For those of you who follow the inside baseball, National Journal has a look at the Republican strategy on healthcare reform: Delay, misinform, obfuscate... You know, the usual:
Grassley, the Finance Committee's ranking member, is the influential wild card among Senate Republicans, and he covets his reputation for independence. McConnell stays in close touch with the folksy Midwesterner, eager to keep him in the GOP fold. Many congressional observers have decided that Grassley is negotiating in good faith with Democrats to see if he can help get a reasonable bill out of Finance, but these sources expect him to reject a conference report later this year if it moves too far left.
In an interview, Grassley contended that Republicans should be delighted that he's on the job. "If they wonder whether or not our being involved [in the Finance talks] is doing any good, wouldn't you rather have a conservative Republican at the table than have nobody at the table?" he asked. "And secondly, hasn't our party, plus the grassroots of America, been pleading for time to study [legislation]? And suppose I was not at the table: There would be debate on the floor of the Senate, not in the Finance Committee."
Grassley said that Republican leaders asked him to block any Democratic moves to ration health services or implement a public option, although he tentatively supports a public cooperative that is not government-run. "So, the two things that Republicans are most concerned about -- the public option and rationing -- ain't going to be in it," he concluded.
Asked about his balancing act with Grassley, McConnell said that his colleague has been "very open" with the caucus. "I think it's been just fine," McConnell said of the Finance discussions. "I do read that some of the Democrats may not be that happy with it. But I don't think I have felt, nor do I think most of my members have felt, that they were trying to hide the ball on us."
Meanwhile, his "reputation for independence" is looking a little compromised. The New York Times:
"Some Republicans have begun to warn that Mr. Grassley should tread carefully on the health care bill if he wants to become the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee."
"The three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are under pressure from their leadership not to cut a deal too quickly .. and that message has been delivered frequently in recent weeks."
"Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, has assured his GOP colleagues that he will not sell them out and strike a private deal with Democrats on healthcare reform."
[...] On Wednesday morning Senator Grassley said, the group was "on the edge" of agreement. But later in the day he walked those comments back, saying, "I think we’re on the edge of getting something. Now, when I say ‘on the edge,’ that could be within a week. It could be within two weeks, or it might not be until we get back after Labor Day."
Awww. I think it's sweet that they let him think he's independent -- and that Max Baucus is playing along with it.