Tri States Public Radio Staff
Tue October 13, 2009
Senators Durbin, Grassley Polar Opposites On Health Care
Fairfield, IA – U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently talked cooperation and a shared vision with regional leaders.
The two then flew back to Washington D.C. to take part in the most contentious debate going in Congress health care reform.
A shared vision is not the way to describe the views of the veteran politicians from neighboring states.
There are several, different versions of health care reform moving through Congress. The most anticipated package was developed by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).
The plan has gained approval from the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs. Just one of the ten Republicans on the panel crossed party lines to vote for the plan.
Senator Durbin says this vote is a big step in the right direction.
"We cannot let this situation deteriorate to the point that we do nothing," says Durbin, "the current situation is unsustainable, health care costs are rising too rapidly for individuals, families, and businesses."
"Folks are insecure," says Durbin, "because when they need their insurance, it is not there. We know we can do better."
Senator Durbin believes that once a final bill is crafted from the various proposals, there will be a good debate on the floor of the U-S Senate. He says that is long overdue when it comes to health care reform.
Senator Grassley expects the debate to remain partisan. He says the Democrats have the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation at any time.
Grassley says the Senate needs to return to its original, bipartisan efforts. He says several changes would aid in the process of bringing Republicans back to the table, including the elimination of the provision mandating someone have health insurance.
"That is not bad from a policy standpoint," says Grassley, "but let me tell you, it violates basic freedoms. A lot of people want to self insure, a lot of people can't afford insurance, and some people have a philosophical belief against insurance."
Senator Grassley says there should also be provisions guaranteeing that no benefits will be provided to those in the United States illegally or to those wanting to have an abortion. He does agree with one aspect of the Baucus Plan.
Grassley says the government should not be able to compete with private insurance companies through a public option plan.
"I don't want any more government programs," says Grassley, "I want to use and improve what we have right now."
Senator Durbin says the so-called public option is a necessity.
"I want a public option," Durbin says, "and I really worry that if we don't have some option in there, a non-profit option, the private health insurance companies will continue to dominate markets and dictate premiums."
The debate over health care reform, especially the so-called public option, spilled out of Washington D.C. this fall Thousands turned out for town hall meetings and public forums held across the country.
Senator Durbin feels the events had little impact on the current debate.
"If you remember in August," says Durbin, "a lot of attention was paid because, unfortunately, a number of those town hall meetings resulted in shoving and shouting matches. We took a look at the polling before and after those meetings and it didn't move more than a point or two, really no measurable impact."
Senator Grassley says the opposite is true when it comes to this summer's town halls.
"You would think that if the bill didn't get done in July," says Grassley, "they would be pushing for it. But now the House has put everything off until November. That is just one example of it making an impact."
U.S. Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IA) seem to agree on one thing in this debate. Some sort of reform would improve the current $2.5-trillion health care system.
While that may not be a shared vision on health care, perhaps it is a sign that a reform bill that everyone can get behind is still possible.