- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley on Sunday blasted President Obama for having the “nerve” to go sightseeing in Paris while at the same time pressuring Congress to quickly hammer out a health care reform plan.

Mr. Grassley, using the Internet-based social connection service Twitter that allows users to send mass text messages called “tweets,” issued two angry tweets Sunday morning aimed at Mr. Obama as the president wrapped up an overseas tour.

The Iowa lawmaker, who as the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is key to any bipartisan health care deal, wrote on Twitter, “Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us ‘time to deliver’ on health care.”

Minutes later, the senator fired off a similar tweet saying, “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a ‘hammer’ u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.”

A Grassley spokeswoman verified that the senator was the author of the messages.

Mr. Obama initially had left the details of health care legislation to Congress, intent on avoiding the mistakes that doomed President Clinton’s attempt at health care reform in 1993. Many on Capitol Hill at the time accused the White House of drafting a reform package without their input.

But in recent days, the president has become more active in the health care debate, including using his weekly radio address Saturday to declare “it’s time to deliver” on health reform.

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin declined to comment directly when asked to respond about Mr. Grassley’s Twitter accusations.

“President Obama is gratified that the Senate is working hard to bring a health reform bill to the floor on schedule,” said Mr. Cherlin, according to the Associated Press. “He looks forward to continuing his work with them upon his return from the commemoration of Allied heroism at D-Day.”

Mr. Grassley’s comments Sunday weren’t the first to generate news. In March, he told an Iowa radio station that executives with the troubled American International Group, which has received billions of dollars in federal aid, should “resign or commit suicide” for collectively accepting $165 million in bonuses.

Meanwhile Sunday, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser said he is confident Congress will pass sweeping health care reform legislation this summer.

“I really do,” David Axelrod told CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “I think there’s a sense of urgency about health care reform … there is a consensus that something has to be done.”

Mr. Obama has made expanding health care coverage one of his top priorities for this year, though his push for a Medicare-style public insurance plan to compete with private insurers has faced strong resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Axelrod said he has been encouraged by recent comments by Mr. Grassley suggesting that a bipartisan deal could be hammered out.

“I think we’ll be able to build bipartisan support for it, but we have to move forward with it,” he said. “I think it is a critical situation for the country and our economy and our future.”

It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Axelrod, when speaking of Mr. Grassley, was aware of the senator’s Twitter comments.

Mr. Axelrod, while appearing later Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, said Mr. Obama told Senate Democrats recently that he is open to suggestions on health care reform and that “everybody ought to put their ideas on the table. I’m not foreclosing anything.”

He added that the administration has been encouraged by cooperation it has received from big business and health care industry trade groups - a sharp contrast from 1993.

“You see coalitions of broad recognition for change, so I do think it will happen this summer,” he said.

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