Sen. Charles E. Grassley Discusses Prospects For Health Legislation

Kaiser Health News caught up with Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, as he prepared to attend a town hall meeting in Northwest Iowa on Thursday. Below are excerpts from that interview with Kaiser Health News Correspondent Eric Pianin. 


Listen to the interview (mp3)

Sen. Grassley: “If town meetings are going to mean anything, if democracy is going to mean anything, then you listen to your people and you act accordingly. I think you’re finding the situation out here a little more fluid. When we go back in September it may not be the exactly the same way when we left on Aug. 6. So we’ve got a situation where there may be some change in direction. It could be dramatic or it could be just a little course correction. But I think town meetings….in all 50 states {are] going to make a difference….I think everything is going to be affected by what sort of difference these town meetings are making.”

Pianin: “One thing that has changed, of course, is the new projections of deficits and debt over the next 10 years.  Apparently you’ve been hearing a lot from your constituents about that. Could that effect your thinking about the size and scope of this [health care] bill?”

Sen. Grassley: “I think so. I couldn’t quantify that for you. I think it’s a reason we’re having such big turnouts. It’s not just the health care issue. I think health care is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think we’ve got concern about the stimulus not working, big increases in appropriations, General Motors and banks being nationalized. A lot of fear out here.At my last town meeting I had a lot of emotion expressed at it, just about the future of the country. Somebody carrying their young son in their arms saying ‘I want this country to be what I’ve known it as so my kid can live in a country like I did.'”

Pianin: Do you think you can get a deal [on health care reform]?

Grassley: “I think that it’s too early to say. If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes I think so, September. But you’re asking me on Aug. 27 and you’ve got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody’s showing up at town meetings. What sort of impact is that making? I can’t tell you except in a few instances in my case, and [Sen. Max} Baucus can tell you in his case. But we need to talk it over with other members….”