Iowa Public Television

 

Senator Charles Grassley

posted on February 27, 2006

Borg: WAR, BUDGET DEFICITS, NATIONAL SECURITY. ASSESSMENTS FROM SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

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ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY OF NEW HARTFORD IS NOW IN HIS 31ST YEAR REPRESENTING IOWA IN THE U.S. CONGRESS: THREE TERMS IN THE HOUSE, AND NOW HE'S IN HIS FOURTH SIX-YEAR TERM IN THE SENATE. SENATOR GRASSLEY, YOU'VE BEEN HERE MANY TIMES DURING THAT TENURE, AND WELCOME BACK.

Grassley: AND I ALWAYS ENJOY IT.

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

Glover: MUCH IN THE NEWS THESE DAYS, SENATOR, IS THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE SALE OF MANAGEMENT OF SOME MAJOR PORTS IN AMERICA TO A MIDDLE EASTERN COMPANY. WHAT'S THE CONTROVERSY HERE AND WHERE ARE YOU ON IT?

Grassley: WELL, IF THERE WERE A VOTE TODAY, IT WOULD BE OVERWHELMINGLY REJECTED BY THE CONGRESS. NOW, THE PRESIDENT -- AND WE HAD A BRIEFING -- MY STAFF HAD A BRIEFING FROM THE SECRETARY OF TREASURY YESTERDAY. I WASN'T ABLE TO BE THERE. BUT WE'VE URGED THEM TO PUT IT OFF FOR 45 DAYS, AND I THINK THEY'RE GOING TO PUT IT OFF FOR 45 DAYS, SO IT'S GOING TO GET MORE THOROUGH REVIEW, PROBABLY THE SAME THOROUGH REVIEW IT SHOULD HAVE HAD. I THINK THAT THE ONE THING THAT HAS TO BE PROVEN TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE -- BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT'S COME UP AT EACH ONE OF MY 15 TOWN MEETINGS THAT I HAD THIS WEEK, IS FEAR OF TERRORISM GETTING IN IF AN ARAB NATION IS MANAGING OUR PORTS. ON THE OTHER HAND, WE KNOW THAT NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE COASTGUARD DOING THE POLICING OF THE PORTS AND THE CUSTOMS PEOPLE DOING THE -- WHAT COMES IN AND OUT OF THE COUNTRY. IT'S GOING TO BE THE SAME. ARABS ARE NOT GOING TO BE DOING THAT. AND IT WAS, AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, MONITORED AND MANAGED BY A BRITISH FIRM BEFORE IT WAS BOUGHT OUT BY THE ARAB FIRM. BUT THERE'S GREAT FEAR IN THIS COUNTRY OF ANYTHING HAPPENING BY TERRORISM AGAIN, LIKE SEPTEMBER 11, AND THAT'S GOING TO BE DOMINANT. SO I THINK IT BOILS DOWN TO NOT WHETHER OR NOT YOU CAN SHOW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT IT'S -- IT'S GOOD TO HAVE THE ARAB COUNTRY DO THIS; I THINK IT BOILS DOWN TO THE FACT, CAN YOU EXPLAIN IT IN A THIRTY-SECOND COMMERCIAL. AND IF YOU CAN, IT WILL BE SUSTAINED; BUT IF YOU CAN'T, THERE'S GOING TO BE SOMEBODY ELSE MANAGING THESE PORTS.

Glover: DOES IT TROUBLE YOU THAT THIS DEAL WAS DONE BEFORE EITHER CONGRESS OR THE PRESIDENT KNEW ABOUT IT?

Grassley: I HAVEN'T ANALYZED THAT FROM THE STANDPOINT OF HOW DOES THIS STAND ON ALL OF THE THINGS THAT CONGRESS OR THE PRESIDENT HAS TO DEAL WITH. BUT IT'S QUITE OBVIOUS NOW THAT THERE'S GREAT EMBARRASSMENT THAT IT WASN'T BROUGHT TO CONGRESS AND THAT THE PRESIDENT WASN'T MORE INVOLVED IN THE INITIAL DECISION. SO I CAN ONLY COME TO THE CONCLUSION, YES, SOMETHING THIS IMPORTANT, CONGRESS SHOULD HAVE BEEN INFORMED AND THE PRESIDENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE GROUND FLOOR INSTEAD OF ON THE TOP FLOOR.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ANOTHER ISSUE ON THE EDGE OF THE NEWS RIGHT NOW IS THE SITUATION IN IRAQ.

Grassley: SURE.

Yepsen: EVENTS SEEM TO BE OUT OF CONTROL IN SOME PLACES IN THAT COUNTRY. HOW LONG WILL AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE TO REMAIN IN IRAQ?

Grassley: IF YOU'RE ASKING WHEN THE LAST AMERICAN TROOP MIGHT LEAVE IRAQ, I THINK THAT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO ANSWER. BUT I THINK WE'RE IN THE PROCESS OF PULLING OUT 23,000 TROOPS NOW, DOWN TO ABOUT 137,000, AND WE'VE BEEN LED TO BELIEVE THAT WE WOULD HAVE LESS THAN 100,000 THERE AT THE END OF THIS YEAR. THAT'S GOING TO CHANGE FROM DAY TO DAY. THE PRESENT ENHANCEMENT OF INSURGENCY I DON'T THINK SHOULD COME AS A SURPRISE TO US BECAUSE EVERY TIME THAT THERE WAS A MOVEMENT TO BRING DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT TO IRAQ, YOU ALWAYS HAVE AN INCREASE IN THE INSURGENCY. IT'S THE LAST GASP BY THE OPPONENTS OF DEMOCRACY AND THE LAST EFFORT OF THE -- OF SADDAM HUSSEIN'S PEOPLE TO HOPEFULLY GET BACK CONTROL.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ARE WE HEADED TOWARDS SOME SORT OF CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS HERE BETWEEN THE ISLAMIC WORLD AND THE WESTERN WORLD? WE SEE ALL OF THIS VIOLENCE OVER A FEW CARTOONS BLOWING UP THEIR MOSQUES OVER THERE NOW. IS THERE A DANGER THAT THE WEST AND THE EAST ARE GOING TO CLASH HERE?

Grassley: SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE STUDIED THIS FROM A HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW SAY THAT IT MAY NOT BE A WHOLE LOT DIFFERENT THAN THE THOUSAND-YEAR CONFLICT THAT WE'VE HAD SINCE THE CRUSADES BETWEEN THE MUSLIM CULTURE AND THE EUROPEAN -- WESTERN CULTURE. AND TO SOME EXTENT IT IS. YOU READ AN AWFUL LOT, FOR INSTANCE, ABOUT SOME OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE SHIITES AND THE SUNNIS FROM THE STANDPOINT OF HOW THE SHIITES HELPED GENGHIS KAHN COME IN AND BETRAY THE OTHER -- THE OTHER GROUP. SO THERE'S A LOT OF DEEP-SEATED RESENTMENT HERE EVEN WITHIN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITIES.

Glover: SENATOR, YOU CAN ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER GOING TO WAR IN IRAQ WAS A GOOD THING. YOU CAN ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER WE SHOULD HAVE JUSTIFIED IT WITH WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. BUT A QUESTION I HEAR AN AWFUL LOT IS WE'RE THERE, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE, AND HOW DO YOU ANSWER THE QUESTION -- OR THE ARGUMENT FROM SOME NEOCONSERVATIVES THAT THE U.S. OUGHT TO HAVE A PERMANENT PRESENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

Grassley: WELL, IN A SENSE WE DO HAVE A PERMANENT PRESENCE. OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH ISRAEL, EVEN THOUGH WE DON'T HAVE BASES IN ISRAEL, GIVES US A PRESENCE. WE'VE -- SINCE IT TOOK FOUR MONTHS TO GET THINGS IN PLACE FOR THE PERSIAN GULF WAR, FOR THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS, WE'VE ALWAYS HAD SOME FORWARD POSITIONING. I WOULD SUGGEST THAT WE MAY END UP WITH AN AIRPORT AND A SMALL BASE IN IRAQ FOR MORE FORWARD POSITIONING, REGARDLESS OF HOW PEACEFUL THE COUNTRY IS. BUT I THINK THE BOTTOM LINE OF OUR -- OF YOUR QUESTION IS AS FAR AS IRAQ IS CONCERNED THAT THE MAJOR TURNING POINT WAS JUNE 30, 2004, WHEN WE TURNED IT OVER TO THEM TO GOVERN THEMSELVES AND WE'RE THERE AS THEIR GUESTS WITH THE IDEA THAT WE'RE GOING TO HELP THEM GET DEMOCRACY. THAT PROCESS IS COMPLETED NOW. THEN IN TURN, TRAIN THEIR TROOPS. AND AS THEY STAND UP, WE STAND DOWN. SO THAT'S -- WE'VE BEEN IN THE PROCESS OF WITHDRAWAL, ALTHOUGH YOU CAN'T PUT NUMBERS ON IT, BUT AS A POLICY SINCE JUNE 30, 2004.

Yepsen: SENATOR, DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE IS ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S IN THE NEWS. THE PRESIDENT SAYS HE HAS INHERENT POWERS SINCE HE'S FIGHTING A WAR TO DO THESE THINGS. CIVIL LIBERTARIANS ARE CONCERNED. WHAT'S YOUR POSITION?

Grassley: WELL, BASED UPON WHETHER OR NOT THE PRESIDENT HAS INHERENT POWER, I'M GOING TO RELY ON THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES TO INTERPRET THE COMMANDER AND CHIEF CLAUSE TO MAKE THAT DETERMINATION. PRESIDENT TRUMAN THOUGHT THAT HE HAD INHERENT POWER TO SEIZE THE STEEL MILLS IN 1952. THE SUPREME COURT SAID HE DIDN'T. NOW, ON THE OTHER HAND, WHEN THE COMES TO WHAT THE PRESIDENT IS DOING IN THIS AREA, CONGRESS SAID IN ONE OF ITS ACTS, GOING TO WAR IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ, THAT THE PRESIDENT OUGHT TO TAKE ALL MEANS NECESSARY TO MAKE SURE THAT HE PROTECTS AMERICA. SO WE HAVE A SUPREME COURT CASE, SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR SAYS KEEPING TROOPS IN GUANTANAMO UNDER THAT PROVISION IS -- IS CONSTITUTIONAL. SO THE PRESIDENT IS DOING SURVEILLANCE THE SAME WAY. SURELY SURVEILLANCE TO PREVENT WAR IS BETTER THAN -- OR IS AT LEAST AS EQUAL TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWER TO KEEP TROOPS -- OR TO KEEP PRISONERS. SO WE SEE THE SUPREME COURT GIVING THE PRESIDENT THE AUTHORITY TO DO WHAT HE'S DOING.

Yepsen: DO YOU THINK CONGRESS NEEDS TO INTERVENE HERE BY WAY OF PASSING ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION, OR ARE YOU CONTENT TO JUST LET THIS ISSUE WORK ITS WAY THROUGH THE COURT SYSTEM?

Grassley: I WOULD SAY I'M -- WELL, BOTH. BUT THE FIRST ONE IF WE PASS A LAW IS A LITTLE MORE EASY TO DESCRIBE BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE COURTS ARE GOING TO SAY. BUT FIRST OF ALL, I DO HAVE GREAT CONFIDENCE IN THE SUPREME COURT BEING AN ARBITER BETWEEN THE CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT ON WHAT IS THE CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY OF EACH. IN THE CASE OF AMENDING THE EXISTING FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT, IT'S THIS SIMPLE. IT'S THAT WE DO IT IN THE SAME VEIN THAT GRIFFIN BELL, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF CARTER, SAID THAT WE'RE GOING TO GO ALONG WITH THIS LAW, BUT WE DO NOT GIVE ANY INCH OF GROUND ON COMPROMISING THE PRESIDENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY. JAMIE GORRELICK, IN THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION, SAID BASICALLY THE SAME THING WHEN THERE WERE SOME CHANGES MADE AT THAT PARTICULAR TIME. SO IF WE CAN DO THINGS TO PASS LEGISLATION TO MAKE IT MORE CLEAR BUT YOU DON'T SUBTRACT FROM THE PRESIDENT'S CONSTITUTIONAL POWER AS COMMANDER AND CHIEF, I WOULD BE FOR IT.

Borg: SENATOR, I'M GOING TO DO SOMETHING LIKE A HEALTH CHECKUP HERE, ONLY IT'S A FISCAL CHECKUP. YOU, OVER YOUR POLITICAL CAREER, WHICH I ENUMERATED EARLIER, ESTABLISHED YOURSELF AS A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE. BUT SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THIS COUNTRY, AND PARTICULARLY THE WAR IN IRAQ, CARRIES UNEXPECTED PRICE TAGS. AND YOU HAVE SAID WHEN YOU'VE BEEN ASKED THIS QUESTION BEFORE ABOUT BUDGET DEFICITS, YOU'VE SAID, 'I'M NOT WORRIED ABOUT A BUDGET DEFICIT AT A TIME OF WAR.' CHECKUP... STILL FEEL THAT WAY?

Grassley: WELL, YES. THE ONLY THING IS, IN THE MEANTIME SINCE MAYBE THE YEAR OR TWO YOU ASKED ME THAT BEFORE, WE'VE TAKEN SOME ACTION, FOR INSTANCE IN THE PART OF THE BUDGET THAT WE CALLED THIS DOMESTIC DISCRETIONARY, TO FREEZE THAT PART OF THE BUDGET. AND SO THAT MAKES SOME HELP. OUR TAX POLICIES, EVEN CONSIDERING REDUCTION IN TAXES, 2001, 2003 BROUGHT IN $270 BILLION MORE IN 2005 OVER 2004. SO IT SEEMS LIKE THE ECONOMY IS GROWING AS THE TAX DECREASE WAS INTENDED --

Borg: BUT SO IS THE NATIONAL DEBT.

Grassley: IT IS GROWING BUT IF YOU LOOK AT IT AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT, YOU'D FIND THAT TODAY'S DEBT IS LESS THAN IT WAS IN '82 WHEN REAGAN WAS PRESIDENT. YOU WOULD FIND THAT IT'S LESS THAN IT WAS IN '93 WHEN CLINTON WAS PRESIDENT. SO WE'RE TRYING TO KEEP IT WITHIN A MANAGEABLE DEBT AND PARTICULARLY TO FOLLOW A POLICY THAT'S EVEN MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN EUROPE OF KEEPING IT UNDER 2.5 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL DEBT, AND WE'RE HEADED DOWN THAT DIRECTION. NOW, IN THE MEANTIME, WE ARE SPENDING ON WAR, AS WE SHOULD. AND WITH OUR LOWER TAX POLICIES, WHEN WE GET AT THE END OF THIS PERIOD OF TIME WHEN THESE SUNSET IN 2010, YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THIS LOWER TAX RATE BRINGING MORE MONEY INTO THE FEDERAL TREASURY THAN HISTORICALLY IT HAS BEEN OVER A SIX-YEAR PERIOD OF TIME OF 8.1 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT.

Glover: SENATOR, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU'VE BEEN VERY HEAVILY INVOLVED IN IS THE MEDICARE PROGRAM AND THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT THAT'S BEEN PLACED UNDER MEDICARE. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF CHATTER ABOUT THAT. THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF CONTROVERSY ABOUT IT. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, IF ANYTHING, AND WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO?

Grassley: WELL, NOTHING NEEDS TO BE DONE RIGHT NOW BECAUSE ALL OF THE FIXES THAT NEED TO BE DONE -- I ASKED THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES TO -- IS THERE ANY NEED FOR CHANGE OF LAW. HE IDENTIFIED SEVEN THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE. HE'S GOT STATUTORY AUTHORITY TO DO THOSE. HE IS DOING THEM. THINGS ARE LESS CONTROVERSIAL TODAY THAN THEY WERE TWO MONTHS AGO. WE'VE REACHED A POINT WHERE WE'RE SIGNING UP 94,000 PEOPLE A DAY FOR THE PROGRAM. THAT PROVES THAT IT'S BEING ACCEPTED. OUR COSTS ARE 20 PERCENT LOWER THAN WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE. PREMIUMS $25 INSTEAD OF $37. WE'VE GOT DRUGS THAT ARE 18 PERCENT CHEAPER IF THEY'RE BOUGHT AT THE RETAIL, 26 CHEAPER IF THEY'RE MAIL ORDER. THAT'S FOR BRAND NAME. FOR GENERIC DRUGS: 52 PERCENT LESS IF THEY'RE BOUGHT AT THE PHARMACY; 66 PERCENT LESS IF THEY'RE MAIL ORDER. WE'RE SAVING THE FEDERAL TAXPAYERS $8 BILLION MORE THAN WHAT WE ANTICIPATED WE WERE GOING TO SPEND. STATES ARE GOING TO SPEND $700 MILLION LESS THIS YEAR THAN WHAT WE ANTICIPATED THEY WOULD SPEND. THAT'S $6.4 MILLION MORE IN THE POCKETS OF -- OR OF THE TREASURY OF IOWA AS ONE EXAMPLE. SO PEOPLE ARE SIGNING UP. PEOPLE ARE GETTING CHEAPER DRUGS. THERE'S 200,000 IOWANS SIGNED UP. WE'VE GOT 72,000 SIGNED UP ON FEBRUARY 11, COMPARED TO ONLY 42,000 SIGNED UP IN JANUARY. SO PEOPLE ARE GETTING INTO IT AND SIGNING UP AND USING IT. I HAD PEOPLE COME TO MY TOWN MEETING. ONE PERSON BUYING MS -- DRUGS FOR MS WAS SAVING $2,000 A YEAR BECAUSE OF THIS PROGRAM.

Glover: SO YOU'RE SATISFIED?

Grassley: I'M NOT SATISFIED UNTIL WE GET ALL THE PEOPLE THAT WANT TO SIGN UP. AND IT IS A VOLUNTARY PROGRAM. THEY DON'T HAVE TO SIGN UP. I DON'T HAVE -- I'M NOT GOING TO BE SATISFIED UNTIL WE GET EVERYBODY SIGNED UP THAT WANTS TO BE SIGNED UP AND IS GOING TO BENEFIT FROM IT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX.

Grassley: YES.

Yepsen: THERE'S A FEATURE IN OUR TAX CODE THAT WAS PUT THERE TO KEEP RICH PEOPLE FROM AVOIDING TAXES YEARS AGO. IT'S NOW STARTING TO CLIP MORE AND MORE MIDDLE AMERICANS. YOU'VE EXPRESSED A CONCERN ABOUT IT, BUT NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS PROBLEM? AND SECONDLY, HOW CAN YOU DO ANYTHING AT A TIME OF THESE SOARING NATIONAL DEFICITS?

Grassley: YOU CAN'T DO MUCH MORE THAN KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD A YEAR OR TWO, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'LL DO IN MARCH OF THIS YEAR WHEN WE FINALLY FINISH WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE FINISHED BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT IF YOU'RE WORRIED ABOUT PAYING IT ON 2006 YEAR INCOME, YOU WON'T HAVE TO, AND YOU'RE NOT AFFECTED ON YOUR 2005 INCOME. WE DID REPEAL IT IN 1998, BUT CLINTON VETOED IT. NOW YOU'RE AT A POINT WHERE IT'S BRINGING IN -- POTENTIALLY BRINGS IN SO MUCH REVENUE AND YOU HAVE TO OFFSET IT. FOR INSTANCE, THE OFFSET THIS YEAR IS ABOUT $34 BILLION, SO THAT'S WHY DIGGING UP $34 BILLION SOMEPLACE ELSE TO OFFSET THE AMD SO 22 MILLION PEOPLE THAT WEREN'T EVER SUPPOSED TO PAY THE TAX -- MIDDLE-INCOME TAX PAYING AMERICANS WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO PAY IT -- DON'T HAVE TO PAY IT. IT'S A $34-BILLION OFFSET. SO WE ONLY HAVE THE ABILITY TO KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD A SMALL WAYS.

Yepsen: SENATOR, GO BACK TO THIS DEFICIT QUESTION. A LOT OF IOWANS HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE LOGIC THAT YOU DESCRIBE ABOUT CUTTING TAXES CREATES ECONOMIC ACTIVITY. WHY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE PRESIDENT BUSH'S TAX CUTS PERMANENT AT A TIME WHEN WE'VE GOT THESE SOARING DEFICITS? WOULDN'T WE BE BETTER OFF TO LET THEM EXPIRE -- THE ECONOMY IS DOING WELL -- GET THAT REVENUE IN HERE, AND PAY SOME BILLS?

Grassley: WELL, AS I JUST TOLD DEAN, UNDER THIS EXISTING TAX POLICY, WE HAD $270 BILLION MORE COME IN 2005 THAN 2004. YOU HAVE CHAIRMAN GREENSPAN SAYING THAT THE TAX REDUCTIONS WE MADE FOR WORKING MEN AND WOMEN WERE THE REASON THAT THE ECONOMY HAS SPURRED TO 12 QUARTERS OF GROWTH THAT WE HAVE. AND IT LOOKS LIKE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS -- FOUR QUARTERS OF GROWTH THIS YEAR. AND ALSO, MORE IMPORTANTLY, THAT WHEN YOU GET OUT THERE AT THE END OF THIS PERIOD OF TIME THAT THEY WOULD EXPAND, WE WILL STILL HAVE MORE MONEY COMING INTO THE FEDERAL TREASURY UNDER THE LOWER TAX POLICIES THAN WE HAVE HAD IN A 40-YEAR AVERAGE AT 18.1 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT. AND WE WANT TO KEEP IT AT THAT GENERAL LEVEL BECAUSE THAT'S A LEVEL OF TAXATION THAT PEOPLE ACCEPT, THEY'RE WILLING TO PAY, AND IT'S A LEVEL OF TAXATION THAT HASN'T HARMED OUR ECONOMY.

Glover: SENATOR, ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL ARGUMENTS AND ISSUES FACING CONGRESS IS IMMIGRATION POLICIES.

Grassley: YES.

Glover: YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE IT UP FAIRLY QUICKLY --

Grassley: TWO WEEKS FROM NOW.

Glover: -- AND THERE ARE A COUPLE OF COMPETING PROPOSALS OUT THERE. WHERE ARE YOU ON THIS WHOLE IMMIGRATION DEBATE?

Grassley: WELL, I CAN TELL YOU AS A MATTER OF POLICY WHERE I AM. I'M NOT GOING TO SAY AM I FOR THE KENNEDY BILL OR THE CORNYN BILL. IN THE SENATE, WE DON'T GET ANYTHING DONE THAT'S NOT BIPARTISAN, SO THERE'S GOING TO BE SOMETHING IN BETWEEN. THERE IS A SPECTER MARK THAT'S SUPPOSEDLY A COMPROMISE THAT WILL BE ALTERED SOMEWHAT. BUT I CAN TELL YOU THAT I'M -- I AM FOR -- FIRST OF ALL, WITH LEGAL IMMIGRATION, WE'VE GOT A TERRIBLE PROBLEM WITH OUR VISA PROBLEM. WE'VE GOT PEOPLE COMING HERE LEGALLY THAT ARE POTENTIALLY TERRORISTS THAT WE CAN'T GET THE STATE DEPARTMENT TO ADMINISTRATOR THE VISA PROGRAM THE WAY IT OUGHT TO BE ADMINISTERED. SO THAT'S NUMBER ONE AREA I'M GOING TO BE WORKING ON. NUMBER TWO, I SUPPORT LEGAL IMMIGRATION. WE HAVE A MILLION PEOPLE COME TO THIS COUNTRY LEGALLY, AND WE'RE A BETTER COUNTRY BECAUSE OF IT. AND WE WANT TO CONTINUE THAT PROGRAM GOING, BUT WE DON'T INVITE ILLEGAL ALIENS HERE. NOW, WE DO NEED SOME WORKERS IN SOME INSTANCES, IN NARROW SECTIONS OF OUR ECONOMY. I'M FOR A GUEST WORKER PROGRAM THAT WOULD ALLOW PEOPLE TO COME HERE LEGALLY. BUT I'M NOT GOING TO BE FOR AMNESTY BECAUSE I VOTED FOR AMNESTY TWENTY YEARS AGO WHEN WE HAD THREE MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS AND IT WAS SUPPOSED TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEM. WE HAVE 11 NOW -- 11 MILLION AND WE STILL HAVE A PROBLEM. AND SOME PEOPLE ARE PROPOSING AMNESTY.

Borg: HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TIGHTEN THE VISAS? THE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE ALREADY COMPLAINING THAT FOREIGN STUDENTS ARE BEING KEPT OUT, AND YOU WANT TO TIGHTEN IT EVEN MORE.

Grassley: NO, I DON'T THINK -- I DON'T THINK WE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE VISAS FOR STUDENTS. WHAT WE'RE HAVING A PROBLEM FOR ARE WHAT WE CALL THE L VISAS, PEOPLE THAT COME OVER HERE WITH MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS WHO USE IT AS A SUBTERFUGE TO GET AROUND OUR H 1B PROGRAM WHEN THEY CAN ONLY BE HERE FOR A SPECIFIC JOB. AND THAT'S WHAT WE NEED TO NAIL DOWN.

Glover: ON THE ISSUE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE SO FAR AS TO SUGGEST THAT WE BUILD A FENCE ALONG THE BORDER WITH MEXICO TO CLOSE OFF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. WHAT CAN WE DO TO SHUT DOWN THE FLOW OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS INTO THE COUNTRY?

Grassley: WELL, THE HOUSE BILL HAS DONE A LOT IN THAT AREA. WE WON'T CONSIDER THE HOUSE BILL IN THE SENATE TILL WE GET TO CONFERENCE WITH THE HOUSE. BUT SEVERAL THINGS: NUMBER ONE, MORE BORDER PATROL, SEVERAL THOUSAND MORE; ELECTRONIC AND CAMERA SURVEILLANCE; WE WOULD -- WE WOULD DO AWAY WITH THE CATCH AND RELEASE THING, WHERE YOU CATCH AN ILLEGAL ALIEN, THEY PROMISE TO COME TO A COURT APPEARANCE, AND THEY NEVER SHOW UP; CATCH AND DEPORT IMMEDIATELY, AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE THAT WE WOULD BE DOING. WE WOULD ALSO PUT INCREASED PENALTIES ON ALIEN SMUGGLING SO WE DON'T HAVE ILLEGAL ALIENS DYING IN A BOXCAR OVER IN DENISON, AS AN EXAMPLE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, LAST YEAR THE COUNTRY TALKED A GREAT DEAL ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM, CHANGES THAT THE PRESIDENT WANTED. THOSE WENT NOWHERE. WHAT'S HAPPENED TO SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM? IS THE SYSTEM EVER GOING TO BE CHANGED, OR IS THIS THE SYSTEM --

Grassley: WELL, IT WILL HAVE TO BE CHANGED, OTHERWISE MY GRANDDAUGHTERS WILL ONLY GET 70 PERCENT OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY THAT I'M RECEIVING, AND SO IT'S NOT FAIR TO THE YOUNG PEOPLE.

Yepsen: SO WHEN DOES THE CHANGE HAPPEN, AND WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE?

Grassley: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, AS REVIEW IN TEN SECONDS, I HAD 15 MEETINGS ON IT LAST YEAR WITH MY COMMITTEE, AND I COULDN'T EVEN GET A CONSENSUS AMONG REPUBLICANS. AND WITHOUT GETTING A CONSENSUS AMONG REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS WERE GOING TO SIT IT OUT, AND I DON'T BLAME THEM FOR SITTING IT OUT. SO IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN IN AN ELECTION YEAR IF IT COULDN'T HAPPEN IN 2005. SO 2007 AT THE EARLIEST. AND IF I'M MORE REALISTIC, 2009, ASSUMING IT'S AN ISSUE IN THE 2008 ELECTION. BUT REMEMBER, 2008 IS WHEN THE FIRST BABY BOOMER STARTS RETIRING. THAT'S WHEN YOU START IMPACTING SOCIAL SECURITY.

Glover: SENATOR, THERE'S SOME INSTANCES IN IOWA -- I'M THINKING OF ELECTROLUX AND MAYTAG -- THAT RAISED THE ISSUE OF TRADE. THAT'S A VERY EMOTIONAL ISSUE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THE NATION'S TRADE PROBLEMS?

Grassley: WELL, I WAS IN WEBSTER CITY YESTERDAY, AND THE ISSUE CAME UP THERE, 700 PEOPLE LOSING THEIR JOBS.

Glover: RIGHT.

Grassley: AND WHAT I SAID THAT WE HAVE TO DO -- FIRST OF ALL, NAFTA WAS BLAMED FOR IT, BUT WE HAD COMPANIES GOING TO MEXICO FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE WE EVER -- BEFORE WE EVER HAD NAFTA. I LOST MY JOB AT WATERLOO REGISTER IN CEDAR FALLS BECAUSE JOBS WERE GOING FROM WATERLOO, IOWA, TO TEXAS BEFORE THEY EVER WENT TO MEXICO. SO THEY'VE BEEN CHEAPENED -- CHASING CHEAP LABOR AROUND THE WORLD A LONG TIME.

Glover: AND THERE'S NO REALLY EASY, CHEAP WAY TO DO THIS, BUT IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL 'IOWA PRESS' SHOW IF WE DIDN'T TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POLITICS. YOU MENTIONED 2008. IT'S COMING. THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE IS STARTING TO HEAT UP. WE'RE ALREADY STARTING TO SEE POTENTIAL CANDIDATES COME THROUGH IOWA. WHAT ROLE WILL IOWA PLAY IN THE 2008 ELECTION, AND WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM YOUR PARTY'S POTENTIAL CANDIDATES?

Grassley: IF GOVERNOR VILSACK RUNS FOR PRESIDENT, I DOUBT IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES THAT IT WILL PLAY A KEY ROLE. BUT IF HE WERE NOT TO RUN, WE WOULD BE PLAYING THE MOST KEY ROLE THAT ANY STATE HAS PLAYED SINCE 1952 BECAUSE THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR THAT THERE HASN'T BEEN AN INCUMBENT PRESIDENT OR A VICE PRESIDENT IN ONE PARTY OR THE OTHER RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. SO I THINK A VERY MAJOR ROLE.

Glover: AND THE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN IS UP AND GOING?

Grassley: WITHOUT A DOUBT. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE -- YOU'LL BE ABLE TO SWING A DEAD CAT AROUND AND HIT A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ANY DAY. [ LAUGHTER ]

Yepsen: WELL, HAVE YOU -- I GATHER YOU'VE NOT ENDORSED ANYONE. YOU DON'T HAVE ANY --

Grassley: NO. I'LL WAIT PROBABLY TILL OCTOBER 2007, I THINK WOULD BE A GOOD TIME FOR ME TO THINK ABOUT ENDORSING SOMEBODY.

Yepsen: WILL YOU ENDORSE SOMEBODY?

Grassley: I THINK SO, YEAH. I HAVE PRETTY FREQUENTLY.

Yepsen: LET'S GET CLOSER TO '06. HISTORY SAYS THAT THE OFF YEAR IS A TOUGH ONE FOR THE PARTY IN POWER. I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH THAT OR NOT, SENATOR, BUT IF SO, HOW BAD DO YOU THINK THE 2006 ELECTIONS COULD BE FOR REPUBLICANS?

Grassley: I THINK WE LOSE A FEW SEATS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, STILL CONTROL THE HOUSE BY A NARROWER MARGIN, LOSE MAYBE ONE SEAT IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE AND STILL CONTROL THE SENATE. BUT I THINK IF YOUR QUESTION IS RELATED TO THE PRESIDENT BEING UP OR DOWN, I THINK YOU'VE GOT TO SEE THESE AS STATE-BY-STATE RACES AND DISTRICT-BY-DISTRICT, AND THEY'RE VERY LOCAL ISSUES THAT ARE GOING TO MAKE THE DETERMINATION. I DOUBT IF THERE'S ONE NATIONAL ISSUE THAT'S GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Yepsen: WILL THIS AFFECT THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE IN THIS STATE?

Grassley: NO, I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK THAT, AGAIN, I TALK TO LEGISLATIVE LEADERS FREQUENTLY. I THINK WHAT'S GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE HERE IN IOWA IS THE IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS GOT TO GET AS SOPHISTICATED ON BRINGING IN ABSENTEE BALLOTS AS THE DEMOCRATS. THE DEMOCRATS CAN SHOW YOU HOW -- THEY CAN TELL YOU, DAVID YEPSEN, WHETHER YOU VOTE AT 10:00 IN THE MORNING OR 6:00 AT NIGHT, AND REPUBLICANS CAN'T DO THAT. AND WE -- AND WE'VE GOT TO HAVE AN ABSENTEE BALLOT PROGRAM. WE WOULD HAVE 56 MEMBERS OF THE IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IF THE ELECTION WAS ONLY DECIDED ON ELECTION DAY. WE WON ON ELECTION DAY. WE LOST AT THE ABSENTEE BALLOT. I'M HAVING A MAJOR BATTLE WITH THE IOWA REPUBLICANS AND WITH THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE TO GET SOME RESOURCES INTO THIS STATE TO GET ABSENTEE BALLOTS IN AND GET PEOPLE OUT ON THE STREET IDENTIFYING WHO WON'T VOTE ONLY BY ABSENTEE BALLOT. AND THAT'S WHAT IT'S GOING TO TAKE TO KEEP CONTROL OF THE IOWA LEGISLATURE AND ELECT A GOVERNOR.

Glover: AND YOU'RE A PRETTY GOOD HAND AT IOWA POLITICS. YOU'VE BEEN DOING IT FOR A LITTLE WHILE. WE'VE GOT A COUPLE OF PRETTY HOT BATTLES GOING ON HERE. ONE IS THE GOVERNOR'S RACE WHERE THE REPUBLICANS ENDED THEIR PRIMARY JUST THIS LAST WEEK AND AN OPEN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN THE FIRST DISTRICT IN NORTHEAST IOWA. HANDICAP THOSE FOR ME. HOW DO THEY LOOK FOR REPUBLICANS?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK THAT REPUBLICANS HAVE MADE A GREAT ADVANCEMENT, AT LEAST FROM THE STANDPOINT OF SAVING MONEY, BY THE ARRANGEMENTS THAT WERE MADE THIS WEEK BETWEEN VANDER PLAATS AND NUSSLE. I THINK THAT -- THAT PUTS THEM OFF AND RUNNING FOR THE NOVEMBER ELECTION. THEY ONLY HAVE TO FOCUS ON THAT. AS FAR AS THE FIRST DISTRICT IS CONCERNED, IT'S A VERY, VERY TOUGH RACE BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT, YOU KNOW, ONLY CARRIED THERE BY 47. BUT I THINK WITH NUSSLE BEING ON THE TICKET, HEADING OUR TICKET, THAT WE HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF KEEPING THE FIRST DISTRICT SEAT.

Yepsen: YOU'VE GOT A GRANDSON THAT'S RUNNING FOR THE IOWA HOUSE; IS THAT CORRECT?

Grassley: YOU ARE RIGHT, PATRICK GRASSLEY.

Yepsen: IS THIS THE START OF A GRASSLEY POLITICAL DYNASTY IN IOWA?

Grassley: ABSOLUTELY NOT. PAT WOULD KNOW THAT HE CANNOT GET ELECTED BASED UPON ANY CHUCK GRASSLEY REPUTATION, THAT THE PEOPLE OF BUTLER AND BREMER COUNTY ARE LOOKING AT HIM AS AN INDIVIDUAL, AND HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO WORK HARD.

Glover: BUT HE WON'T CHANGE --

Yepsen: IS GRANDPA GOING TO CAMPAIGN FOR HIM?

Grassley: GRANDPA WILL CAMPAIGN FOR HIM. [ LAUGHTER ]

Borg: I'M STILL THINKING ABOUT SWINGING THAT DEAD CAT AROUND. [ LAUGHTER ]

Borg: I'M SORRY, SENATOR, WE'RE OUT OF TIME. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' LEGISLATIVE AND POLITICAL REPORTERS WILL BE FOCUSING ON THE 2006 LEGISLATIVE SESSION AND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS WE'VE JUST BEEN TALKING ABOUT, LEADING TO NOVEMBER'S GENERAL ELECTION. A REPORTERS ROUNDTABLE NEXT WEEKEND AT 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT. NOW, WE'LL BE INTO OUR FESTIVAL WEEK AT THAT TIME, SO THERE WILL BE NO 'IOWA PRESS' ON SUNDAY. ONLY FRIDAY AT 7:30 NEXT WEEK. 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: Iowa