OPPOSING THE IDEAS THEY SUPPORT…. I vaguely recall a time when Dems hoped Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) would be one of the more sensible, reasonable members when it comes to health care talks. So much for that idea.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — the Republicans point man on health care reform in the Senate — has flirted with the idea that requiring people to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. But fully joined the “Tenther” fringe at today’s health care summit.

“The high cost of this bill comes from a non-constitutional mandate,” Grassley said in an exchange with President Obama.

On the substance, relying on an individual mandate does not increase costs; it lowers them. Grassley’s understanding of the underlying policy goals is backwards.

But let’s put that aside. Grassley now wants us to believe individual mandates are “non-constitutional.” This is the same Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who told Fox News last summer, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates…. There isn’t anything wrong with it.”

It’s not just Grassley. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) all are on record co-sponsoring a reform measure that included an individual mandate.

The point here is not just to highlight the bizarre inconsistencies of Republican opponents of health care reform. This is also important in realizing why bipartisanship on health care has been quite literally impossible — Republicans are willing to reject measures they’ve already embraced, and ideas they themselves came up with.

All the Democratic outreach and compromise options in the world can’t overcome the fundamental lack of seriousness that comes with a party that opposes and supports the same ideas at the same time.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.