Iowa Public Television

 

Iowa Congressman Jim Leach

posted on May 6, 2005

Borg: IN WASHINGTON, ETHICS SHADOWS, CONGRESSIONAL PARTISAN CONFLICT, A NEW WRINKLE ON SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM. ASSESSMENTS FROM IOWA CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH 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, APRIL 29 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE PARTISAN INTENSITY OF LAST NOVEMBER'S NATIONAL ELECTION IS NOW GRIPPING CONGRESS. IT SHADOWS MAJOR ISSUES ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA: CONFIRMATION HEARINGS ON THE PRESIDENT'S APPOINTEES TO FEDERAL COURTS; SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM; AN ENERGY BILL; TAX REFORM; AND CONFIRMATION HEARINGS FOR THOMAS BOLTON TO BE AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. THE LIST COULD CONTINUE, BUT YOU GET THE POINT. IOWA'S SECOND DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN JIM LEACH OF IOWA CITY HAS SPENT 15 TERMS, 29 YEARS NOW IN CONGRESS. WE'VE INVITED HIM TO THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE TO SHARE HIS PERSPECTIVE. CONGRESSMAN LEACH, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK.

Leach: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU, DEAN.

Borg: THANK YOU. ALSO WITH US HERE AT THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: CONGRESSMAN LEACH, PRESIDENT BUSH HAS MADE OVERHAULING THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM THE TOP DOMESTIC PRIORITY OF HIS SECOND TERM. PUT ON YOUR PROGNOSTICATOR HAT AND TELL US WHERE IS THAT WHOLE THING GOING TO TURN UP. HOW IS IT GOING TO END?

Leach: WELL, NOBODY KNOWS. IF YOU'RE GOING TO DEAL WITH A PROBLEM AND THE ONLY CERTITUDE IS THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM, IT'S A THREE-LEGGED STOOL OF UNPOPULARITY. THAT IS, YOU'VE EITHER GOT TO RAISE TAXES, CUT BENEFITS, OR TOY WITH THE RETIREMENT AGE. NO ONE IS IN FAVOR OF ANY OF THOSE THINGS. THEN IF YOU ADD ANOTHER ELEMENT THAT'S CONTROVERSIAL, LIKE PERSONAL ACCOUNTS, YOU MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT. THE CASE FOR DOING SOMETHING IS RATHER POWERFUL. THE CAPACITY TO PUT TOGETHER A PACKAGE THAT'S FAIR IS SOMETHING THAT HAS NOT YET BEEN ACHIEVED. YOU CAN DEAL WITH SOMETHING IF YOU AND I MIGHT NOT LIKE IT BUT WE CONCEIVE OF IT AS VERY FAIR, AND THAT FAIRNESS AGENDA IS NOT QUITE THERE YET.

Glover: AT THE END OF THE DAY, DO YOU THINK IT WILL HAPPEN IN SOME FORM?

Leach: I THINK THE ODDS ARE AGAINST IT, BUT IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THIS QUESTION OF PERSONAL ACCOUNTS? EARLIER IN THIS DEBATE YOU HAD SOME REAL RESERVATIONS ABOUT THEM. DO YOU STILL HAVE THEM?

Leach: WELL, THE INTERESTING PHENOMENON IS IF YOU LOOK BACKWARDS, IF THE SYSTEM HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN PERSONAL ACCOUNTS AND YOU'D PUT AS MUCH MONEY IN AS THE CURRENT SYSTEM, YOU'D HAVE HAD A MORE BENEFICIAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM. LOOKING FORWARD IT'S MUCH MORE CONJECTURAL. PLUS, TO DO THE TRANSITION IS EXTRAORDINARILY COSTLY. SO THE PERSONAL ACCOUNT ISSUE DEPENDS UPON PUBLIC CONSENSUS. MY OWN SENSE IS THE PUBLIC HASN'T BOUGHT IT, BUT THERE MIGHT BE A POSSIBILITY OF DOING A PERSONAL ACCOUNT SYSTEM AS AN ADD-ON BUT NOT AS A FUNDAMENTAL PART OF HOW YOU DO SOCIAL SECURITY. THEN THAT HAS A BETTER CHANCE.

Borg: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEWEST PROPOSAL OF THE PRESIDENT, AND THAT IS PROTECTION, THE SAFETY NET FOR THE LOWEST INCOME PEOPLE, SOMETHING LESS THAN HAS BEEN THE CASE FOR THOSE IN THE UPPER INCOME LEVEL, INDEXING?

Leach: WELL, IT'S A CREDIBLE THING BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW WHAT THE WHOLE PACKAGE IS. FRANKLY, I SEE VERY LITTLE LIKELIHOOD OF AN OUTCOME THAT CAN BE PERCEIVED TO BE CREDIBLE TO MOST PEOPLE UNLESS SOMETHING IS DONE ABOUT THE CAP. AND I THINK THAT CAP HAS TO BE RAISED TO BRING IN A BIT MORE REVENUE, AND THEN MAYBE YOU HAVE SOME CHANCE OF MIXING THESE PARTS TOGETHER IN A WAY THAT'S FAIR.

Borg: THAT'S THE CAP ON WAGES, THE AMOUNT OF SOCIAL SECURITY TAX?

Leach: THAT'S RIGHT. CURRENTLY THERE'S A TAXATION ON INCOME UP TO 90,000. YOU PROBABLY HAVE TO EXTEND THAT UPWARD IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING THAT LEAVES THE BENEFIT STRUCTURES IN A PLACE THAT PEOPLE CAN ACCEPT.

Glover: PRESIDENT BUSH, AS I MENTIONED, HAS MADE THIS A TOP PRIORITY OF HIS SECOND TERM. AND HE'S BEEN BARNSTORMING THE COUNTRY TRYING TO DO A SALES JOB TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THIS IS THE WAY TO GO. POLLS HAVE SUGGESTED HE'S NOT SUCCEEDED IN THAT. WHAT'S HE DONE WRONG? OR HAS HE DONE IT RIGHT AND RESULTS ARE COMING DOWN THE ROAD? WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE TO HIM BE?

Leach: THAT'S A REALLY GOOD QUESTION. I THINK YOU HAVE TO GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR TAKING ON THE ISSUE. YOU ALSO HAVE TO GIVE THE PRESIDENT CREDIT FOR UNDERSCORING THAT THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES DOWN THE ROAD. TO A DEGREE, HE'S SUCCEEDED IN MAKING THAT CLEAR. WHEREIN THE SUCCESS HAS NOT BEEN THERE IS WHAT APPEARS TO MANY TO BE A MORE RADICAL THAN NECESSARY KIND OF APPROACH AND WHAT IS PERCEIVED TO BE AS AN UNBALANCED APPROACH. SO SOMEHOW HE'S GOT TO COME BACK AND BRING MORE BALANCE INTO THE SYSTEM. BUT THE SUCCESS TO DATE IS THAT MOST PEOPLE NOW KNOW THERE IS A PROBLEM. AND MOST PEOPLE NOW KNOW THE LONGER YOU PUT IT OFF, THE BIGGER THE PROBLEM IS. SO AS UNPOPULAR AS ALL ELEMENTS OF A SOLUTION ARE, TO DO NOTHING IS ALSO QUITE IRRATIONAL.

Glover: IF YOU DROP PRIVATE ACCOUNTS, COULD A DEAL BE STRUCK?

Leach: NOT NECESSARILY. AGAIN, YOU STILL HAVE THE ISSUE OF HOW YOU DO IT IN A PACKAGE WAY. LET ME STRESS, THE ELEMENT OF THE PLAN THAT HE DESCRIBED AS PERSONAL ACCOUNTS DID NOTHING TO ADDRESS THE SOLVENCY ISSUE. IT SIMPLY CHANGED THE SYSTEM SOMEWHAT BUT DID NOTHING ON SOLVENCY. TO DEAL WITH SOLVENCY, YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH THESE MIXTURES OF WHETHER YOU RAISE TAXES, WHETHER YOU CUT BENEFITS, HOW YOU DESIGN THOSE RAISES AND CUTS. AND SO YOU'VE GOT TO GET A FAIRNESS MIX. IF YOU HAVE AN IDEOLOGICAL MIX, IT WILL NOT FLY.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, I WANT TO SHIFT GEARS. ANOTHER MAJOR STORY IN THE NEWS IS IRAQ.

Leach: YES.

Yepsen: HOW DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING IN IRAQ?

Leach: WELL, I HAVE A PERSONAL VIEW THAT'S A LITTLE ODD. I THINK IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE IN TWO, THREE, FOUR YEARS, IRAQ MIGHT BE CONSIDERED MUCH BETTER OFF THAN IT WAS BEFORE, BUT AMERICA MIGHT BE MUCH WORSE OFF. THAT'S IRONIC BECAUSE IF IRAQ IS BETTER OFF, YOU'D THINK THAT AMERICA WOULD SHARE THE CREDIT. BUT IT LOOKS LIKE TO THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT SOME THINGS HAVE UNRAVELED IN AMERICAN POLICY THAT ARE NOT WELL RECEIVED AND HAVE MAYBE TRIPPED OVER SOME KINDS OF ATTITUDES THAT MIGHT BECOME EVEN MORE DIFFICULT IN YEARS TO COME. IN TERMS OF IRAQ, THOUGH, THE PLUS IS THAT ELECTIONS HAVE TAKEN PLACE. THE PLUS IS THAT A NEW GOVERNMENT HAS JUST BEEN FORMED, IN FACT IN THE LAST 24 HOURS, HAVE ELECTED PEOPLE. THIS IS A FIRST. THE PLUS IS THAT THERE'S SOME BALANCE WITHIN THE VARIOUS GROUPINGS. THE MINUS IS THAT IF YOU LOOK AT THE STATISTICS ON TERRORISM WORLDWIDE, THEY'RE UP BY THREE-FOLD, IN IRAQ UP MAYBE EIGHT- OR NINE-FOLD ACCORDING TO RECENT STATISTICS. SO THAT ISN'T HAPPY. IN ADDITION, THE IRAQ ISSUE IS DEALING WITH FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF A SOCIETY VERY UNLIKE OURS, AND IT'S NOT CLEAR WE CAN UNDERSTAND OR DEAL WITH THEM AS WELL AS WE MIGHT HOPE.

Yepsen: GIVEN THIS BALANCING ACT THAT YOU TALK ABOUT, DO YOU EVER HAVE ANY SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR VOTE AGAINST THE WAR? DO YOU STILL THINK THAT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?

Leach: YOU CAN ONLY ASSESS SOMETHING AT A GIVEN POINT IN TIME, AND I HAVE NO SECOND DOUBTS ABOUT THAT. ONCE THE WAR HAS COMMENCED, MY WHOLE INSTINCT IS TO DO EVERYTHING I POSSIBLY CAN TO MAKE MY VOTE AGAINST THE WAR HOPEFULLY A MISTAKE. THAT IS, YOU WANT THIS THING TO WORK. YOU DON'T WANT IT TO FAIL. SO OF ALL THE THINGS IN MY LIFE AND, FRANKLY, OF ALL VOTES I'VE EVER CAST THAT I HOPE WAS A MISTAKE, IT'S THIS ONE. BUT I CAN'T TELL YOU I THINK IT'S A MISTAKE. I THINK AMERICA HAS GOTTEN INVOLVED IN A CIRCUMSTANCE THAT HAS CAUSED A DIFFERENT VIEW OF THE UNITED STATES THAT HAS EXISTED IN OUR ENTIRE HISTORY, AND IT'S NOT ALTOGETHER A HAPPY ONE.

Glover: REPRESENTATIVE LEACH, YOU MENTIONED A TIME FRAME, THREE OR FEWER YEARS, JUST A MINUTE AGO. HOW LONG WILL AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE TO STAY ON THE GROUND ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE DEFENSE OF IRAQ?

Leach: WELL, THAT IS ONE OF THE MAJOR QUESTIONS. THERE IS A GROUP OF SO-CALLED NEOCONS THAT WANT TO HAVE SEMIPERMANENT BASIS IN IRAQ FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME TO MOVE -- BE ABLE TO MOVE SOUTH TO SAUDI ARABIA, EAST TO IRAN, WEST TO PALESTINE, ISRAEL, NORTH TO SYRIA. I THINK THAT'S A BAD WAY OF LOOKING AT IT. I THINK THE LONGER OUR TROOPS ARE THERE, THE MORE THEY'LL BECOME KIND OF A MAGNET FOR INSTABILITY RATHER THAN A FORCE OF STABILITY. AND SO I'M HOPEFUL THAT BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR WE'RE GOING TO SEE THE CAPACITY OF A LOT OF REDUCTIONS. IF THAT CAPACITY DOESN'T EXIST, THIS IS GOING TO BE, I THINK, VERY AWKWARD FOR UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AROUND THE WORLD.

Glover: YOU MENTIONED THE COST OF THE REFORM OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM, IF I CAN USE THAT WORD. HOW MUCH OF A COST IS THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER GOING TO HAVE TO BE ASKED TO BEAR FOR THIS WAR?

Leach: WELL, THERE ARE LOTS OF WAYS OF MEASURING IT. STATISTICALLY TO DATE, IT'S AT LEAST $300 BILLION, PROBABLY QUITE MORE. BUT THAT'S JUST THE COST OF THE WAR. THE COST TO AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY, WHICH MEANS TRADE POLICY, WHICH MEANS ECONOMICS, IS ON TOP OF THAT. AROUND THE WORLD PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO BUY AMERICAN GOODS THE WAY THEY ONCE DID. PEOPLE LOOK AT US IN DIFFERENT WAYS. YOU TAKE AN IOWA ECONOMY, WE'RE AN EDUCATION STATE IN MANY WAYS. FOREIGN STUDENTS THAT COME HERE, THAT HELPS OUR BALANCE OF TRADE. A FOREIGN STUDENT PAYING TUITION IS JUST LIKE BUYING WIDGIT. IN FACT, IN SOME WAYS IT'S MORE REMARKABLE. WHEN THOSE THINGS DECLINE, THAT'S NOT GOOD FOR OUR ECONOMY. SO THERE ARE LOTS OF ASPECTS OF THE WAR THAT ARE WELL BEYOND SIMPLY THE COST OF THE WAR. THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY COSTLY CIRCUMSTANCE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, SWITCH GEARS HERE. SHOULD MR. BOLTON BE THE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS?

Leach: WELL, I'M THANKFUL I'M NOT IN THE SENATE, SO I DON'T MAKE THOSE CHOICES. ALL I SAY IS THAT HE'S A VERY SMART GUY WHO HOLDS POSITIONS THAT I HAVE QUITE FREQUENTLY STRONGLY DISAGREED WITH. AND I HAVE STRONG PERSONAL FEELINGS, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT THEY'RE HELPFUL IN THE PUBLIC DIALOGUE.

Yepsen: NOW, CONGRESSMAN, THAT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE DUCKING MY QUESTION. IF YOU WERE IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, WOULD YOU VOTE FOR OR AGAINST HIM?

Leach: I'M NOT IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, DAVID. HOW WOULD YOU VOTE IF YOU WERE IN THE UNITED SENATE? [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: I ASK THE QUESTIONS HERE, SIR.

Leach: YEAH, I SEE. BY THE WAY, I WILL TELL YOU IF YOU ASK ME WHO I THINK SHOULD BE THE AMBASSADOR, I THINK IT SHOULD BE SOMEONE LIKE GEORGE BUSH, SR., WHO WAS A REMARKABLE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS. I PERSONALLY THINK THE TYPE OF PERSON THAT CAN WORK WITH THE INSTITUTION AND TRY TO DIRECT IT IN A POSITIVE WAY IS GOING TO HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SUCCESS THAN SOMEONE THAT'S MORE COMBATIVE.

Glover: WELL, LET ME TURN DAVID'S QUESTION ON ITS EAR A LITTLE BIT.

Leach: YES.

Glover: TO WHAT EXTENT IS THE SELECTION OF PEOPLE LIKE BOLTON FOR JOBS LIKE THIS AND NOT THE SELECTION OF PEOPLE LIKE BUSH, SR., CONTRIBUTING TO THIS IMAGE THAT AMERICA HAS IN THE WORLD?

Leach: WELL, THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE IN THE WORLD THAT LIKE THIS COMBATIVENESS. MOST PEOPLE DON'T. AND I HAPPEN TO THINK THAT THE CHALLENGE OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IS TO LEAD THEM. AND TO LEAD THEM, YOU'VE GOT TO WORK WITHIN. THERE ARE SOME PROBLEMS AT THE U.N. TODAY. THE INSTITUTION IS IN NEED OF REFORM. THERE'S SOME MAJOR REFORM ISSUES ON THE AGENDA THIS YEAR. THIS COULD BE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT REFORM YEAR IN MODERN TIMES AT THE U.N., AND WE REALLY DO NEED LEADERSHIP AT THIS TIME. I'M HOPEFUL THAT TOM BOLTON, IF CONFIRMED, WILL DO A GOOD JOB. BUT WE'LL WAIT AND SEE.

Borg: YOU MENTIONED COMBATIVENESS, REALITY OR PERCEPTION, WHATEVER IT IS. BUT APPLY THAT NOW TO IRAN. WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS?

Leach: WELL, THERE ARE THINGS THAT YOU WORK ON STEADILY BUT YOU DON'T EXACTLY CONTROL. MY OWN SENSE AT THIS POINT, WE'RE WISE TO WORK WITH THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY AND LET THEM TAKE THE LEAD. THEY'VE DONE SOME FAIRLY PROGRESSIVE THINGS. IRAN IS LISTENING. IT HAS ITS OWN SET OF INTERESTS. IT BELIEVES THAT IT HAS EVERY RIGHT TO HAVE A PEACEFUL NUCLEAR CAPACITY, AND THERE ARE VERY FEW PEOPLE WHO LOOK AT IRAN WHO DON'T ALSO BELIEVE THAT THEY INTEND TO TRY TO DEVELOP A MILITARY CAPACITY AS WELL. THEY TALK PEACEFUL NUCLEAR ENERGY. MOST OF US ASSUME THAT THEY MEAN MUCH MORE THAN THAT. BUT I THINK YOU TRY TO PUT AS MUCH PRESSURE AS YOU CAN ON IRAN IN A PEACEFUL WAY. I DON'T SEE MILITARY ENGAGEMENT. AND IF PEOPLE THINK THAT IT WOULD BE WISE FOR THE UNITED STATES TO INTERVENE IN A THIRD MUSLIM COUNTRY IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY, I THINK THEY OUGHT TO PUT ON A LITTLE DIFFERENT THINKING CAP. THE LAST THING WE WANT TO SPARK IS SOME SORT OF A MUSLIM-JUDAEO CHRISTIAN CONFLICT. WE WANT TO PUT PRESSURE ON, PREFERABLY USING OTHERS TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT POSSIBLE.

Glover: WELL, AT WHAT POINT WOULD A LOT OF COUNTRIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST BE APPROPRIATE IN -- CONSIDERING THAT WE ARE IN AN ANTI-MUSLIN THING, AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ, IRAN, AT WHAT POINT WOULD A RATIONAL MIDDLE EASTERN MUSLIM PERSON CONCLUDE THAT WE ARE ON A VENDE AGAINST THEM?

Leach: WELL, MANY THINK THAT NOW. ON THE OTHER HAND, TO THE DEGREE THAT WE CAN EMPHASIZE ABSTRACT CONCEPTS LIKE DEMOCRACY, TO THE DEGREE THAT WE CAN MAKE IT CLEAR THAT COUNTRIES ARE BETTER OFF BECAUSE OF OUR PRESENCE, THE BETTER OFF WE ARE. CERTAINLY AFGHANISTAN IS MORE A SUCCESS STORY THAN OTHERWISE. IT'S A VERY FRAGILE SOCIETY. THINGS CAN CHANGE RADICALLY AND EASILY, BUT IT'S CLEARLY MORE SUCCESS THAN OTHERWISE. IRAQ IS STILL UP IN THE AIR.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, I WANT TO SWITCH GEARS TO DOMESTIC POLITICS. WHAT SHOULD THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DO ABOUT THE ETHICAL PROBLEMS OF THE MAJORITY LEADER, TOM DELAY.

Leach: WELL, I THINK THAT WE DID THE RIGHT THING THIS WEEK IN GOING BACK TO THE OLD RULES. THAT WAS THE ONLY REALISTIC THING TO DO. IT'S A SELF-EVIDENT SITUATION OF DIFFICULTY. AS A MEMBER OF CONGRESS, YOU'RE IN A LITTLE BIT OF A CATCH-22 BECAUSE YOU SHOULDN'T COMMENT ON THE ETHICS OF ANOTHER MEMBER UNTIL A COMMITTEE HAS ACTED. NOW THE COMMITTEE IS EMPOWERED TO REVIEW THE SITUATION, AND WE WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT.

Yepsen: SO YOU'RE SATISFIED WITH JUST ALLOWING NOW THE ETHICS COMMITTEE TO WORK?

Leach: WELL, I THINK THE ETHICS COMMITTEE WILL WORK NOW.

Yepsen: YOU'VE CROSSED PATHS WITH TOM DELAY IN THE PAST. DOES THIS -- A MAJORITY LEADER IS TYPICALLY A PRETTY TOUGH GUY TO -- THE GUY YOU DON'T WANT TO MAKE MAD. WHAT'S YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MAJORITY LEADER? IS IT A GOOD ONE? IS IT A BAD ONE? WHAT RAMIFICATIONS DOES THAT HAVE FOR IOWA?

Leach: WELL, I DO MY BEST ALWAYS TO HAVE A PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP, PARTICULARLY WITH PEOPLE WITH WHOM I MIGHT DIFFER. I WAS ONCE CHAIRMAN OF A COMMITTEE. TOM TRIED TO KICK ME OFF MY CHAIRMANSHIP. ON THE OTHER HAND, I VOTED WITH THE DEMOCRATS TO SET UP A COMMITTEE TO CHANGE THE RULES, ONE OF TWO REPUBLICANS TO DO THAT. HE PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE LIKED THAT VERY MUCH, BUT I FELT IT WAS THE RIGHT WAY TO GO. I HAD A MAJOR BILL TO TRY TO END WHAT'S CALLED INTERNET GAMBLING. THIS IS ONE OF THE BILLS THAT TOM DIDN'T ALLOW TO COME TO THE FLOOR. SO WE'VE HAD DIFFERENCES OF JUDGMENT. THOSE THINGS HAPPEN. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, WHETHER ONE IS A REPUBLICAN, A DEMOCRAT, A LEADER, ANOTHER MEMBER, I HAVE LONG FOUND THAT IF YOU DEAL STRAIGHT WITH PEOPLE AND YOU JUST STICK TO THE ISSUES OF THE DAY IN AS DECENT A WAY AS YOU CAN, YOU MIGHT WIN SOME, YOU MIGHT NOT, BUT YOU CAN WORK WITH PEOPLE. AND I CAN WORK WITH ANYONE IN THE HOUSE. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'LL AGREE WITH ME.

Glover: ANOTHER THING THAT HAPPENED IN CONGRESS NOT TOO LONG AGO WAS A BUDGET RESOLUTION. YOU APPROVED A BUDGET RESOLUTION, HOW MUCH YOU WERE GOING TO SPEND, HOW BIG THE DEFICIT WAS GOING TO BE. YOU VOTED AGAINST THAT. WHY?

Leach: WELL, I THOUGHT THE SET OF PRIORITIES HAD BECOME A BIT IDEOLOGICAL, IN THAT YOU HAVE A SET OF TAXING AND SPENDING COMBINATIONS THAT I DIDN'T THINK WERE DEFENSIBLE. BEYOND THAT, THERE WAS ONE -- AND IT SOUNDS VERY AWKWARD, BUT THERE WAS A TECHNIQUE BEHIND THE SCENES THAT WAS SUGGESTED TO USE THE BUDGET RESOLUTION AS A WAY TO CAUSE AN OPENING UP OF WHAT'S CALLED THE ANWAR IN ALASKA. AND THROUGH WHAT ARE CALLED RECONCILIATION INSTRUCTIONS, A COMMITTEE OF JURISDICTION MIGHT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DO THAT, IN FACT WILL HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DO THAT AND IS EXPECTED TO DO THAT. AND I DIDN'T THINK THAT INDIRECT WAY OF CHANGING THE CIRCUMSTANCE WAS APPROPRIATE.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, THE ESTATE TAX.

Leach: YES.

Yepsen: YOU ALSO RESISTED GETTING RID OF THE ESTATE TAX COMPLETELY. WHY?

Leach: WELL, I HAVE VERY SELDOM SEEN AN ISSUE MORE MISUNDERSTOOD OR MANIPULATED THAN THIS ISSUE. WITHOUT JUDGMENT, THE ESTATE TAX SHOULD BE REFORMED. I'VE INTRODUCED, FOR A NUMBER OF CONGRESSES, AN APPROACH TO SIMPLY RAISE THE EXEMPTION TO $10 MILLION SO THAT THE FIRST 10 MILLION IS TAX FREE AND ALSO, FRANKLY, TO REDUCE THE RATE ON ESTATE TAXES. FIFTY PERCENT IS PUNITIVE. ON THE OTHER HAND, TO TAKE ESTATE TAX OFF BILLIONAIRES IS BIZARRE. AND IF WE DO, WE WILL BE ESTABLISHING A WEALTH CLASS AND A DIVISION IN AMERICA OF A TYPE THAT'S NEVER BEEN HAD BEFORE. I JUST THINK THAT IS WRONG AND THAT WE OUGHT TO HAVE SOME ACCOUNTABILITY. NOW, IT IS ARGUED THAT WHY DO YOU DOUBLE TAX. WELL, THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT IN MOST SMALL-BUSINESS SITUATIONS, THE ESTATE TAX HAS BECOME A DOUBLE TAX. BUT FOR MOST LARGE ESTATES, IT'S RATHER ASTONISHING HOW LITTLE TAX ACCRUES ALONG THE WAY. SO WHEN YOU GET INTO THESE ACCUMULATED ASSETS IN THE BILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, IT IS ASTONISHING THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE ACCUMULATED, HOW LITTLE THE TAX IN THOSE ACCUMULATED VALUES HAVE OCCURRED. AND I THINK THE ESTATE TAX IS A VERY APPROPRIATE WAY OF WRITING THAT CIRCUMSTANCE. ON THE OTHER HAND, EVERY IOWA FAMILY FARM, SMALL BUSINESS OUGHT TO BE PROTECTED. AND IF YOU GO TO AN EXEMPTION OF TEN MILLION, YOU'RE PRETTY MUCH THERE.

Glover: JUST THIS LAST WEEK, YOUR COLLEAGUE SENATOR GRASSLEY INTRODUCED A BILL IN REACTION TO THIS BRUTAL CEDAR RAPIDS SLAYING OF TEN-YEAR-OLD JETSETTA GAGE. IT'S A BILL WHICH WILL BRING THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY TO CRIMES SUCH AS THAT. THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR DISTRICT. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW OF THAT BILL?

Leach: WELL, I'VE JUST READ ABOUT IT TODAY. I'LL LOOK AT IT. WE'RE ALL ASTONISHED AT THIS KIND OF BRUTALITY AND, FRANKLY, HISTORICALLY THESE ARE ISSUES THAT SHOULD BE DEALT WITH AT THE STATE LEVEL. ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE ARE SOME TYPES OF FEDERAL CRIMES, MAYBE HEINOUS CRIMES, THAT MAYBE YOUR CONGRESS OUGHT TO LOOK AT. BUT THIS IS A -- ONE OF THESE THINGS, I DON'T THINK THERE'S A SOUL IN IOWA THAT IT DOESN'T JUST WRENCH THEIR STOMACH WHEN THEY THINK OF THIS CRIME, AND YOU WANT THE STATE TO DEAL WITH IT.

Glover: WOULD IT BE WISE FOR PEOPLE TO KIND OF JUST COOL THEIR EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW?

Leach: WELL, I WOULD NEVER GIVE ANY ADVICE TO CHARLES E. GRASSLEY. I CONSIDER CHUCK TO BE ONE OF THE MORE ASTONISHING PUBLIC FIGURES OF MY LIFETIME, AND I PERSONALLY BELIEVE HE IS THE SINGULAR CONGRESSIONAL FIGURE IN THE HISTORY OF THE STATE OF IOWA.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, ANOTHER ISSUE BEFORE IOWA IS ENERGY, HIGH GAS PRICES. YOU OPPOSE AN ENERGY BILL. WHY?

Leach: WELL, I DON'T KNOW ANYONE WHO DOESN'T THINK WE SHOULDN'T HAVE AN ENERGY BILL. BUT THEM ASK THEM WHAT'S IN IT. THAT'S VERY IMPORTANT. THE ENERGY BILL WE PASSED, 70 PERCENT OF IT GOES TO NEW TAX BREAKS FOR THE OIL INDUSTRY. HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THE OIL INDUSTRY DOESN'T HAVE MORE TAX BREAKS THAN ANY INDUSTRY IN AMERICA? THAT'S WHAT INTANGIBLE DRILLING COSTS ARE ALL ABOUT. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. HOW CAN YOU HAVE A CREDIBLE ENERGY BILL, DAVID, IF YOU DON'T LOOK AT CONSERVATION. EUROPE HAS MOVED TO 39-MILES-PER-GALLON STANDARDS. CHINA IS MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION. AND WE CAN'T RAISE TO 31, 32, 33. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CREDIBLE APPROACH TO ENERGY THAT DOESN'T INCLUDE HAVING HIGHER FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS. THIS CONGRESS CAN'T DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE. WE VOTED ON IT ON THE HOUSE FLOOR. YOU CAN'T GET MOST DEMOCRATS OR MOST REPUBLICANS TO VOTE FOR IT. IT'S A CONJUNCTION OF BIG BUSINESS AND BIG LABOR OBJECT. I'M TELLING YOU THE NATIONAL INTEREST SAYS YOU HAVE TO HAVE CONSERVATION. AND IF YOU DON'T HAVE IT, EVERYTHING ELSE IS SMALL POTATOES.

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, HENRY HYDE HAS ANNOUNCED HE'S RETIRING FROM CONGRESS. HE OBVIOUSLY IS CHAIRMAN OF THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE. DO YOU WANT THAT JOB?

Leach: I DON'T EXPECT IT.

Yepsen: WHY NOT?

Leach: WELL I'M NOT IN THE MAINSTREAM OF MY PARTY, AND I REALIZE THAT. SO I DON'T HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS.

Glover: ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF THAT BUDGET THAT WE DISCUSSED JUST A FEW MINUTES AGO WAS SOME PRETTY SIGNIFICANT CUTS IN MEDICAID. CONGRESS IS GOING TO CUT BACK WHAT IS GIVES TO STATES FOR A PROGRAM -- HEALTH PROGRAM FOR THE POOR AND ELDERLY. HOW CAN YOU JUSTIFY FORCING THE STATES TO CUT BACK OR TO COME UP WITH MORE MONEY OF THEIR OWN TO CARE FOR THE MOST FRAIL PEOPLE IN OUR SOCIETY?

Leach: WELL. THERE'S NO MORE DIFFICULT ISSUE IN THIS COUNTRY THAN EVERYTHING THAT TOUCHES ON HEALTH CARE. MEDICAID IS THE ITEM THAT IS DEVASTATING EVERY STATE BUDGET IN THE COUNTRY. IT'S ALSO DIFFICULT FOR THE FEDERAL LEVEL, BECAUSE WE SHARE IT. I DIDN'T VOTE FOR THAT BUDGET RESOLUTION AND I'D HOPED, IN FACT I REQUESTED IT BE TREATED SOMEWHAT DIFFERENTLY. BUT I WILL TELL YOU, WE HAVE TO COME UP WITH WAYS AND TECHNIQUES OF CONSTRAINING HEALTH CARE COSTS. AND UNTIL WE DO, OUR SOCIETY IN TERMS OF THE ECONOMY IS GOING TO BE IN VERY DIFFICULT SHAPE.

Glover: WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO FORCE CONGRESS TO DEAL WITH HEALTH CARE? WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR I DON'T HOW MANY ELECTION CYCLES. WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET SOMEBODY --

Leach: WELL, HEALTH CARE IS GOING TO BE "REFORMED" EVERY THREE OR FOUR YEARS. EVERYONE IS GOING TO KEEP TAKING NEW APPROACHES. WE TOOK A LITTLE DIFFERENT APPROACH A YEAR AGO. SOME OF IT WAS POSITIVE. SOME OF IT WAS NOT QUITE AS GOOD. IT WAS, FRANKLY, VERY GOOD FOR RURAL HOSPITALS IN THE STATE. BUT YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE COMBINATION APPROACHES. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE CALLS FOR SINGLE-PAYER SYSTEMS. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE LOTS OF DIFFERENT APPROACHES. BUT AT THE MOMENT, THE APPETITE FOR HEALTH CARE ON THE DEMAND SIDE IS INCREASING. THE COST OF NEW TYPES OF TECHNOLOGIES ARE INCREASING. IT MEANS THAT CONSTRAINT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO PUT --

Yepsen: CONGRESSMAN, WE'VE GOT LESS THAN A MINUTE LEFT. WE ALWAYS LIKE TO ASK YOU ABOUT POLITICS. ARE YOU GOING TO SEEK REELECTION?

Leach: I ALWAYS BELIEVE THE "DES MOINES REGISTER" IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING CAMPAIGNS AT LEAST A YEAR LONGER THAN THEY SHOULD BE. I SELDOM EVER -- I HAVEN'T ANNOUNCED IN THE LAST FEW ELECTIONS I'VE RUN -- MORE THAN FEW ELECTIONS. I NEVER ANNOUNCE. I THINK YOU CAN EXPECT THAT I WILL PROBABLY BE RUNNING.

Yepsen: AND DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FOR THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION, A FIGHT THAT DOES START IN IOWA?

Leach: IT SURE DOES AND I HAVE NO FAVORITE. I THINK THE GOOD -- THE FUN THING FOR IOWA IN THE NEXT ELECTION -- IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE WE'VE HAD IT -- NEITHER PARTY HAS AN INCUMBENT, SO BOTH PARTIES ARE GOING TO HAVE A GREAT BIG GROUP OF CANDIDATES.

Borg: "THE REGISTER" MAY STRETCH ELECTION CAMPAIGNS, BUT IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION CAN'T STRETCH THIS PROGRAM. WE'RE OUT OF TIME. THANK YOU, CONGRESSMAN, FOR BEING HERE.

Leach: THANK YOU, DEAN.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," WE'LL SHIFT BACK TO IOWA'S CAPITOL AND THE 2005 LEGISLATIVE SESSION. GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK WILL BE HERE WITH THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH ASSESSMENT OF IOWA'S 81ST GENERAL ASSEMBLY. SAME AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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.

Tags: Congress Iowa