Democrats Lose Hope in Winning Republican Support on Reform
As Republican opposition to health reform legislation continues to mount, some Democrats believe there is a dwindling chance of bipartisan legislation and are becoming more focused on gaining support within their own party, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the shift to a less bipartisan view came as a result of what Democrats believe to be a purposefully negative tactic by Republicans toward health reform during the current congressional recess. In addition, some Democrats were put off by GOP comments that current reform proposals are beyond fixing (Hulse/Zeleny, New York Times, 8/19).
In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- one of the six senators on the committee's bipartisan negotiating panel -- Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would "absolutely" not support legislation that does not have widespread Republican support (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 8/18).
"I'm negotiating for Republicans and if I can't negotiate something that gets more than four Republicans, I'm not a good representative of my party," Grassley said, adding, "It isn't a good deal if I can't sell my product to more Republicans" (Bolton, The Hill, 8/18).
White House Stance
On Tuesday, Obama administration officials made it clear the administration was upset with Republican views on health reform.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, "Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that at best "only a handful [of Republicans] seem interested in the type of comprehensive reform that so many people believe is necessary to ensure the principles and the goals that the president has laid out."
According to the Times, the White House has interpreted comments from Grassley as a sign that the chances of a bipartisan deal are dwindling.
Administration officials thought Grassley was unwilling to continue bipartisan negotiations after he failed last week to debunk rumors that reform legislation would include "death panels."
Furthermore, Grassley pushed back plans to meet with the six-member bipartisan negotiating committee during the recess.
However, Grassley on Tuesday said that he was repeating earlier comments about garnering greater GOP support for a reform bill. He said that the adversarial town-hall meetings on health reform might have made reaching a bipartisan compromise more difficult, adding, "I am intent on talking. I am intent on seeing what we can do" (New York Times, 8/19).
Liberal Advocates Upset by Grassley Remarks
Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, said that Grassley's comments "made it pretty clear" that the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan negotiations are "a dead end" because there is "no indication anyone in the Senate GOP will consider reform at all in line with what the president and Democrats support."
Kirsch said, "We're making it really clear to Democrats in the Senate that .... they need to move forward on legislation themselves with the goals that the president and Democrats support."
Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, said, "We are encouraging Finance Committee members and Senate Democrats to do their own bill and not compromise with a bunch of Republicans who are not going to vote with them anyway" (The Hill, 8/18).
Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said, "It is clear that Republicans have decided 'no health care' is a victory for them," adding, "There is a point at which bipartisanship reaches a limit, and I would say it's reaching that limit" (Babington/Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Boston Globe, 8/19).
Shift May Not Make Passage Easier
A shift away from pursuing bipartisan legislation might not make it easier to pass health reform legislation because there still are disagreements between liberal Democrats who want a public plan and conservative Democrats who are concerned with the cost of such legislation, the Times reports.However, a less bipartisan approach could alter the debate and result in changes to a final bill, according to the Times. In addition, Democrats might be able to move more expediently on reform legislation if they are working on their own, the Times reports (New York Times, 8/19). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.