Grassley eyes another bipartisan group

GRASSLEY EYES ANOTHER BIPARTISAN GROUP…. The bipartisan Gang of Six was a rather spectacular failure, thanks almost entirely to the antics of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa. Today, however, the conservative senator told some home-state reporters that he’s beginning to work on another bipartisan group that could host inter-party negotiations.

“I’ve had discussions with senators that aren’t on the committee that could possibly work with us to try to get back into a bipartisan mold,” Grassley said. “I think, though, that it’d be very helpful for people who aren’t on the Finance committee or even the HELP committee…would kind of take the bull by the horns themselves and try to coalesce around something that could eventually become more bipartisan.”

In order for this new effort at a “bipartisan” compromise to work, Grassley said, members of the Senate Democratic caucus would have to tell Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that they would support a Republican filibuster of a Democratic reform bill.

You don’t say.

There are two relevant angles here. The first is why anyone in the Senate would be prepared to negotiate in good faith with Chuck Grassley at this point. Max Baucus bent over backwards to give Grassley an insurance-industry-friendly bill, filled with concessions and ideas that Grassley had already embraced, but he still walked away. Worse, he refused to take a serious, honorable approach to the talks as they dragged on for months.

The second is why Grassley would even bother. He obviously doesn’t support health care reform, and has made a series of efforts to kill it. Why go through the motions again, immediately after spiking the Gang of Six talks?

Perhaps because Grassley realizes his conduct recently has hurt him at home. Nate Silver had an item yesterday noting the 18-point drop in the senator’s approval rating in Iowa since the start of the year. The decline has come from Democrats and Independents, who apparently haven’t been impressed with Grassley’s antics of late.

Grassley is probably a safe bet for re-election anyway, but he’s up next year in a state that’s been trending “bluer” in recent years. Acting like a partisan GOP hack and undermining reform efforts isn’t helping him back home, so he has to keep up appearances and pretend to be committed to a “bipartisan” negotiation process.