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Sen. Chuck Grassley suggests GOP won't attempt to repeal Obamacare if the party retakes control of the Senate

John L. Dorman   

Sen. Chuck Grassley suggests GOP won't attempt to repeal Obamacare if the party retakes control of the Senate
  • Sen. Grassley hinted that Republicans wouldn't try to repeal Obamacare if they flip the Senate.
  • While speaking at a town hall, Grassley also said he couldn't speak for his other GOP colleagues.

Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday said Republicans would not seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act if they retake control of the upper chamber in November, but added a caveat during a recent exchange.

While speaking at a constituent town hall, the Iowa Republican — who has served in the Senate since 1981 and is running for an eighth term this year — made the comment after he was asked how the GOP would extend affordable health care to more Americans.

"It's not repealing the Affordable Care Act, if that's your question," he said. "Yes, I'm saying that I would not — we're not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act."

When asked by a constituent whether Republicans were on board with his position, Grassley said that there were 49 other members of the Senate GOP caucus and he could only speak for himself.

Grassley spokesperson Taylor Foy told The Washington Post that Grassley was simply making a prediction about the law.

"While noting that he can't speak for all of his colleagues, he predicted that the law wouldn't be repealed in its entirety," Foy told the newspaper in a statement. "In previous county meetings, Grassley has also noted that the focus should be on how to improve the existing health care system, including reducing the cost of prescription drugs."

When the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — was being debated in Congress in 2009, it fueled a torrent of GOP opposition against then-President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress, which fueled the rise of the conservative Tea Party movement.

During the national debate over Obamacare, some Republicans alleged that the legislation would create so-called "death panels," which would apparently decide whether older Americans would live or die. The false charge gained substantial traction — with Republicans also largely believing that the health care overhaul was a massive intrusion into the lives of Americans.

In August 2009, Grassley amplified Republican concerns regarding end-of-life decisions at another town hall event.

"In the House bill, there is counseling for end of life," he said at the time. "You have every right to fear. ... Should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma."

Obama refuted the GOP assertion during a town hall, emphasizing that the provision under scrutiny would permit Medicare to pay physicians to inform patients about end-of-life issues, including wills and hospice care.

"The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for 'death panels' that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that it's too expensive to let her live anymore," the then-president said. "I am not in favor of that."

After Obama signed the bill into law, Democrats for years were battered on the issue by Republicans, who used it to make huge legislative gains in 2010 and 2014. The GOP-controlled House had voted to repeal the law over 50 times despite Obama sitting in the White House and Democrats in control of the Senate until 2015.

Former President Donald Trump ran on repealing the law in 2016, but when Republicans had unified control of the government during his first two years in office, they stumbled in rolling back the law and were unable to come up with a replacement plan.

In July 2017, then-Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona famously rejected a "skinny repeal" of the bill by giving it a "thumbs down," dooming the push by Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the law become more popular over time and Democrats used the potential loss of protections for preexisting conditions as a defining issue in their successful effort to take back control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.

Obama earlier this month returned to the White House for the first time since his departure from the Oval Office in January 2017 to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the law alongside President Joe Biden, his former vice president.

Roughly 31 million Americans currently have health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act.


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