IS CHUCK GRASSLEY A PLOTTING, CONNIVING, BACK-STABBING TWO-TIMER? OR JUST A SENATOR?

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I don't really understand the framing of this Hill story. "Grassley plots backup healthcare plan?" Plots? Seriously? The basic story is that Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, is working with Max Baucus on a bipartisan bill. He's also working with the Republicans on their alternative bill. Is he -- gasp! -- double-crossing his buddy Max Baucus? Are they now in a fight?

I doubt it. Baucus is presumably helping the Democrats craft whatever bill they'll use if they need to go through reconciliation. He didn't block the inclusion of reconciliation in the budget. There are no surprises here. People want bipartisan agreement but aren't banking on it. The relevant senators in both parties are participating in negotiations even as they review plans for war.

The interesting piece of the article quotes Grassley as saying that "budget reconciliation changed everything." But as a smart staffer argued to me recently, it turns out that budget reconciliation changed nothing. Baucus is still working with Grassley. Hatch is still talking to Kennedy. Enzi is still making cooperative noises. The GOP warned that the mere possibility of reconciliation would kill off bipartisanship. It didn't. Bipartisanship is progressive precisely as it was before. The difference is that everyone now knows the Democrats have an option if it fails.

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