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The Pressure on Chuck Grassley

grassleywhisper.jpgMost of the commentary on Chuck Grassley's truculence and back-pedaling has focused on his potential primary challenge and fear of the Iowa electorate. But that's not terribly convincing: According to Survey USA, Grassley has a 62 percent approval rating, and that lifts to 69 percent among Republicans. He's a five-time senator with a serious machine. How scared can he be?

The more plausible argument is that Grassley fears his fellow Republican senators. I'm hearing that Grassley is getting reamed out in meetings with his colleagues. The yelling is loud enough that staffers in adjacent offices have heard snippets. But the real threat isn't the yelling of his colleagues. It's their capacity to deny Grassley his next job. Ruth Marcus hints at this in her column on Chuck Grassley today, but it's worth explaining in a bit more detail.

This is the final year that Grassley is eligible to serve as ranking member — the most powerful minority member, and, if Republicans retake the Senate, the chairman — of the Senate Finance Committee. His hope is to move over as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, or failing that, the Budget Committee. But for that, he needs the support of his fellow Republicans. And if he undercuts them on health-care reform, they will yank that support. It's much the same play they ran against Arlen Specter a couple of years back, threatening to deny him his chairmanship of — again — the Judiciary Committee. It worked then, and there's no reason to think it won't work now.

Photo credit: By Bill O'Leary — The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  |  August 26, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Are Democrats Setting Themselves Up for Electoral Catastrophe?


Grassley is facing a classic dilemma: do you want to *do* something, or do you want to *be* something.

Posted by: constans | August 26, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure all these things are in play, but watching and listening to Grassley, I don't think you can discount the fact that he is old and getting stupid. He is a good illustration of the (IMHO) fallacy that people can work longer just because they are living longer. I believe a report came out a little while ago to the effect that 25% of people aged 70 already have some amount of dementia, and that the number affected progresses rapidly with each passing year. In general, its been my observation that the ability to think logically and absorb and act on new information declines pretty fast beginning in the mid-60's. Unfortunately, given the seniority system which rules in so much of our institutional life, this means the guys making the decisions are the ones who are losing it. BTW, this isn't some jaded Gen X'er or millenial making these observations - I'm 61.

Posted by: exgovgirl | August 26, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I wish Democrats would sack up and deny or threaten to deny chairmanships and such to recalcitrant members. The lack of party discipline is embarrassing, particularly when compared with the Republicans. No Democrat should be allowed to oppose cloture on key bills and retain prized committee seats.

Votes on final bills, they may be negotiable, but Dems should be uniformly in favor of cloture.

Posted by: TWAndrews | August 26, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

A better question to ask is: Why isn't GOP Leadership screaming at Enzi and Snowe, the other two Republican members of the Gang of Six?

Posted by: ctown_woody | August 26, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Grassley does not have a powerful machine, or really any machine to speak of. The Iowa Republican Party has been completely taken over by the Evangelical wing of the party, which does not like Grassley. (See, for example, his lack of Delegate status to the 2008 Republican convention.) That lack is part of what makes a primary threat to him credible in the first place.

Posted by: Drew_Miller_Hates_IDs_That_Dont_Allow_Spaces | August 26, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully there will be a viable opponent to run against Chuck, but that prospect is doubtful. While Iowans like *change* (Obama caucus win, Iowa going blue in the general), the known quantity is there in DC in both Grassley and Harkin.

I agree with Drew that the Iowa GOP is getting right-wing nuttier every minute and Chuck doesn't excite them much.

Posted by: OceanDog | August 26, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Grassley's only concern is his reelection. He jumped on the Palin's bandwagon with his warning seniors about death panels, hoping to attract the yellers at townhalls.

Grassley is truly a vile mediocrity.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | August 26, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Grassley's only concern is his reelection. He jumped on the Palin's bandwagon with his warning seniors about death panels, hoping to attract the yellers at townhalls.

Grassley is truly a vile mediocrity.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | August 26, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

What is the big deal?

What did any of those Chairman's do when they were in power for 12 years?

Clintons BJ?

Posted by: sasha2008 | August 26, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I donot want to insult this man.
he is "not w/the program".
i do not want the brain, or antibrain of him.......
controlling any aspect of our lives.

how do you tell an is time to retire.
he is of no use to our governing body.
my opinion

Posted by: jelizbooki | August 26, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Corn Fed Cows-

All starch- no protein

Country's Food System- Wonder why there is an epidemic of Obesity?

Posted by: sasha2008 | August 26, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

At his age, I should think if he were a man of integrity, that he should be concerned about how he will be remembered for all his years of service. If he has overiding concerns other than this, he should just make it official and exit this committee. It is my sincere hope and expectation that, should he choose to stay on this committee, that others have seen him for what he is and have made his contributions irrelevant. Go over him, under him, beside him, or right through him and do what needs to be done on behalf of the majority of people in this country who gave the majority in Congress and this Administration their mandate in November, 2008. Everyone is responsible for participating with authenticity in government, if you have been elected by the people. When you engage in politics for politics, and not in government, no one is obligated to try to work with you, least of all a majority Congress who have added your contributions only to have you say you still won't support it. Congress is here for the people, not for the Republican Party.

Posted by: nana4 | August 26, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

To: Drew Miller who hates IDs that don't allow spaces:

"Grassley does not have a powerful machine, or really any machine to speak of."

Grassley DOES have a machine. It's name is 'GRASSLEY'S HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRIAL MACHINE' as he is getting very rich from the funds they donate for his reelections and I'm certain there is plenty there for his wonderful golf and ranching outings just

Posted by: MadasHelinVA | August 26, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

When did elected congressmen stop being concerned about the people? Or were they ever?

Posted by: andreams | August 26, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Support Democrat Bob Krause online against Grassley for Iowa Senate in 2010.

Grassley is being challenged by his own party this election in the primaries for not being "republican" (i.e. obstructionist) enough. He is clearly beatable.

Support his Dem opponent Bob Krause online with donations.

One less healthcare-obstructionist republican senator in 2011.

Don't get mad - get even.

Posted by: davequ | August 26, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

But isn't the whole idea of the Republican Party "Take care of #1, especially if you can hurt others at the same time"?

While I disagree with Grassley's politics, at least heretofore he seemed to have been a person of integrity. And I suspect that he himself has both a living will and a durable power of attorney/health care proxy.

Posted by: edallan | August 26, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Poor the right thing, or do the Republican thing.

Decisions, decisions...

Posted by: ibsteve2u | August 26, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

if the repugs retake the Senate? Now that would be a landslide that only a 666 (Ronald Wilson Reagan) could conjure.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | August 26, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Grassley has proven that he has no spine. He'll slither into line with the other repubs. His principles and integrity were easily bought.

Posted by: houston_progressive | August 26, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

>>>> if Republicans retake the Senate, the chairman — of the Senate Finance Committee. His hope is to move over as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, or failing that, the Budget Committee. <<<<

Democrats have to lose 11 senate seats in order to retake of the US senate by the Repuke party.
Democrats may lose 6-7 seats even under WORST scenarios on next 3 election cycles but I do not see any chance of changing hands in next 6 years.

It is obvious why the following senators are jumping seats from the Repuke party:

1) Mel Martinez (FL)
2) Judd Gregg (NH)
3) George Voinovich (OH)
4) Christopher Bond (MO)

Probably few more would not run in 2010.

Given that, GRASSLEY would be better off paling out with Palin and announcing death panels as the crusader of his Repuke party.

Posted by: kat7 | August 26, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

it is plain to see that he is loosing happens as we all's time for him to step down..

there are quite a few in office that old enough to retire but wont..some can hardly's a power thing,they have to have power..

times are changing and we need younger people that are up date with things...
people that know how to take of the US

Posted by: janeycat57 | August 26, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Grassley should fear his fellow Republicans as the have become a lynch mob. His best bet would be to do the ethical thing, vote for HCR and retire with a reputation he can be proud of. One day his grand children may say that their Grampa made a difference.

Posted by: GOWL1 | August 26, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

As someone who was born and raised in the Midwest U.S. I used to believe the Midwesterners were the best, the brightest, the most independent and the most intelligent voters in the country. Now I watch the election and the re-elections of people such as Grassley in Iowa and Michelle Bachmann in Minnesota and all I can say is I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK! These people seem to have forgotten how to assess the truth and would rather be spoon-fed a pack of lies by special interest groups who only serve to promote their agendas by fear and outright untruths.

Posted by: cmkramer | August 27, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

I disagree....but I forgot what I was going to say.
Age 70

Posted by: oxalis123hjotmailcom | August 27, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

To be more succinct, its all about Grassley's narcissistic desire for power --- not the common good or the health of Americans in dire need of affordable medical care.

But the fact is; health care IS NOT A COMMODITY --- that only the privileged have a right to own!

Posted by: ldp1 | August 27, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

One of the comments stated that Grassley was getting old and stupid. This partly correct, but he was way stupid before he ever got old. His main calling would be more to hog slopping back in his home state.
Listening to him at town hall meetings explains why our government is in the shape it's in today.

Posted by: JeronimoDan | August 27, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Republicans retaking the Senate? With 22% approval rating? What planet are these people inhabiting?

Posted by: AJBF | August 27, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure of Sen Grassley's ambitions or future plans. I am sure that he supports the Republican opposition to health care reform. His comments regarding end of life planning were silly at best and wrong at worst. He stated, and I paraphrase, that part of the bill was wrong because these decisions should be made 20 years before and by the family. Yet, all that part of the bill stipulates is an appointment with a physician after the age of 60 for the purpose of discussing end of life issues would be paid for. That's it, that's what the "death panel" is all about. Having been through my mother's terminal illness, I know many of us don't think about such options until faced with death. And many may want to plan for situations such as surviving an accident but may remain in a coma. Sen Grassley sure could have insisted letting all get such counselling. But then again, he looks old, white, anglo-saxon, protestant,(WASP) and male. He seems a little confused, too. Maybe he should get end of life counseling unless he did that when he was 40.

Posted by: sander | August 27, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This doesn't sound like someone who can negotiate honestly with President Obama and the Democrats on the health care legislation; count me as shocked on that account.

The 'done gone insane' wingnutters have got him by the proverbial electoral throat. No wonder he's been spouting off such crazy lies. That or else, he has dementia.

Democrats: Go it alone. The republicans will not help you one bit. They don't know how to build anything, they only know how to destroy.

Posted by: cfeher | August 27, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or does Grassley have the eyes of a lizard?

Posted by: rozsa1 | August 27, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Typical Regressive...Puts himself and his party before the needs of the American people.

Posted by: Beka13 | August 27, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The dems could probably bribe this guy with support for certain possitions if they had enough party discipline. But they don't have that discipline. Nor do I imagine they want to. The GOP as obstructionists is a great election narrative for the Dems.

Posted by: theamazingjex | August 28, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

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