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Specter Tells Grassley to 'Stop Spreading Myths' on Overhaul

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania engaged in a dispute via Twitter on Friday over Grassley's remarks about end-of-life provisions in the House health overhaul bill.

While at a Netroots Nation meeting in Philadelphia, Specter tweeted to Grassley: "Called Senator Grassley to tell him to stop spreading myths about health care reform and imaginary 'death panels.'"

In a follow-up tweet, Specter added that he "had to leave a message—for now. I will talk to him soon."

Grassley was quick to respond. "Specter got it all wrong that I ever used words 'death boards.' Even liberal press never accused me of that. So change ur (sic) last Tweet Arlen," Grassley tweeted.

The exchange came after Grassley's much-publicized comments on Wednesday in Iowa that "we should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."

Grassley, one of six bipartisan Senate Finance Committee negotiators, was discussing language in the House bill that would allow Medicare to reimburse doctors for an "advanced care planning consultation" for seniors, if they choose to have such a session.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has popularized the term "death panels" for the provision, drawing rebuttals from AARP and others—and apparently using a description that Grassley would avoid.

Meanwhile, White House officials invited to criticize Grassley's "pull the plug on grandma" line handled the flap gently, suggesting they're reluctant to disrupt the bipartisan negotiations.

Liberal talk show host Ed Schultz on MSNBC called Grassley's comments a "flat-out lie" while interviewing Linda Douglass of the White House Office of Health Reform.

"And are you telling us that the White House still thinks he's a really good guy and going to operate in good faith for a bipartisan agreement?" asked Schultz.

"Well, you know, Senator Grassley has been working very hard, as you know, with Senator Baucus and the other senators on the Senate Finance Committee to try to craft a compromise piece of legislation that would have bipartisan support, that would lower costs, that would protect your choices of your doctor and your plan," said Douglass.

"So, Senator Grassley has been working on all of that for many, many weeks very hard," she said. "Obviously, he's got a point of view about this particular provision, but he has been working with the other senators to try to come up with health reform legislation."

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