Republicans Criticize Democrat’s Direction, Finance Committee Timing
Just as Senate Finance Committee action is heating up, tempers on both sides of the aisle are flaring, as senators stake out positions and weigh political implications of their positions.
The New York Times reports that Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, of Iowa, is facing criticism from members of his own party and Democrats for his role in health overhaul negotiations: "Just as the health care debate has taken its toll on Mr. Obama's popularity, Mr. Grassley's long-iconic status in Iowa has suffered. A poll last week for The Des Moines Register put Mr. Grassley's support at 57 percent, down from 75 percent in January. The erosion is among Democrats and independents; his recent vocal opposition on health care seems to have shored up his standing among Republicans. During his opening remarks, Mr. Grassley blamed the White House and Democratic leaders. Their pressure for the Finance Committee to act by a mid-September deadline, he complained, forced a premature end to talks among three Republicans and three Democrats that began last June. Four other committees finished during the summer. 'I find it utterly and completely appalling,' he said" (Calmes, 9/22).
Politico reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats could see a "severe, negative, and I think appropriate reaction from the American people" if they use the reconciliation tool to push health reform through the Senate. "Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is keeping open the option of using reconciliation, while stressing that he would rather pass a bill along less strictly partisan means" (Isenstadt, 9/22).
Sen. Olympia Snowe stands as the lone potential Republican vote, The New York Times reports in a second story. "Ms. Snowe is the only member of her party on the finance panel willing to support the proposed health care legislation. Her Republican colleagues will vote against it, and so the focus on Wednesday will turn to policy fights among Democrats themselves. Senate leaders say they expect Democratic senators ultimately will fall in line to support the health care bill. But there is a lot to argue about between now and then" (Herszenhorn, 9/23).
Democrats, too, are sparring among themselves over a deal with big pharmaceutical companies, The New York Times reports in a third story: "Senate Democrats are now bitterly divided. And Senate Republicans are eagerly jumping into the fray to needle the Democrats over their divisions. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, has proposed an amendment that would essentially toss out the White House deal with PhRMA, the lobbying association for the drug industry. Mr. Nelson said his alternate plan would extract an additional $86 billion more from the drug industry." The amendment attracted Democrat backers on the panel, and a vote is expected on Wednesday (Herszenhorn and Pear, 9/22).
CongressDaily reports on a proposal to allow reimportation of drugs from Canada: "Despite a pledge by Senate Majority Leader Reid to hold a vote on a bill to allow reimportation of drugs from Canada this year, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., plans to offer the measure as an amendment to a healthcare overhaul bill on the Senate floor, raising the prospect of a distracting intraparty debate during the healthcare floor fight" (9/23).
Also, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez is accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of playing politics with reform, Roll Call reports (Drucker, 9/22).
Finally, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, said he wants to see a public insurance option as part of the Finance Committee bill, Roll Call reports in a second story. "The Finance bill in its current form includes a nonprofit medical cooperative, rather than a public option, in a bid to earn the support of Republicans and moderate Democrats. 'This bill takes a giant step forward,' Schumer said. 'But I believe there are things we must do to make it better. I'm a firm believer in a public option. ... We also have to deal with affordability'" (Drucker, 9/22).