningful sense. This is a negotiating tactic similar to asking for a $1000 raise then offering to accept a $500 raise and say, “I gave up $500 of my raise.” You never had the raise in the first place so you gave up NOTHING.

The Democrats are asking for everything they want, taking back pieces of it and calling it compromise. That is not compromise. You have to actually give the other side something they want. Are the Republicans getting anything they want in this bill (expanding choice in the private market, tax credits, consumer driven health plans with HSAs)? How can you call what’s happening now compromise?

A meaningful (and transformational) compromise would be some form of the Wyden-Bennett bill; unhinging employment from insurance, expanding choice in the private market, increasing coverage of the uninsured and expanding the use of consumer driven health care plans.

Posted by: kingstu01 | August 20, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, if your bosses at the WaPo ever intend to charge for this site (and have people pay) they really need to connect with readers better. How about some type of e-mail alert when comments are posted in a thread we have posted in?

I don’t agree with anything you write but you are a good writer and I like to keep track of how the other side thinks. I would be more inclined to pay a few bucks a month if features were enhanced.

Posted by: kingstu01 | August 20, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes I don't know what to make of Baucus and whether he is co-conspirator with Grassley based on his health industry ties. We knew that the Dems would never get anywhere with Grassley.

So the charade is over, and it is time to move on with a meaningful reform. From his conservative radio interview, Obama is still dancing around the public option and hinting that it is still not an essential item. His weak-kneed approach is not helping him. He needs to be the opposite of GWB on ideas, but he's gotta have GWB's ballz.

Posted by: Single_Payer | August 20, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

It is true that it should matter less whether Sen. Grassley is negotiating in good faith or not. But the reason people feel he is not acting in good faith is - he says even if his backing is involved getting a bill out of the Finance Committee, on the floor he will oppose it because many more Republicans do not come. That sound hypocrisy. Why would you do that? You do not let the bill pass from the committee unless and until it is satisfactory to you to the extent that on the floor you can hold it (unless you quit the committee like Hatch).

Sen. Grassley has given the impression that he is going to do such a lousy 'before I was for it, I was against it' kind of drama. I think that is what people call not 'negotiating in good faith'.

Again and again we are trying to read tea leaves where there are none. Let us have clean politics, clean opposition and clean bills.

Job of Republicans is to find 'holes', to 'oppose Obama' preferably by sound arguments but it does not matter. Neither we want Canadian style 'stand in vote pairing' nor unanimous votes. Our ruckus style democracy is okay.

Posted by: umesh409 | August 20, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"You have to actually give the other side something they want."

Elections have consequences.

The voters wanted, by substantial majorities, what the Democrats want. If they'd wanted the Republicans to be in a position to get what they want, they'd have voted for Republicans. (Excluding, of course, the Senate, where Republicans get more of what they want because of arbitrary imaginary lines on the ground.)

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | August 20, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"As it is, he's been perfectly clear about his approach, his unwillingness to vote for a bill that doesn't attract substantial Republican support..."

But, Ezra, Grassley knew as well as you and I did (and do) that there was NEVER going to be substantial Republican support no matter what the bill turned out to be. It was just never, ever going to happen.

Posted by: scorbett1976@hotmail.com | August 20, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

What bothers me is the failure to recognize that in origin the Gang of Six was a Gang of Seven that with Hatch had a 4 Republican to 3 Democratic balance. Given the exclusion of Rockefeller (why Bingaman and not him?) and the positions of Baucus and Conrad at the right end of the Dem caucus it was clear from the beginning that the intent was to first usurp bill writing authority from HELP and then guy ant possibility of a bill acceptable to progressives to come out of the Senate.

That is the current stage of gridlock was a feature and not a bug of Baucus' original strategy, he simply handed veto power to the Republicans under the cover of bi-partisan compromise. Yet the MSM just goes along thinking that the Gang of Six is somehow the natural result of the normal legislative process when instead it is the result of a Blue Dog coup against the Kennedy wing of the Senate. That Reid even allowed Finance the ability to re-write the part of the bill that under regular order would be under HELP jurisdiction is shameful, that he allowed this re-writing power to be granted to an originally Republican majority 'gang' gets us pretty close to despicable.

This was all done out in the open. It was clear from the minute that HELP passed its version out of Committee that Baucus had no intention of it going into law in anything like its proposed form and that democracy was not going to rule the outcome. For God's sake how do you just exclude the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Health from participation in writing a health care bill? The fix was in from the beginning and should have been reported as such.

Posted by: BruceWebb | August 20, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Bruce has a good point on the committee. Ezra's item on it from last month:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/07/the_max_baucus_committee.html

The irony is that Baucus initially got praise for how he split up the tasks on the committee among the Dems. In fact, here's Ezra's item at American Prosspects that's stuck in my mind since May:

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=05&year=2009&base_name=exclusive_max_baucuss_health_c

The sad fact is that so many of those assignments that looked important at the time have been replaced by the Gang of 7 / Gang of 6.

I disagree with Ezra's thoughts on Bad Faith. We had GOP talking points on this at the start of the process, and throughout it. It doesn't look like Grassley has strayed from the talking points throughout the process, and Enzi has been in place to make sure. There really isn't any evidence that Grassley has negotiated in good faith, and he's made it clear that he can't support any bill unless given cover by 10+ other members of his own party. I think we all knew, and Grassley himself knew, that there never were going to be 10+ GOP Senators voting for this.

John

Posted by: toshiaki | August 20, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Well I am just shocked, shocked, to find Grassley taking this position. So we split the bill and ram it through.

Posted by: scott1959 | August 20, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

i would love to see an analysis of grassley's re-election problem

is he posturing for his upcoming re-election campaign?

is he going to face a primary challenge by someone more conservative than he is?

Posted by: jamesoneill | August 20, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

@kingstu01: "The Democrats are asking for everything they want, taking back pieces of it and calling it compromise."

That reminds me of what happens in fee for service health care: Provider bills $1200, knowing he'll probably get $1000. If he gets $900, next time he bills $1300. But if by chance he gets $1100, next time he bills $1400.

With Medicare $900 means $900. No nonsense. Just one more reason we need a public health plan.

Posted by: bmull | August 20, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Good faith would have been articulating his right wing views at the beginning of the year. Dragging the process along for months with the promise of a viable compromise before openly rejecting any workable middle ground is not "good faith" at all. We're not starting from a tabula rasa here; Grassley strung Baucus along for months with promises of a compromise, and is stabbing him in the back now just in time for the end of recess.

Posted by: NS12345 | August 21, 2009 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Negotiating with Grassley is just cover for the Democrats who are actually negotiating with themselves.

This is really about Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and the other Democrats of that ilk who are to spineless to say they will filibuster the bill, they would rather have Grassley take the hit for their lack of courage.

Posted by: jimjenson | August 22, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

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