Bipartisan Support Only With Co-Op

Grassley, FTN, 8.23.09
Senator Charles Grassley, the leading Republican in the Senate Finance Committee, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should reconsider requiring a public option in health care legislation if she seeks any Republican support in Congress on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Grassley, R-Iowa, again touted the benefits of a health care cooperative which would arguably provide competition for large insurance companies without running them into the ground, as some legislators argue, a public option would.

"If you have a public option and you eventually get to only one option then there is no choices," he said.

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, has been on the record saying that if there is a public option in health care legislation it cannot pass the Senate.

"It is very clear that in the United States Senate the public option does not have the votes," Conrad said Bluntly. "If we have to get to sixty votes we cannot get there with the public option."

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The membership controlled co-op alternative is "the only proposal that has bipartisan support and therefore going to get 60 votes," he argued.

Moderator Bob Schieffer asked about the possibility of a reconciliation - which would allow the Senate bypass the requirement of 60 votes.

Conrad said that while it was an option, "it does not work very well" and the strategy was designed for deficit reduction.

"It never contemplated substantive legislation," he said. "What you are left with is Swiss cheese for legislation."

Grassley lamented that while President Obama has said to him she wants bipartisan support for his health care proposal, "you get conflicting signals out of the White House."

He said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Obama have fallen on opposite sides on whether a public option was necessary.

Appearing later on "Face the Nation", former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said the public option remained the best way to bring viable health care alternatives to Americans, adding the the co-ops would just be .

Schieffer also asked Grassley why he alluded to the health care legislation including a clause which would "pull the plug on Grandma" during a town hall meeting in Iowa last week.

The senator said he was responding to a constituent's question.

"The specific language I used was language that the president had used in Portsmouth," Grassley said.

He said his constituents are concerned that the issue of end of life counseling is being connected with a government run option.

"You are scaring a lot of people," he said. "I know that the Pelosi bill doesn't intend to do that but that is where it leads people to."

Finally, Grassley admitted that end of life counseling options "will not do that."

He quickly asserted that "doctors giving you some advice at the end of life" comes with an $8 billion dollar price tag.

Neither senator would offer Schieffer a number on how much health care legislation costs could be pared down.