Playing Poker With The Gang, Sending Your Ante By Air-Gram

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Ezra Klein:

The White House has, for the first time, spoken out against a member of Max Baucus’s “Gang of Six.” After Mike Enzi used the GOP’s weekly radio to attack the Democrats’ health-care plan for promoting “the rationing of [America’s] health care,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs fired back that Enzi “clearly turned over his cards on bipartisanship and decided that it’s time to walk away from the table.”

Everyone I’ve spoken to in the Senate believes, strongly, that this process is about to break down, and the Democrats are going to move forward on a more partisan basis. Presumably, the Republicans in the Gang of Six process have heard the same and have no interest in looking like fools when that happens. And so they’re beginning to use their positions in the negotiations not to further the cause of a final bill, but to enhance their stature as spokesmen for the opposition. Grassley, as noted earlier, is sending out fundraising e-mails attacking “Obama-care.” Enzi is lacerating Democratic ideas under the banner of his party. As far as I can tell, the Gang of Six process is already dead. What’s happening now is that the participants seem to be raiding its corpse.

Brian Beutler at TPM

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Looks like the charade of including Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi in the health care negotiations is over. It is not impossible that other Republicans who are not Senators from Maine can be located to support health care reform. But it’s also entirely possible that the Republicans will continue their kamikaze ways and oppose a reform that is likely to prove very popular with the American public when it’s enacted (which is why, in truth, the GOP nihilists oppose it).

Wonkette:

Terrible Sen. Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley’s second-in-command for reaching a bipartisan health care bill, wants to reform health care in much the same way that his superior does: by killing health care reform completely. This does not portend well for the Gang of Six! Even White House meanie Robert Gibbs admitted today that Enzi, whom Obama once praised for his good-faith negotiating efforts during a primetime press conference, has thrown his wiener in the cogs of progress one too many times now and should proceed to piss off.

Meanwhile, back to Ezra:

Chuck Grassley is facing a potentially difficult primary challenge in 2010. As such, he’s been working hard to cover his right flank. That would all be fine except for one thing: As ranking member of the Finance Committee, Grassley is responsible for developing a workable compromise on health-care reform. But as this fundraising letter (pdf) shows, Grassley is running against health-care reform back in Iowa. Here’s how the missive begins:

“I had to rush you this Air-Gram today to set the record straight on my firm and unwavering opposition to government-run health care.And ask your immediate support in helping me defeat “Obama-care.”

I’m sure you’ve been following this issue closely. If the legislation sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives and Chairman Ted Kennedy in the Senate is passed it would be a pathway to a government takeover of the health care svstem. lt would turn over control of your health care decisions to a federal bureaucrat … and take it away from you and your personal physician.

It would mean government rationing in the name of cost controls.”

The emphases are in the original document. Grassley does allow that he is working on “a viable alternative that is free-market based and rejects the pitfalls of government-run insurance.” But that’s the single constructive or compromise-oriented sentence in the letter. The rest of it, as you can read for yourself, previews a campaign strategy entirely based around Grassley’s opposition to “Obama-care.” As Grassley says, “the simple truth is that I am and always have been opposed to the Obama administration’s plan to nationalize health care. Period.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent:

One part that jumped out at me:

Picture 78

ACORN is not that much of a political force in Iowa. If anything, this is a nod to evolving standards in fundraising boilerplate.

Greg Sargent:

A spokesperson for Senator Chuck Grassley is clarifying his claim in a fundraising letter that he’s working for the “defeat” of “Obamacare,” saying that the Senator was only referring to defeating the public health care option.

As I noted below, a fundraising letter from Grassley to his constituents starkly proclaimed his desire to defeat both “Obamacare” and the proposal from Ted Kennedy’s committee — raising yet more questions about what, exactly, Grassley is prepared to support.

Asked for clarification, Grassley spokesperson Jill Kozeny emailed:

“The letter describes the government-run plan in the House and HELP committee bills that President Obama supports and Senator Grassley opposes.”

The fundraising letter does seem to suggest much more general opposition to Obamacare and to the Kennedy effort, and this appears to be a bit of a walk-back of that, though it’s unclear how reassured Dems will be about Grassley’s true intentions.

Either way, it’s back to the bipartisan drawing board!

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