As the important health care debate in Congress moves forward, certain members of the Senate insist on moving backwards. One of those Senators is my friend and constituent, Chuck Grassley.
Grassley used scare tactics last week at a town hall meeting in Iowa to convince voters that optional coverage for end-of-life counseling in the House health care reform bill would force people to "pull the plug on grandma" (even though he supported a nearly identical end-of-life counseling provision in a 2003). Earlier this week, Grassley told reporters that even if a health care plan included the changes he's been pushing for, he likely wouldn't support it if it didn't attract the support of more than a few of his GOP colleagues. Today, the Washington Post reported that Senator Grassley has begun calling for "scaled back" health care reform.
For someone who claims he wants to help forge a bipartisan health care plan, Senator Grassley sure isn't acting very bipartisan. In fact, he's been behaving like someone who wants to see meaningful health care reform defeated.
During his nearly thirty years serving in the Senate, Senator Grassley has earned a reputation as a "straight shooter" -- someone who has been willing to take on powerful special interests even when his party has supported those special interests. He's also been someone who may disagree with with you on policy, but has not resorted to playing loose with the facts to fit his point of view.
That's why his recent behavior has been so disappointing. He should know that real leadership in Congress means putting the facts before fiction (no matter how difficult that might be), finding common ground, and persuading your colleagues to do the right thing. Grassley certainly didn't ignore the facts when he pushed the Pentagon to cut wasteful defense programs. He certainly put facts before the Bush administration's fiction when he stood up against reckless tax cuts for millionaires and broke with his party to support increased funding for children's health insurance.
So when Chuck Grassley stands up in front of a crowd of anxious Iowa seniors and pushes a myth about the federal government "pulling the plug on Grandma" that's been debunked by dozens of media outlets and fact-check groups (even Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia called the claim "nuts"), when he questions the health care reform legislation's "motivations," you've got to wonder what's changed about his motivations.
Senator Grassley is in a stronger position than just about anyone to bring Republicans on board with Democrats to achieve the health care reform we need. But when he uses the same rhetoric as pundits advising Republicans to "just kill it" and a Republican Senator who wants to make health care President Obama's "Waterloo," why would the President or Senator Baucus think he is their ally in achieving meaningful health care reform?
Sadly, it appears that Senator Grassley has decided to put his party before what's best for the people of this country.