Senator Chuck Grassley had an hour-long lunch today with the president, vice president and another key senator involved in behind-the-scenes discussions on health care reform. It was just the four of them, as Grassley says no staff were present.
"We were in a small room that presumably is where…three or four people meet to have lunch. I had a hamburger. I’m not going to tell you what other people had, "Grassley said with a chuckle, as he spoke by phone with reporters from Radio Iowa and The Des Moines Register, "…except they’re more conscious of eating right than I am."
According to Grassley, he had "more than ample opportunity to make the points that (he) wanted to make," and Grassley stressed the importance of President Obama’s involvement in the process.
"The implication was that the president needs to be in the center of this thing to move things along," Grassley said.
Grassley is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and he’s been working with Senator Max Baucus, the Democrat who chairs the panel, on the issue of health care reform. Grassley and Baucus discussed the idea of a broad, publicly-funded health insurance plan with Obama and Biden, but Grassley made clear his objections.
"There was no indication of any line being drawn in the sand," Grassley said, "…although I indicated it was a major problem."
Grassley believes meetings of this sort will only occur again if the health care reform plan that emerges in congress is bipartisan — getting support from Republicans and Democrats.
"I would say that I got a great deal of confidence that the White House prefers a bipartisan agreement," Grassley said.
But Grassley fears Democrats may choose to pass their own plan and if that’s the path Democrats take, Grassley vows to create a Republican alternative to present to the American people. According to Grassley, Obama’s four years as a United States senator gives the president a perspective on the "uniqueness" of the senate and what it takes to get things done.
Listen to all of what Grassley had to say about today’s White House meeting by clicking on the audio link below.