Grassley on White House Admonitions, Fighting “Obamacare”

Sep 2, 2009 1:58pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Sen. Charles Grassley’s office is firing back at White House adviser David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs for saying the three Republican negotiators still seeking a bipartisan health reform compromise are not coming to the table in good faith. “If you’re sitting at a table negotiating in good faith, then you probably don’t send out mailers saying, ‘Help me stop Obama-care.’ That’s just common sense,” Axelrod told the Wall Street Journal, adding that a fundraising mailer sent by Grassley and a speech made over the weekend by Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming “suggested they don’t want to participate” in bipartisan talks. “They’re satisfied with the status quo. We are not,” said Axelrod. “Attacks by political operatives in the White House undermine bipartisan efforts and drive senators away from the table,” said Grassley’s spokesperson Jill Kozeny in an email today. She also explained the fundraising letter: “The Grassley fundraising letter was mailed on August 7. It describes Senator Grassley’s opposition to the government-run plan in the House and HELP committee bills. The President supports a government-run option. Senator Grassley has opposed a government-run plan all year. He’s talked with the President about it directly, starting March 6, at the White House summit on health care, during the televised re-cap session at the end of the day. There’s nothing new in the letter. It says the same thing Senator Grassley has said throughout the debate this year. In a conference call with Iowa reporters that was posted on his Senate website Tuesday. Grassley, R-Iowa, employed a near-Rumsfeldian definition of “Obamacare” to explain the fundraising letter, which was posted on the Washington Post website Monday. A reporter asked Grassley about trying to raise funds to help him defeat Obamacare. "What is Obamacare?” the reporter asked him. Grassley: “There isn’t really a bill out there but people think there’s a bill out there and people in journalism think there’s a bill out there because they keep referring to Obamacare just like some magic bill came up from the White House that Congress is considering. So if people think everything we’re doing is Obamacare, then it's Obamacare whether it really is or isn’t.” Reporter: “Aren’t you raising money based on the fact that you’re asking people to give you money to fight against something that in this committee you are…” Grassley: “Oh no. No, it’s the two bills that are out there. We don’t have a product out there that anybody can look at or anything that I could speak about. You’re talking about the bill of Sen. Dodd’s committee, used to be Sen. Kennedy’s committee, a very partisan bill. And you’re talking about the House bill that Pelosi is going to be putting together that came out of Rep. Waxman’s committee. "And these are the bills, quite frankly, if you want something that is the essence of Obamacare even though it didn’t come from the White House, it’s the House bill mainly that’s on the Internet, that people are reading and they don’t like."

With Axelrod and Gibbs turning their aim at Grassley, he is officially getting it from both sides. In a separate interview, posted on the website of the Kaiser Family Foundation, he acknowledged that there is frustration among Republicans that he continues to seek middle ground. Asked if he had been criticized by Republican leaders for seeking bipartisanship, Grassley said, “Not to my face, but I think to my back, I have.”

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