Iowa Public Television

 

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and the Bush Administration

posted on March 29, 2005

Borg: IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY HAS A MAJOR ROLE IN MOVING POLITICALLY SENSITIVE BUSH ADMINISTRATION PRIORITIES THROUGH THE U.S. SENATE. WE'LL QUESTION HIM ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."


FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, MARCH 25 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE BATTLE GROUND FOR MAJOR PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES IN AMERICAN SOCIETY IS CURRENTLY CENTERED IN THE U.S. CONGRESS. SOCIAL SECURITY CHANGES, TORT REFORM, HEALTH CARE COSTS, AND RESHAPING TAX LAWS ARE EXAMPLES. CONGRESS ALSO STRUGGLES, THOUGH, WITH HUGE CHALLENGES, TOO, OVER AMERICA'S FUTURE ROLE IN IRAQ AND EVEN RETHINKING AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES. MOST OF THESE HIGH-PROFILE ISSUES, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, COME BEFORE THE POWERFUL SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE, AND IT'S CHAIRED BY IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY. SINCE THE NEW CONGRESS CONVENED IN JANUARY, SENATOR GRASSLEY PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN BUSH ADMINISTRATION PRIORITIES, CHANGING BANKRUPTCY LAWS, AND TRANSFERRING CLASS-ACTION LAWSUITS TO FEDERAL COURTS. WE'VE ASKED SENATOR GRASSLEY TO INTERRUPT HIS CONGRESSIONAL EASTER RECESS TO JOIN US TODAY ON "IOWA PRESS." WELCOME BACK.

Grassley: I'M GLAD TO BE WITH YOU, OF COURSE.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR, YOU'VE BEEN AROUND POLITICS FOR QUITE A WHILE. AND I'D LIKE TO START WITH SOCIAL SECURITY, AND I'D LIKE TO GET YOUR HANDICAP ON WHAT YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN. FOR THE MOMENT, LET'S SET ASIDE THE MERITS OF THE VARIOUS POSITIONS. AS A SEASONED POLITICIAN, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO BE THE OUTCOME OF THIS FIGHT?

Grassley: WELL, I HOPE WE ARE ABLE TO REFORM AND IMPROVE SOCIAL SECURITY, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE WE GRANDPAS AND GRANDMAS OUGHT TO NOT JUST BE CONCERNED ABOUT TODAY BUT MAKE SURE OUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN HAVE SOMETHING GOOD. IF YOUR QUESTION IS WILL WE PASS ONE, I THINK IT'S A VERY HEAVY LIFT. I THINK IT'S NOT THE ABILITY OF MY WRITING A BILL THAT COULD PASS. I THINK ITS DETERMINATION OF SUCCESS IS GOING TO BE BASED UPON THE PRESIDENT'S SUCCESS AS HE TOURS THE COUNTRY GIVING GRASS ROOTS -- OR STIRRING UP THE GRASS ROOTS TO UNDERSTAND THERE'S A PROBLEM -- BETTER TO DEAL WITH IT TODAY THAN TOMORROW -- AND THEN GET THOSE PEOPLE TO GET ON CONGRESS TO DO SOMETHING.

Glover: GIVE ME A PERCENTAGE OF WHAT YOU THINK MAY HAPPEN. IS IT A 50/50 CHANCE? IS IT LESS THAN 50/50?

Grassley: RIGHT NOW LESS THAN 50/50. BUT I CAN TELL YOU THIS, THAT EVEN IF THE PRESIDENT IS NOT SUCCESSFUL AT THE GRASS ROOTS IN DOING WHAT I JUST DESCRIBED, I INTEND TO MAKE THIS AN ISSUE IN MY COMMITTEE BEFORE THE SUMMER IS OUT BECAUSE I ONLY GET THIS CHANCE BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT HAS RAISED THE ISSUE. I'VE SPONSORED BILLS TO CHANGE AND IMPROVE SOCIAL SECURITY GOING BACK TO 1999, BUT WE DIDN'T HAVE A PRESIDENT THEN THAT WANTED THIS TO BE AN ISSUE. NOW WE HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT HAS RAISED IT, AND I THINK I HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY AS CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT.

Glover: AND YOU'RE USING THE EASTER RECESS TO TRAVEL AROUND THE STATE, TO HOLD TOWN MEETINGS, TO GET PEOPLE'S INPUT ON THIS ISSUE. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM PEOPLE AROUND THE STATE?

Grassley: MOSTLY AT THIS POINT, JUST HONEST-TO-GOODNESS AND SINCERE QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, IS THERE REALLY A PROBLEM. YOU KNOW, THERE'S SOME PEOPLE THAT EXPRESS SOME POSITIONS: YOUNGER PEOPLE, THAT WE OUGHT TO HAVE PERSONAL ACCOUNTS; MAYBE OLDER PEOPLE, THAT WE SHOULDN'T HAVE; AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. BUT AT THIS POINT I WOULD SAY JUST QUESTIONS. AND YOU ATTENDED SOME OF MY TOWN MEETINGS. YOU COULD SENSE THAT EVEN AS WE DISCUSSED IT, THOUGH, THERE WAS A VERY WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN, FOR PEOPLE TO ANALYZE, AND THERE WEREN'T -- AT LEAST I DON'T REMEMBER -- ANTAGONISTIC POINTS OF VIEW BEING EXPRESSED THAT, WELL, YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN BE LOOKING AT THIS ISSUE. AND SO THAT GIVES ME HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. NOW, IF I'D COMPARE IT TO MY TOWN MEETINGS IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, THE PRESIDENT AT LEAST HAS SUCCEEDED IN BRINGING THIS UP TO THE ATTENTION OF PEOPLE AND ON A LIST OF THINGS THAT CONGRESS OUGHT TO BE DEALING WITH. NOW, THAT DOESN'T GET US OVER THE HURDLE OF GETTING SOMETHING DONE, BUT IF THE PRESIDENT CAN SUCCEED, I THINK THAT'S 90 PERCENT OF THE LIFTING. AND MY WRITING A BILL IS 10 PERCENT OF THE LIFTING.

Yepsen: WELL, LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT 10 PERCENT, SENATOR. WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS? WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT YOU WOULD PUT IN YOUR BILL TO TRY TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS?

Grassley: WELL, LET ME -- GIVE ME SOME FLEXIBILITY BECAUSE I'VE EVEN ANSWERED THE NATIONAL PRESSES. WE'RE ALWAYS BADGERED EVERY MINUTE IN WASHINGTON ABOUT, WELL, WHAT DO YOU WANT DONE. I SAID I'VE GOTTEN TO BE, AS CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE, AN HONEST BROKER. EVERYTHING IS ON THE TABLE. AND I WON'T SIT DOWN WITH ANYBODY THAT SAYS THAT EVERYTHING IS NOT ON THE TABLE. BUT I CAN TELL YOU SOME THINGS THAT I WOULD LEAN TO AND THINK WOULD BE IN THE BILL WITHOUT LEAVING THE IMPRESSION THAT I'VE MADE UP MY MIND ON ALL THESE THINGS. I THINK TAXES HAVE TO BE ON THE TABLE. I THINK CHANGING THE INDEXING FORMULAS HAVE TO BE ON THE TABLE, MAYBE CHANGING THE AGE OF RETIREMENT, PARTICULARLY FOR FULL RETIREMENT, TO BE ON THE TABLE. AND LET'S SAY THAT THERE MIGHT BE ANOTHER DOZEN THINGS THAT COULD BE ON THE TABLE. THERE'S ONE THING, THOUGH, WHEN -- WELL, THEN PERSONAL ACCOUNTS TOO, BUT I LOOK AT PERSONAL ACCOUNTS AS AN ISSUE THAT IS GOOD IN AND OF ITSELF, BUT IT DOESN'T SOLVE THE SOLVENCY PROBLEM. SO JUST LOOKING AT THE SOLVENCY PROBLEM, THERE'S ONE THING THAT COULD BE DONE THAT WOULD TAKE CARE OF THE SOLVENCY PROBLEM SO THAT OUR GRANDCHILDREN WOULD HAVE THE SAME THING THAT WE HAVE. AND THAT WOULD BE -- WHEN WE MOVED IN THE 1970S FROM USING WAGES AS OPPOSED TO INFLATION TO DECIDE YOUR FIRST PAYCHECK, IF WE WOULD GO BACK TO THE INFLATION INSTEAD OF WAGES, IT WOULD WIPE OUT ALL OF THE INSOLVENCY OF IT, OR EVEN SOME COMBINATION OF THAT ALONG WITH WAGES OR ALONG WITH TAXES COULD SOLVE IT.

Yepsen: WHEN YOU SAY TAXES, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE PAYROLL TAX AND A CAP?

Grassley: YEAH.

Yepsen: WOULD YOU FAVOR LIFTING THE CAP?

Grassley: IT'S ON THE TABLE AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED. DO I FAVOR IT? YOU KNOW, MY RECORD IS NOT FAVORING HIGHER TAXES. BUT HERE AGAIN, YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY IS GOING TO HAVE TO GIVE A LITTLE BIT, SO MAYBE I HAVE TO GIVE A LITTLE BIT ON THINGS I DON'T WANT IN IT. DEMOCRATS AND OTHER REPUBLICANS THAT MAYBE THINK WE SHOULDN'T DO ANYTHING NEED TO GIVE A LITTLE BIT TOO BECAUSE WE HAVE TO HAVE A BIPARTISAN BILL TO MOVE AHEAD.

Borg: YOU MENTIONED THE WORD SOLVENCY.

Grassley: YES.

Borg: THERE WAS ANOTHER REPORT OUT JUST THIS PAST WEEK THAT SAID MEDICARE HAS A GREATER THREAT OF SOLVENCY THAN DOES SOCIAL SECURITY. WHY THEN SOCIAL SECURITY? WHY NOT CONCENTRATE ON MEDICARE?

Grassley: WELL, AS I INDICATED, SOCIAL SECURITY IS A MUCH MORE SENSITIVE ISSUE THAN MEDICARE. AND MAYBE YOU THINK, WELL, THEN WHY DON'T I TAKE CARE OF THAT YEARS AGO BECAUSE I'M CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE. BUT IT'S ONE OF THOSE ISSUES YOU ONLY GET A CHANCE WHEN PRESIDENTS LIKE CARTER OR LIKE REAGAN AND NOW BUSH, THEY RAISE IT UP IN THE PUBLIC'S MIND. SO I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. NOW, YOU'RE RIGHT; THE PROBLEM IS NOT AS BAD FOR SOCIAL SECURITY AS IT IS FOR MEDICARE. BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY TO SAY, WELL, WE DID IT ON SOCIAL SECURITY, AND KIND OF BABY STEPS THERE COMPARED TO WHAT YOU'VE GOT TO DO ON MEDICARE. AND IT GETS US IN A FRAME OF MIND THAT WE'LL TACKLE SOMETHING THAT'S EVEN MORE DIFFICULT.

Yepsen: WHAT WOULD YOUR OPTIONS BE IN MEDICARE?

Grassley: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I'M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT IT. LET ME TELL YOU WHY, BECAUSE YOU KNOW WE EXPANDED THE PROGRAM DRAMATICALLY WITH THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BILL LAST TIME. IT GETS STARTED STARTING JANUARY 1, 2006. I THINK WE HAVE TO WAIT A YEAR OR TWO UNTIL THAT IS ABSORBED TO REALLY KNOW WHAT THE SITUATION IS.

Glover: ONE OF THE OPTIONS THAT FALL OUT OF ALL THE THINGS THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT BEFORE IS THE NATION'S FISCAL CONDITION HAS DETERIORATED. THE BUDGET DEFICITS HAVE REACHED RECORD LEVELS. DO THOSE DEFICITS TROUBLE YOU? SOME CONSERVATIVES SAY THAT THEY'RE TRIVIAL AND SHOULDN'T BE WORRIED ABOUT.

Grassley: WELL, YES, IT OUGHT TO CONCERN US BECAUSE IT'S JUST SOMETHING YOU LEAVE TO THE FUTURE GENERATION. IT CONCERNS ME LESS THE EXTENT TO WHICH IS CAUSED BY FIGHTING A WAR THAN IF WE WERE NOT IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM. AND ALSO, IT DOESN'T BOTHER ME QUITE SO MUCH BECAUSE THERE'S A PHENOMENA THAT CREATED SOME OF THIS DEFICIT THAT HASN'T HAPPENED SINCE THE 1930S, AND THAT WAS BECAUSE OF THE CLINTON RECESSION AND THEN SEPTEMBER 11. WE HAD THREE YEARS IN A ROW THAT WE HAD LESS INCOME THIS YEAR THAN THE YEAR BEFORE THAN THE YEAR BEFORE. AND THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN SINCE THE 1930S EVEN WHEN YOU CUT TAXES. IN OTHER WORDS, WE WENT FROM $2.1 TRILLION COMING INTO THE FEDERAL TREASURY DOWN OVER THREE YEARS TO 1.8 COMING IN. SO 50 PERCENT OF THE DEFICIT IS JUST BECAUSE OF THE DECLINE IN THE ECONOMY AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM, 25 PERCENT BECAUSE OF THE WAR ITSELF, AND 25 PERCENT BECAUSE OF TAX CUTS. SO WE'RE REALLY IN AN UNUSUAL SITUATION HERE. NOW, ANOTHER REASON WHY IT'S LEGITIMATE TO SAY IS IT MUCH CONCERN IS BECAUSE AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE GDP, IT'S NOT AS MUCH AS IT WAS EVEN IN '93 AND SURELY NOT AS MUCH AS IT WAS IN 2002. BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'RE SOLVING AND -- ONE SENTENCE, PLEASE -- WE'VE MADE CONSIDERABLE PROGRESS. WE INHERITED 15-PERCENT INCREASE IN BUDGETS FROM THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. WE REDUCED THAT DOWN TO SIX, TO FIVE, TO THREE, TO ONE FOR THE YEAR WE'RE IN NOW, AND NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET WILL BE ABOUT A FREEZE EXCEPT FOR DEFENSE AND HOMELAND SECURITY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, GIVEN THE SIZE OF DEFICITS AND NOW THE SIZE OF THE NATIONAL DEBT, WHY IS THERE EVEN ANY DISCUSSION IN WASHINGTON ABOUT MAKING TAX CUTS PERMANENT?

Grassley: WELL, BECAUSE IF WE DON'T MAKE TAX CUTS PERMANENT, FIRST OF ALL PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING TO INVEST, BASED UPON WHAT THE FUTURE TAX POLICY IS HERE, TEND TO BE CONSERVATIVE, AND YOU DON'T CREATE JOBS IF YOU DON'T HAVE INVESTMENT. THE OTHER THING IS IF YOU DON'T DO ANYTHING, WE WOULD HAVE THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY WITHOUT EVEN THE VOTE OF THE PEOPLE. AND PERMANENCY OF TAX POLICY IS JUST A VERY BASIC PRINCIPLE IN TAX POLICY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A PRETTY GOOD CONSERVATIVE. MAYBE YOU STILL THINK YOU ARE. BUT WHAT'S WRONG WITH HAVING A TAX INCREASE IF WE HAVE THIS HUGE DEBT TO PAY?

Grassley: BECAUSE WE'RE TRYING TO KEEP TAXES WITHIN THE BAND THAT THEY'VE BEEN FOR THE LAST FORTY YEARS, 17 TO 19 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT. THE REASON WE DECREASED TAXES WAS WE WEREN'T ANTICIPATING THE RECESSION THAT STARTED IN CLINTON OR WE WEREN'T ANTICIPATING SEPTEMBER 11. BUT IT ALSO HAD THE BENEFIT NOT ONLY OF REDUCING -- SEE, THEY GOT UP TO 21 PERCENT, WHICH IS THE HIGHEST SINCE WORLD WAR II. WE BROUGHT THEM BACK DOWN TO THAT BAND WHERE THEY'VE BEEN FOR FORTY YEARS, WHERE THEY OUGHT TO BE, BECAUSE THE PEOPLE ACCEPT IT AND IT'S NOT BEEN BAD FOR THE ECONOMY. BUT AS IT TURNED OUT, IT WAS THE BEST THING WE COULD HAVE DONE BECAUSE OF THE RECESSION, BECAUSE OF THE WAR, BECAUSE AS GREENSPAN SAID, IT IS THE REASON WHY -- THE TAX CUTS ARE THE REASON WHY THE ECONOMY TURNED AROUND. AND THE NOBEL ECONOMIC LAUREATE THAT WON THIS YEAR SAID WE SHOULD HAVE EVEN CUT TAXES MORE. SO THERE'S A JUSTIFICATION BECAUSE OF TURNING THE ECONOMY AROUND, CREATING JOBS, A GROWTH IN THE ECONOMY.

Yepsen: A RELATED QUESTION TO THIS, SENATOR, IS THE FALL IN THE VALUE OF THE DOLLAR. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THAT AND, IF SO, WHAT SHOULD CONGRESS DO?

Grassley: I'M LESS CONCERNED ABOUT THAT THAN I AM THE BUDGET DEFICIT. THERE'S SOME RELATIONSHIP SO, AS WE HAVE THE GLIDE PATH DOWN OF BUDGET GROWTH AND REDUCING THE BUDGET DOWN TO OUR GOAL TO BEING 50 PERCENT OF WHAT IT WAS OR ABOUT 2 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT, WE'RE GOING TO HELP THE VALUE OF THE DOLLAR. THE OTHER THING IS THE VALUE OF THE DOLLAR IS RELATED TO OUR TRADE DEFICIT.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THAT?

Grassley: WELL, WHAT YOU DO ABOUT THAT IS AS WE EXPORT MORE -- AND ONE OF THE THINGS I DID LAST YEAR TO HELP ALONG THAT LINE IS THE, I CALL IT THE EXPORTED MANUFACTURING BILL. TECHNICALLY IT'S FISK ETI. BUT ANYWAY, WE REDUCED THE CORPORATE TAX RATE FROM 35 DOWN TO 32 ON MANUFACTURING IN THE UNITED STATES TO ENCOURAGE LESS OUTSOURCING AND TO HELP THE COST OF CAPITAL FOR OUR BUSINESS, VIS-À-VIS OUR GLOBAL COMPETITION, AS ONE WAY. BUT REALLY THE BEST WAY FOR ANYBODY CONCERNED ABOUT THE TRADE DEFICIT IS IN AMERICA CONSUMERS ARE KING. AND IF YOU WANT TO HELP THE TRADE DEFICIT, DON'T BUY ANYTHING THAT'S NOT MADE OVERSEAS.

Borg: ONE OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION PROPOSALS FOR HELPING TO REDUCE THE DEFICIT IS TO REDUCE FARM SUBSIDIES. YOU CAN IMAGINE THAT COSTS US A LOT OF NERVOUSNESS IN IOWA AND IN THE SOUTH FOR COTTON FARMERS. IT'S ALSO REPORTED BY SEVERAL ECONOMISTS THAT IF THAT HAPPENS, LAND VALUES WILL PLUMMET. GIVEN ALL OF THAT, ARE YOU SUPPORTIVE OF CUTTING FARM SUBSIDIES?

Grassley: DON'T YOU THINK LAND VALUES OUGHT TO PLUMMET A LITTLE BIT, CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT LAND IN SOUTHWEST IOWA, A PIECE I HEARD ABOUT, $4,700 AN ACRE; NOT TOO FAR FROM WHERE I FARM, $4,500 AN ACRE. YOU KNOW, THE LAST TIME THAT HAPPENED WAS IN THE LATE '70S AND EARLY '80S, AND WE HAD THE MOST HORRIFIC AGRICULTURAL DEPRESSION WE'VE HAD.

Borg: BUT AREN'T YOU ASKING FOR ANOTHER --

Grassley: WELL, ISN'T IT WRONG TO HAVE A POLICY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN WHICH THE FARM PROGRAM IS CAPITALIZING THE PRICE OF LAND? AND ONE OF THE PROVISIONS I HAVE TO CUT FARM SPENDING IS TO ELIMINATE THIS PRINCIPLE WHERE 10 PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE GET 72 PERCENT OF THE BENEFITS. IT HELPS THE BIG FARMERS TO GET BIGGER. IT DRIVES UP THE PRICE OF LAND, CASH RENT, SO YOUNG PEOPLE CAN'T GET STARTED FARMING. IT SEEMS TO ME THE FARM PROGRAM OUGHT TO BE A SAFETY NET. IT SHOULDN'T BE SOMETHING THAT ARTIFICIALLY DRIVES UP THE PRICE OF LAND.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I JUST WANT TO CLEAR UP SOMETHING. DID YOU MISSPEAK A MINUTE AGO WHEN YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT CONSUMER IS KING? YOU'RE SAYING AMERICANS SHOULD BUY AMERICAN, CORRECT?

Grassley: YES.

Yepsen: AND NOT BUY GOODS --

Grassley: YEAH. IF I SAID OTHERWISE, I APOLOGIZE.

Glover: THAT'S OKAY. SENATOR, YOU MENTIONED THE WAR IN IRAQ AS ONE OF THE DRIVING FORCES BEHIND THE COUNTRY'S CURRENT FISCAL POSITION. GIVE YOUR CONSTITUENTS A SENSE OF HOW LONG OUR TROOPS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE THERE? IS THERE A MORASS WE'RE GOING TO BE IN FOR YEARS? ARE THE TROOPS GOING TO BE COMING HOME NEXT YEAR? HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO LAST?

Grassley: IN WASHINGTON, YOU GET NO ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION FROM EVEN THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF. MY FEELING IS WE'RE GOING TO START TO WIND DOWN THE NUMBERS. WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WE'RE TAKING OUT 30,000 TROOPS RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THEY WERE PUT IN EXTRA FOR THE ELECTION THAT WAS THERE ON JANUARY 30. THE OTHER 120,000 WILL GRADUALLY RAMP DOWN AS THE NUMBERS OF IRAQIS RAMP UP. BUT YOU GET ESTIMATES FROM TWO YEARS TO A PERSON WITH THE IOWA NATIONAL GUARD THAT I VISITED WITH YESTERDAY WHO WAS OVER THERE FOR A YEAR WHO SAID THERE MIGHT HAVE TO BE A COMMITMENT THROUGH THE END OF THIS DECADE. NOW, I'M NOT SURE A COMMITMENT OF 120,000 BUT SOME COMMITMENT ON THE PART OF THE UNITED STATES. BUT JUST IN CASE THE ATTENTION IS ON IRAQ, DON'T FORGET WHEN CLINTON WENT INTO BOSNIA, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FOR A YEAR OR TWO AS PEACEKEEPING. DON'T FORGET WE'RE STILL THERE.

Glover: SENATOR, DON'T PEOPLE DESERVE AN ANSWER TO THAT QUESTION, PEOPLE WHO ARE SPENDING THEIR TAX DOLLARS, SENDING THEIRS SONS AND DAUGHTERS TO FIGHT THIS WAR, DON'T THEY DESERVE AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF HOW LONG WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO THIS?

Grassley: NO, SPECIFICALLY FOR OUR ACCOMPLISHING OUR GOAL, IT WOULD BE WRONG TO SAY THAT WE'VE GOT A DATE WE'RE GOING TO WITHDRAW BECAUSE THAT'S GOING TO ENCOURAGE INSURGENCY. WHAT WE'RE DOING IS TRYING GET THE IRAQIS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR OWN PEACEKEEPING AND MAINTAIN IT, AND WE ONLY SEE OURSELVES, EVEN NOW, AS SUPPORT EVEN THOUGH, QUITE FRANKLY, WE'RE MORE THAN SUPPORT. BUT AS THEY GET TRAINED, IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE TO BE ANYTHING MORE THAN SUPPORT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, SHOULD WE INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE REGULAR MILITARY IN ORDER TO REDUCE THE DEPENDENCY ON GUARD AND RESERVE FORCES IN SITUATIONS LIKE IRAQ?

Grassley: THE ANSWER IS YES AND WE'RE NOW IN THE PROCESS OF DOING THAT TO -- I DON'T KNOW WHETHER IT'S 30-, 40-, OR 50,000, BUT TO SOME EXTENT WITHIN THE U.S. ARMY ONLY AT THIS POINT.

Yepsen: AND WHAT ABOUT THE QUESTION OF RECRUITING AND RETENTION? WE HEAR STORIES THAT SOME OF THE SERVICE BRANCHES ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY KEEPING PEOPLE, PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO GET INTO THE GUARD. WE'VE REALLY CHANGED THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL GUARD IN SOCIETY. WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT THAT PROBLEM?

Grassley: WELL, WE DON'T WANT THE DRAFT BECAUSE WE HAVE FOUND THAT WE GET BETTER MILITARY IF PEOPLE SERVE VOLUNTARILY AND THEY SEE IT AS A PROFESSION AND THEY SEE IT AS SOMETHING THAT THERE'S ECONOMIC INCENTIVES TO DO. AND OUR DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SURELY DOES NOT WANT TO PUT THE DRAFT IN PLACE. SO ADDITIONAL INCENTIVES -- THERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL INCENTIVES IN PLACE NOW. BUT I THINK YOUR QUESTION COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THERE'S ALREADY BEEN A FEELING THAT, WELL, WE AREN'T GETTING WHAT WE WANT. THE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF HAVE MADE IT VERY CLEAR TO US THAT THERE'S NOT A CRISIS YET AS FAR AS RECRUITING, EVEN THOUGH I DON'T DISPUTE WHAT YOU SAID AND I DON'T THINK HE WOULD DISPUTE IT.

Borg: WOULD ONE OF THOSE INCENTIVES BE INCREASING MILITARY PAY?

Grassley: YEAH.

Glover: SENATOR, AS WE TAPE THIS SHOW ON A FRIDAY MORNING, NO STORY IS DOMINATING THE AMERICAN MEDIA AS MUCH AS THE STORY OF TERRI SCHIAVO, A BRAIN DAMAGED WOMAN IN FLORIDA WITH A BIG LEGAL BATTLE OVER HER FUTURE. AS A CONSERVATIVE, I'M INTERESTED IN KNOWING, ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE GOVERNMENT INSERTING ITSELF INTO A FAMILY DECISION LIKE THAT?

Grassley: GOVERNMENT INSERTS ITSELF INTO FAMILY DECISIONS A LOT, AND THERE'S CASES LIKE THIS THAT HAVEN'T GOTTEN THE NATIONAL ATTENTION THAT GOVERNMENTS, MORE STATE THAN FEDERAL QUITE FRANKLY, THAT HAVE INSERTED THEMSELVES INTO. SO MAYBE YOUR QUESTION IS MORE ABOUT THE FEDERAL INSERTION AS OPPOSED TO JUST GOVERNMENT GENERALLY. AND THE ANSWER IS, I CAN ONLY SAY YES BECAUSE IT WAS ASKED BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT IF THE SENATE OUGHT TO CONSIDER THAT BILL. THE FIRST TIME THERE WAS ONE SENATOR THAT OBJECTED, BUT AT THE NEXT GO-AROUND WHEN SOME REWRITING OF THE BILL WAS DONE, THERE WAS NO OBJECTION. SO I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU CAN QUESTION IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM WHEN THERE'S 55 REPUBLICANS AND 45 DEMOCRATS ARE ASKED THAT QUESTION AND YOU GET UNANIMOUS CONSENT OUT OF THE SENATE THAT WE OUGHT TO TAKE IT UP AND IT'S PASSED ON UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT WE'RE NOT DOING THE RIGHT THING. BUT DON'T SEE IT AS INSERTION IN A FAMILY. THAT'S THE WAY THE PRESS AND MEDIA PORTRAYS IT. WHAT CONGRESS WAS DOING WAS EXERCISING ITS CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO DEFINE, THROUGH LAW, THE JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL COURTS, AND IN THIS PARTICULAR INSTANCE, DEFINING JURISDICTION TO MAKE SURE THAT CITIZENS' 14TH AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF LIFE, LIBERTY, AND PROPERTY WERE PROPERLY PROTECTED. WE MADE THAT DECISION. WE WERE NOT MAKING A DECISION ON THE LIFE OR DEATH OF TERRI, JUST THAT THE COURTS OUGHT TO LOOK AT IT. THEY LOOKED AT IT. THEY DECIDED THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO MORE INTERVENTION, AND WE HAVE TO ACCEPT THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT. THE COURT FULFILLED ITS RESPONSIBILITY UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND TO THE CONGRESS.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ANOTHER ISSUE ON THE EDGE OF THE NEWS THESE DAYS WAS ANOTHER SHOOTING IN A SCHOOL, THIS ONE IN MINNESOTA. WHY -- YET I HEAR NO DISCUSSION ABOUT ADDITIONAL GUN CONTROL. WHY NOT?

Grassley: THE REASON YOU DON'T HEAR ANY FURTHER DISCUSSION ABOUT IT, BECAUSE DEMOCRATS THAT PROMOTED MOST OF THAT DISCUSSION, ALONG WITH JUST A FEW REPUBLICANS, BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATS DON'T SEEM TO RESPECT THE SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT LIKE REPUBLICANS DO. THEY SAW THE IMPACT OF THAT ISSUE IN THE 2000 ELECTION AND THE DEFEAT OF GORE, AND IT HAS HARDLY COME UP IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS. AND I DON'T EVEN EXPECT IT TO COME UP BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED, BECAUSE THE BASIC PREMISE IS THAT GUNS DON'T KILL, PEOPLE KILL.

Yepsen: IF THE COUNTRY IS NOT GOING TO HAVE ADDITIONAL DISCUSSION ABOUT GUN CONTROL FOR THE REASONS YOU CITE, THEN WHAT, IF ANYTHING, CAN CONGRESS, CAN SOCIETY DO TO PREVENT THIS SORT OF THING FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS THAT WE HAVE NOT TREATED THE AMERICAN NATIVES THE WAY THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN TREATED UNDER THE TREATY OBLIGATIONS WE HAVE. AND I'M TALKING STRICTLY FROM A LEGAL TREATY OBLIGATION WE HAVE, NOT NECESSARILY FROM A HUMANITARIAN OBLIGATION. BUT IF WE HAD DONE THE FORMER, WE WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED IN THE LATTER.

Glover: SENATOR, IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL "IOWA PRESS" SHOW IF WE DIDN'T SPEND AT LEAST A COUPLE OF MINUTES TALKING ABOUT POLITICS. YOU EASILY WON A FIFTH TERM IN THE SENATE IN LAST YEAR'S ELECTIONS. WILL THERE BE A SIXTH TERM FOR CHUCK GRASSLEY?

Grassley: YOU KNOW, KATE ASKED ME THAT SAME QUESTION SIX YEARS AGO. I SAID YES. I'M 71 YEARS OLD NOW. ASK ME THE SAME QUESTION THREE YEARS FROM NOW. BUT I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I'M GOING TO FUNCTION AS THE UNITED STATES SENATOR AS IF I'M RUNNING FOR REELECTION BUT I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE THAT DECISION TILL THE THIRD OR FOURTH YEAR. BUT LET ME ASSURE YOU IF I'M IN GOOD HEALTH, I INTEND TO CONTINUE SERVING THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA.

Yepsen: DO YOU HAVE A FUTURE AS A USED CAR SALESMAN?

Grassley: THAT WAS KIND OF A LUCKY SHOT.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT 2008, SENATOR? YOUR PARTY WILL START ITS PRESIDENTIAL RACE HERE IN IOWA. HOW DO YOU HANDICAP THAT RACE? WHO'S IN IT? WHAT'S YOUR ROLE GOING TO BE?

Grassley: THERE WILL BE SEVEN TO TEN PEOPLE IN IT. THERE WILL BE SEVEN TO TEN DEMOCRATS IN IT. IOWANS ARE GOING TO HAVE 20 PEOPLE RUNNING AROUND IOWA TRYING TO GET THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRAT NOMINATIONS. I ONLY HANDICAP IT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE DEMOCRAT PARTY -- I CAN'T FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE REPUBLICANS -- THAT MRS. CLINTON WILL PROBABLY BE THEIR NOMINEE.

Yepsen: WHAT ABOUT IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY? WILL YOU PICK A FAVORITE, ENDORSE THEM, WORK FOR THEM?

Grassley: YES, BUT NOT UNTIL THE SUMMER OF 2007.

Yepsen: WHO IS THAT? WHO ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT?

Grassley: I'M NOT THINKING ABOUT ANYBODY BUT YOU'LL SEE -- I'VE ONLY HAD ONE SENATOR TALK TO ME ABOUT HIS INTEREST IN COMING TO IOWA AND RUNNING. AND IT'S PROBABLY NOT A SENATOR THAT YOU'D PUT AS HIGH ON YOUR LIST AS SOME OTHERS, BUT I'VE HAD ONE SENATOR CONTACT ME. I EXPECT I'LL HAVE ANOTHER THREE OR FOUR SENATORS CONTACT ME. AND I THINK THAT THERE WILL BE TWO PEOPLE, ONE A GOVERNOR OF A MAJOR STATE AND ONE A FORMER MAYOR OF A MAJOR STATE, THAT WILL BE TALKING TO ME.

Glover: WOULD YOU LIKE TO PUT SOME NAMES WITH THOSE, SENATOR?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK I CAN BECAUSE PROBABLY BASED ON WHAT YOU READ IN THE PAPER ALREADY. BROWNBACK, HAGEL, FRIST, MCCAIN FOR SURE.

Glover: PATAKI AND ROMNEY.

Grassley: YES.

Glover: LINDSEY GRAHAM?

Grassley: HE IS -- I THINK HE'S VERY INTERESTED. BUT HE HASN'T ACTUALLY MENTIONED IT TO ME, AND I'M NOT GOING TO BRING IT UP TO HIM.

Glover: LET'S PUT YOURSELF IN THE POSITION OF A SENIOR STATESMAN WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. IN WHICH DIRECTION SHOULD THE PARTY HEAD TO CONTINUE TO HOLD THE WHITE HOUSE IN 2008? DOES THE PARTY NEED TO SHIFT MORE TO THE CENTER? IS ITS CURRENT INCLINATION TO THE RIGHT WHERE IT OUGHT TO BE? WHAT DIRECTION SHOULD THE REPUBLICAN PARTY TAKE?

Grassley: WELL, LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY: IT'S SOMEPLACE RIGHT NOW. I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU WANT TO CALL THAT CENTER RIGHT OR RIGHT, BUT IT'S SOMEPLACE RIGHT NOW. AND I THINK THE LAST TWO ELECTIONS HAVE PROVEN THAT THAT'S THE RIGHT PLACE TO BE, AND I THINK THE PEOPLE THAT TRY TO REPEAT THE POSITIONS THAT PRESIDENT BUSH HAS TAKEN SPEAK FOR A MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE.

Borg: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO JIM NUSSLE ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR? GO FOR IT?

Grassley: HE AND I VISITED ABOUT IT. I SAID, YOU KNOW, IT'S A PERSONAL CHOICE. I KNOW HE'S -- WELL, I SHOULDN'T SAY I KNOW HE'S GOING TO RUN BECAUSE HE HASN'T SAID SO. I THINK HE'S TAKING THE STEPS THAT INDICATE THAT HE'S GOING TO BE A CANDIDATE. AND I INDICATED BOTH TO HIM AND TO MR. VANDER PLAATS THAT I WOULD NOT BE INVOLVED IN THAT PRIMARY.

Borg: THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

Grassley: GLAD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," WE DISCUSS THE POLICY AND POLITICS OF A POTENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL RUN IN 2008. FORMER NORTH CAROLINA SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, WHO RAN FOR VICE PRESIDENT ON THE TICKET WITH SENATOR JOHN KERRY, WILL BE HERE FOR A CAMPAIGN POSTSCRIPT AND 2008 PREVIEW. REGULAR "IOWA PRESS" AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY, SUNDAY AT NOON. AND WE CLOSE WITH A BRIEF REMINDER. "IOWA PRESS" IS NOW AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET. TRANSCRIPTS ARE READILY AVAILABLE AND NOW BOTH AUDIO AND VIDEO STEAMING ALSO ACCESSIBLE THROUGH THE I.T.E. FACILITY ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION'S WEB SITE. YOU CAN SEE "IOWA PRESS" PROGRAMS ON THE MONDAY FOLLOWING THE BROADCAST. THE INTERNET ADDRESS IS IPTV.ORG/IOWAPRESS. JUST FOLLOW THE ON-SCREEN INSTRUCTIONS TO GET YOUR CHOICE OF "IOWA PRESS" TRANSCRIPTS OR AUDIO AND VIDEO STREAMING. WELL, THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.


CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION… FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE; AND BY CAPITOL RESOURCES, INC., LOCATED IN BROOKLYN, IOWA; AND BY NICOLE SCHLINGER AND ERIC LANGE INDIVIDUALLY, FUND-RAISING AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS SINCE 1996.

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