Grassley Outlines Obstacles Facing Health Care in Senate

GWEN IFILL: The Senate push for a bipartisan approach to health care reform has involved a running series of closed-door meetings involving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Judy Woodruff goes behind the closed door.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It is six members of the Senate Finance Committee who've been conducting those meetings, the only place where Democrats and Republicans are still negotiating with each other over health care.

Since in the past two weeks, we've heard both the president and the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, make the case here on the NewsHour for reform from the Democrats' point of view, tonight we get the views of the senior Republican sitting in those sessions, Charles Grassley of Iowa. He joins us from Capitol Hill.

Senator Grassley, thank you for talking with us.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: Well, I'm glad to be with you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Since it's been announced that your group is not going to be reaching an agreement before the Senate goes into August recess, just how far apart are you? How wide is the gap?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Well, it's pretty hard to quantify, but I think we're all committed to making sure that it gets done right. You've got to understand that artificial timelines just don't work when you're dealing with life-and-death issues, and that's what health care is about.

And when you're dealing with one-sixth of the economy, it needs to be done carefully and cautiously and done right. And that's what we're all committed to doing, and we work at it a little bit every day, and we want it done right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, you made it pretty clear you're against the public option, the government plan to provide insurance to those people who don't have it. Now, how strongly do you feel? Are you basically saying under no circumstances a public plan?