Grassley Talks Obamacare Repeal And Congressional Oversight

Jun 13, 2017

Like many members of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Grassley hasn’t seen a draft of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

A group of Republican senators has been working on the legislation in closed meetings, and details of the bill are secret. This clandestineness has been criticized as it does not allow stakeholders or even other Senators, like Grassley, to comment on and possibly shape the legislation. 

During a phone call with reporters, Grassley didn't object to the lack of transparency. He explained that when Democrats had control of the Senate, then-majority leader Harry Reid also acted secretly to push through Obamacare.

"You know it may not be right for us to do the same thing. But time may be a factor," he said. "If time isn’t a factor you may have a hearing. If time is a factor, you may not have a hearing."

Even if he knew the details of the bill, Grassley added that he probably wouldn’t talk about it, because he believes this is the only chance to fix Obamacare.

"You're going to have to look at this as a total package," he said. "I don't think we're going to get a second, third or fourth chance. In fact, I know we're not." 

There will be a floor debate on the Senate bill, but critics say that’s too little too late.

Also during the call, Iowa's senior senator explained his opposition of a recent move by the Trump administration’s Office of Legal Counsel that directs the executive branch to deny information requests from members of Congress, unless the request comes from a committee, subcommittee or the chairperson.

Grassley calls this policy "nonsense" and said it undermines the constitutional duties of elected representatives.

"The effect of this opinion, would be to prevent members of Congress who happen to be in the minority, or even less-senior members of the majority, from carrying out their constitutional duties," he said. "I know from experience, cause it took me a long time to be a chairman, that partisan responses to oversight discourages bipartisanship, it decreases transparency.”

He also argued OLC policy diminishes accountability and the constitutional role of Congress.