September 08, 2009 CNN ROBERTS: Plus, looking for a compromise on health care reform -- the Senate's so-called gang of six, three Republicans and thr
September 8, 2009

September 08, 2009 CNN

ROBERTS: Plus, looking for a compromise on health care reform -- the Senate's so-called gang of six, three Republicans and three Democrats, will be meeting later on today.

The six negotiators, who are also members of the Senate Finance Committee, will be considering a plan by the committee's chairman Senator Max Baucus. That plan would drop the public option or government backed health insurance and tax the priciest insurance plans.

One member of the gang of six is Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley. He joins us this morning from Capitol Hill. Senator, it's great to see you back in Washington. I hope the month of August was enjoyable for you.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: It was very enjoyable.

ROBERTS: Terrific.

Hey, listen, during the August recess, you said of the efforts to craft a bipartisan bill there in the Senate, quote, "I don't think it's going to be possible to work it out with the administration because they're all over the field."

Now that you're back there on Capitol Hill, are you going to walk away from this or are you going to stick with the gang of six and try to come up with a plan?

GRASSLEY: Well, we won't know until we meet this afternoon at 2:30, the president has the good and bad of the president speaking this week is that we had to speed up the work of our group to have something ready. The other thing is that the president - and that's bad because we should have probably taken a little more time than just over this weekend. And then the other issue is that the president, if he does come out with specifics, probably would make up for that criticism that I gave during August that they were all over the ballpark, and they were all over the ballpark.

ROBERTS: Now, one of the proposals that's being floated and was handed to you over the weekend is from Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the committee. It's no public plan, non-profit co-ops would provide insurance for people who are uninsured, it expands Medicaid eligibility, as well and then levies of fees on insurance companies who provide high end Cadillac plans to help pay for the overall reform, is that something that you can support?

GRASSLEY: Well, one thing about the co-ops, if they're going to end up just the way we've known co-ops for 150 years in America, the answer is yes because they're consumer driven and all the consumers benefit from it. They're organized by members. There's no federal government running the co-ops, et cetera. And that's the way that Senator Conrad has devised them and I've been discussing that with him and along the lines of what he suggested. It's very favorable.

And just in case, that somebody comes along and wants a federal board, the federal government to accept the risks. So we ended up with a health care Fannie Mae, then that would away no-no for me. In regard to the tax that you asked about, the only thing I would suggest is both Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation has said that those costs would be passed on to the premium holders.

So it's going to drive up the cost of insurance, maybe at a level of insurance that we shouldn't be subsidizing in the first place, but the case is that the extent to which consumers pay for it, that is a concern as opposed to if the corporations would have had to pay for it, the people providing the insurance, it probably would be a better approach.

ROBERTS: Senator, of course, the president has got this speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow evening. He kind of laid down the groundwork for that, yesterday's speech to the AFL-CIO in which he took on people like yourself who have been critical of his plans for health care, saying what have you done lately? Let's listen to what the president said.



OBAMA: What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one.


ROBERTS: Senator, the president charges, you don't have a solution. So let me ask you now, what is your solution to health care reform? What's your plan?

GRASSLEY: Well, don't forget, I've been working the last three or four months with Senator Baucus one-on-one and then later with a group of six to come up with a bipartisan plan. And it seems to me that the bipartisan approach is the best. And if you look at the president during his campaign, he wanted to be post partisan, and it seems to me like those statements yesterday were very partisan, contrary to what he promised in the last campaign.

But I would be working towards a bipartisan effort. And if we don't get a bipartisan effort, then, of course, there are so many things in what I've been working towards that could easily go into my plan or a Republican plan and then don't forget that there's already four Republican plans out there introduced by other members of our caucus. But because we're the minority party, you at CNN and other places haven't given our plans much publicity because I suppose we're in the minority and you want to help the president so much so that I hope that if we - if we don't have a bipartisan plan, that you'll start giving some attention to the Republican plans that are out there. ROBERTS: Right. Well, I can assure you, Senator Grassley, it's not our intention to help any politician, president, you, anyone else. We're just merely telling people what is out there and we will redouble our efforts to illuminate Republican plans.

Let me ask you this question...

GRASSLEY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: You're up for re-election next year. You recently sent out a fund raising letter in which you said to your constituents, "we ask for your immediate support in helping me defeat Obama-care. Ezra Klein from the "Washington Post," took a look at that, and he said that, speaking of you, "he is creating a campaign premised on his role in stopping Obama's health care reform effort. It's not clear how he could pivot to save it, even if he wanted to do so. My question to you is, have you left yourself with this pre-election campaign, Senator, any room for compromise?

GRASSLEY: Absolutely, yes. Because you know what Obama-care is in the public's minds, my constituents' minds? It's all that public option. It's all the eventual nationalization of health care in America, run entirely by the federal government. And that letter associates Obama care with the public option and the people of my state and I think most of the people in this country don't want the government to take over federal health care.

ROBERTS: All right. Senator Charles Grassley, it's good to talk to you this morning. We look forward to the results of the meeting with the gang of six later on today. Appreciate it. Thank you.

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