Opening Statement of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)

Courtesy of the Senate Finance Committee
Tuesday, September 22, 2009; 1:38 PM

Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to applaud you for your efforts to reform the health care system. Few people have worked as hard as you have on this issue. Your tireless dedication to moving ahead can be seen in everything you have done to get to this day.

And you created an environment in this committee for bipartisanship and collegial work on this very important issue. The roundtables and walkthroughs held this year were perhaps the most open and inclusive process this committee has undertaken in its history, I believe since I've been on the committee.

But despite your dedication and commitment to this important endeavor, I have a feeling the White House and the leadership on your side grew impatient and through artificial deadlines, forced us to where we are today. It seems to me that some people in the Senate would rather have it done right now instead of done right. That artificial deadline pushed us aside and put an end to that bipartisan work before it could produce a bipartisan bill. It seems that the White House and the leadership from the beginning were never really going to give it time to do it right. We could get no assurances that the Democratic leadership or the White House would have backed a bipartisan effort after it left the committee. That was a big concern on my side of the aisle over a long period of time.

And it was genuine cause for serious concerns. No one wanted to be used in a process that was going to have the rug pulled out from under it at some point down the road. Those concerns made it practically impossible to attract many Republicans to consider supporting this effort even at the beginning.

I had a meeting, as five other members of this committee did, with President Obama on August 6th. I told the president that if he wanted bipartisan support for the bill then he had to indicate publicly that he would be willing to support a bill without a government plan. I didn't say that he had to give up on that at that time. I just had to have him say to me that he could support one, if we presented it to him, that didn't have a government plan.

Then we had a lot of back of forth effort between the White House and the Congress on whether or not a public option would be out there. At one time, Secretary Sebelius said on CNN that a public option is "not the essential element" in reform legislation. But then later on, it seems like there was a revolt against that statement and the White House quickly retreated and said that a public plan was on the table.

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