Grassley’s Doubts, Coupled With Cost Control Issues, Could Complicate Dems’ Overhaul EffortsPolitico reports that, despite saying last week that he was "confident" President Obama was working towards a bipartisan health bill, Sen. Charles Grassley "told local voters, 'I'm not walking away from the table; I'm being pushed away from the table.' ... Grassley's Iowa road show shows just why Democrats feared this August recess. If the Democrats lose Grassley, the top Republican negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee, they very likely lose any hope of a bipartisan bill. Even worse, if Grassley bails, then conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson may follow." The appearance of a bipartisan effort is key to rallying moderates from both parties who may be vulnerable in next year's mid-term elections (Lerner, 8/13).
The August politicking also comes against the backdrop of "the government's grim financial situation," the Washington Post reports. "[K]ey Republicans and a growing number of Democrats say it will be hard to push an ambitious health reform bill through Congress unless it reduces projected federal spending on medical care and begins to bring the national debt under control."
"It's not good enough that it's just paid for, it actually has to start driving long-term costs down," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. The benefits to controlling spending for Democrats are many: It could avert fiscal disaster, clear the way for President Obama's other priorities, "defang" criticisms of the health overhaul. But it's a difficult battle. The same critics who assail Democrats for excessive spending also attack them for plans to cut spending that could lead to "fewer choices and lower health-care quality for our nation's seniors," as House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said (Montgomery, 8/14). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.