Congress must enact a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by the end of this year or risk waiting at least another four years to get the job done, a senior Republican senator said on Thursday.
Charles Grassley, who as the Senate Finance Committee's top Republican will help write healthcare legislation, acknowledged that some senators suggest putting off the overhaul while lawmakers grapple with the financial crisis.
But he said such a move could sink the revamp of the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry that President Barack Obama said is essential to promote long-term U.S. economic growth.
"If it isn't done this year, it won't be done for the next four years," Grassley told reporters at a briefing, saying election politics will put off any meaningful action.
Republicans are looking to next year's congressional elections to win back some seats lost to Democrats last year. After that, Democrats and Republicans will begin political maneuvering for the 2012 presidential elections.
Grassley said he is optimistic that Congress will act this year on a bipartisan overhaul of the healthcare industry that Obama has said is needed to rein in soaring costs that are crippling U.S. global competitiveness and to provide coverage to 46 million uninsured Americans.
Comment: Overhauling is code word for more government intrusion in our lives, more federal bureaucracy, additional steps toward socialism, and a worsening of our health care system.