Iowa Public Television

 

Senator Charles Grassley

posted on April 6, 2007

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Borg: ROLE REVERSAL. IOWA'S REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY IS ADJUSTING TO MINORITY INFLUENCE IN CONGRESS. WE'LL GET HIS COMMENTS ON THE NEW TENSION WITH THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH 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; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY APRIL 6 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THREE MONTHS INTO THE 110TH CONGRESS, THERE'S CONSIDERABLE TENSION BETWEEN PRESIDENT BUSH AND CONGRESS. IT'S MORE THAN JUST THE BUILT-IN CHECK AND BALANCE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES. DEMOCRATS CONTROLLING THE NEW CONGRESS STIFFLY NOW CHALLENGING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, FROM IRAQ TO THE PERFORMANCE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES. BEING IN THE POLITICAL POWER MINORITY ISN'T NEW TO IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY. BUT WITH THE NATION NOW AT WAR, THE ECONOMY PRECARIOUS, AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REALLY HEATING UP, CIRCUMSTANCES DIFFER. HE'S BACK IN IOWA NOW ON AN EASTER RECESS, AND WE'VE ASKED HIM TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH US. WELCOME BACK TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Grassley: I'M ALWAYS HAPPY TO BE WITH YOU. THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION.

Borg: ACROSS THE TABLE, TWO PEOPLE YOU'VE KNOWN VERY WELL OVER THE YEARS: POLITICAL COLUMNIST FOR 'THE DES MOINES REGISTER' DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: SENATOR, LET'S START WITH ONE OF THE THINGS DEAN MENTIONED AS TENSION BETWEEN THE WHITE HOUSE AND CONGRESS, ALBERTO GONZALES. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL IS UNDER CONSIDERABLE FIRE. YOU'RE THE SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW AS TO HIS FUTURE?

Grassley: IT'S VERY DIFFICULT BUT I THINK IT'S UP TO GENERAL GONZALES HIMSELF TO EXTRICATE HIMSELF FROM THE SITUATION HE'S IN, AND I THINK THE WHITE HOUSE HAS PUT HIM IN THAT POSITION. HE'S GOT THAT OPPORTUNITY ON APRIL 17 WHEN HE COMES BEFORE OUR COMMITTEE, AND I THINK HE HAS TO DO A VERY GOOD JOB OF EXPLAINING -- FIRST OF ALL, HE'S GOT TO DO A VERY GOOD JOB OF MAKING SURE THAT HE TELLS THE TRUTH BECAUSE HE'LL BE UNDER OATH. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT HE SAID A MONTH AGO AND WHAT HE SAYS NOW WILL MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE BECAUSE HE SAID SOME THINGS IN A NEWS CONFERENCE THAT WAS DIFFERENT THAN HE HAD TOLD US BEFORE A COMMITTEE A COUPLE MONTHS AGO ON THE U.S. ATTORNEYS GOING. WE'RE ENTITLED TO GET ALL THE INFORMATION. WE'RE ENTITLED TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE'S NO MISSTATEMENTS BETWEEN STAFF AND HIM, AND THERE HAVE BEEN THOSE DIFFERENCES. AND HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO CONVINCE US THAT HE WAS NOT INVOLVED OR EXPLAIN FOR A GOOD REASON WHY HE MAYBE TOLD US ONE THING ONE TIME AND NOW IS -- WE'RE FINDING OUT THAT HE WAS MORE INVOLVED THAN ORIGINAL.

Glover: SO HIS APPEARANCE BEFORE THE COMMITTEE IS GOING TO BE MAKE OR BREAK FOR HIM?

Grassley: I BELIEVE SO. I BELIEVE SO BECAUSE SO MANY OF US, INCLUDING THIS SENATOR, HAS SAID THAT WE'RE GOING TO WAIT UNTIL APRIL 17 TO MAKE ANY COMMENT ABOUT WHETHER HE SHOULD RESIGN, AND THERE'S ALREADY BEEN SOME SENATORS WHO SAID HE SHOULD RESIGN.

Glover: AND IF YOU LOOK AT THE SITUATION AS YOU'VE DESCRIBED, THERE HAVE BEEN INCONSISTENCIES. SENATOR, TO BE LESS THAN GENTLE, HE LIED. DOES THAT TROUBLE YOU?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK I BETTER WAIT UNTIL I HEAR HIS EXPLANATION, BUT IT APPEARS TO A LOT OF SENATORS THAT HE HAS MISSPOKEN BETWEEN WHAT HIS STAFF HAS SAID. ONE STAFF PERSON HAS TESTIFIED THAT HE WAS MORE INVOLVED THAN HE SAID HE WAS INVOLVED. AND FROM THE CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OF THIS COUNTRY, WE OUGHT TO GET A CONSISTENT STORY AND WE OUGHT TO GET ALL THE TRUTH. AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THERE SHOULDN'T BE ANY RELUCTANCE TO GET ALL THE FACTS OUT ON THE TABLE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, IS THE ONLY REASON HE'S STILL AROUND THAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS AFRAID THEY COULDN'T GET A SUCCESSOR CONFIRMED, THAT THEY DON'T WANT TO HAVE THE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS EXPLORING ALL THE PROBLEMS IN THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT? IS THAT THE ONLY REASON HE'S STILL AROUND?

Grassley: NO, I THINK HE'S AROUND BECAUSE THERE'S A -- HE SHOULD HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO TELL HIS ENTIRE STORY AND STRAIGHTEN OUT THE INCONSISTENCIES TO THE CONGRESS, AND THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN ON APRIL 17.

Glover: AND IF HE JUST SIMPLY APOLOGIZES AND SAYS, 'I MISSPOKE, I SAID THE WRONG THING,' WILL YOU FORGIVE HIM?

Grassley: I DON'T THINK THAT WILL BE ENOUGH, BUT I DON'T -- I DON'T WANT THAT TO BE INTERPRETED AS THAT'S GOING TO BE THE SOLE REASON WHETHER I WOULD JUDGE WHETHER HE OUGHT TO STAY ON THE JOB OR NOT. I MEAN I THINK I BETTER LOOK AT THE ENTIRE PICTURE.

Yepsen: ANOTHER POINT OF CONTENTION BETWEEN THE CONGRESS AND THE ADMINISTRATION IS FUNDING FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ.

Grassley: YEAH.

Yepsen: THERE SEEMS TO BE A DEADLOCK, SENATOR. GIVE ME YOUR ASSESSMENT OF HOW THAT'S ALL GOING TO GET RESOLVED.

Grassley: IT'S GOING TO GET RESOLVED BY THE PRESIDENT VETOING A BILL THAT HAS PROVISIONS IN IT THAT THE CONGRESS IS MICROMANAGING THE WAR, AND THAT'S A CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PRESIDENT AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF. SO MANY DEMOCRATS HAVE SAID THAT THEY'RE GOING TO SUPPORT THE TROOPS OVER THERE WITH THE FUNDING THAT THEY NEED, THAT WHEN THE PRESIDENT VETOES THE BILL AND YOU'RE GETTING UP TO THE MIDLIGHT HOUR -- AND WE'RE ALMOST THERE NOW -- WHERE THERE WON'T BE FUNDS AVAILABLE, IT SEEMS TO ME THAT A VAST MAJORITY OF CONGRESS WILL HAVE TO KEEP THEIR COMMITMENT TO THE TROOPS AND APPROPRIATE THE MONEY THAT IT TAKES TO CONTINUE THAT PART OF THE WAR ON TERROR. AND REMEMBER, IRAQ IS ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE WAR ON TERROR.

Yepsen: WHY NOT -- WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE DEMOCRATIC ARGUMENT ABOUT DEFUNDING THE WAR? YOU'VE BEEN IN CONGRESS A LONG TIME. DIDN'T THE CONGRESS DO THAT WITH VIETNAM?

Grassley: WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT IS NOT THE DEFUNDING OF THE WAR. IF CONGRESS IS GOING TO MAKE THE DETERMINATION THAT THE WAR SHOULD NOT -- THAT IT SHOULD END RIGHT NOW AND THERE SHOULDN'T BE ONE MORE PENNY FOR IT, THAT IS THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF CONGRESS. BUT IT ISN'T THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF CONGRESS TO MICROMANAGE THE WAR, TO SAY AS IF CERTAIN THINGS DON'T HAPPEN BY NOW, THE TROOPS WILL COME OUT, ET CETERA, ET CETERA, BECAUSE REMEMBER, THIS WAS ALL ARGUED IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION 225 YEARS AGO OVER TWO WORDS: CONGRESS MAKE WAR OR CONGRESS DECLARE WAR. AND THEY SETTLED ON CONGRESS DECLARING WAR BECAUSE CONGRESS DID SUCH A POOR JOB OF RUNNING THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. THEY CAME TO THE CONCLUSION YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE PERSON IN COMMAND, AND THAT OUGHT TO BE THE PRESIDENT. AND THE PRESIDENT BEING COMMANDER IN CHIEF, CONGRESSES SHOULD NOT BE MICROMANAGING A WAR.

Glover: SENATOR, YOU'VE BEEN AROUND IOWA POLITICS EVEN LONGER THAN DAVE AND I. I'D LIKE TO GET YOU TO PUT YOUR POLITICAL HAT ON FOR A SECOND. EVERYBODY ARGUES THAT REPUBLICANS LOST THE LAST ELECTION BECAUSE OF IRAQ, BECAUSE OF VOTER UNREST IN IRAQ, AND YET THEY SEEM TO BE STUBBORNLY STICKING TO THAT WAR. ARE YOU WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE IN 2008? YOU LOST CONGRESS IN 2006. ARE YOU WILLING TO LOSE THE WHITE HOUSE IN 2008 OVER THE WAR?

Grassley: WHEN IT COMES TO WAR AND WHEN IT COMES TO THE PROTECTING AMERICAN PEOPLE AS THE CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY IS THE NUMBER ONE JOB OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS NATIONAL DEFENSE, WHEN IT COMES TO SUPPORTING PEOPLE THAT YOU PUT IN HARM'S WAY FOR THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM, IT SHOULD NOT BE A POLITICAL ISSUE.

Glover: SO YOU SAY TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, 'WE JUST DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK.'

Grassley: WE ARE NOT SAYING THAT AT ALL. FIRST OF ALL, THE WAR WAS NOT THE ONLY REASON WE LOST THE ELECTION. WE LOST THE ELECTION FOR THE MOST PART BECAUSE WE FORGOT OUR PROMISES THAT WE HAD MADE TO THE PEOPLE IN '94 WHEN WE WON THE MAJORITY, MOSTLY ON SPENDING MONEY AND ON ETHICS AND ON THINGS OF THAT NATURE. THE WAR WAS A FACTOR BUT THE WAR WAS NOT THE ONLY FACTOR.

Borg: YOU KNOW, WITH SO MUCH MONEY GOING INTO THE WAR RIGHT NOW AND WITH SO MANY DOMESTIC NEEDS, THE FARM BILL RENEWAL HAS SOME IN FARM COUNTRY WORRIED BECAUSE THE SENTIMENT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE THERE TO CONTINUE SOME SUBSIDIES, ESPECIALLY WITH CORN PRICES LIKE THEY ARE. IS IT GOING TO BE TOUGH TO GET A FARM BILL THAT YOU MIGHT FAVOR OR IOWA FARMERS MIGHT FAVOR THROUGH THE CONGRESS?

Grassley: NO. I JUST COMPLETED 17 TOWN MEETINGS JUST ON THE FARM BILL OVER THIS WEEK, AND I'VE COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT FARMERS ARE SATISFIED WITH WHAT THEY HAVE NOW. I POINTED OUT THAT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS WE'LL BE STARTING OUT $15 BILLION LESS THAN WHERE WE STARTED OUT IN 2002 BECAUSE THAT'S THE BENCH MARK, THAT'S THE WAY THE BUDGET RULES WORK IN CONGRESS. WE DIDN'T SPEND AS MUCH MONEY AS WE ANTICIPATED. FARMERS SEEM TO ACCEPT THAT. AS LONG AS WE LIVE WITHIN THAT BENCH MARK, WE WILL GET A BILL THROUGH THAT WILL HAVE A SAFETY NET FOR FARMERS. IT WILL STILL HAVE THE DIRECT PAYMENT, THE LDP, WHICH MAY NOT BE USED IF CORN IS $3.50 TO $4 --

Borg: LDP, LOAN DEFICIENCY PAYMENT.

Grassley: YES, LOAN DEFICIENCY PAYMENTS. WE'LL CONTINUE TO HAVE THE COUNTERCYCLICAL. I THINK THERE WILL BE SOME SHIFTING MONEY FROM MAYBE THE SAFETY NET TO CONSERVATION. THERE WILL BE A SHIFTING OF SOME MONEY FROM THE SAFETY NET TO MAYBE ETHANOL AND CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAMS, CRP, FOR EMPHASIS UPON CELLULOSIC ETHANOL. BUT I THINK THE BASIC FORMAT IS GOING TO BE THE SAME WITHIN THAT BUDGET. AND IF WE'D BEEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION A YEAR AGO, I'D SAY, WELL, MAYBE THE NEGOTIATIONS IN THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION MIGHT AFFECT OUR FARM BILL. BUT BY THE TIME THEY GET DECIDED, WE'RE DOWN THE ROAD TOO LONG. WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WRITE A TRADITIONAL FARM BILL. AND THEN IF WE HAVE SUCCESSFUL NEGOTIATIONS THAT HAVE MARKET OPENING FOR OTHER COUNTRIES FOR OUR AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS, THEN WE'LL CHANGE OUR FARM BILL TO BE WTO COMPLIANT. BUT WE CAN'T DO THAT NOW BECAUSE IF WE DID THAT NOW, WE'D BE UNILATERALLY DISARMING AND WE SHOULDN'T BE DOING THAT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, A LOT OF YOUR CONSTITUENTS ARE SPENDING THESE DAYS FIGURING THEIR INCOME TAXES, AND A LOT OF THEM ARE FINDING THEY'RE GETTING HIT BY A THING CALLED THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX. CONGRESS EVER DO ANYTHING ABOUT A TAX THAT WAS AIMED AT WEALTHY AMERICANS BUT INCREASINGLY IS HITTING MORE AND MORE MIDDLE INCOME TAXPAYERS?

Grassley: I'M ON MY WAY TO SEEING IF I CAN GET 7 MORE VOTES. I GOT 44 VOTES, WHEN WE HAD A VOTE ON THAT VERY ISSUE, OF COMPLETELY STRIKING IT OUT WHEN WE HAD THE BUDGET RESOLUTION UP A COUPLE WEEKS AGO. I NEED 51 VOTES. I'M DONE WITH THIS BUSINESS OF TRYING TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT WE HAVE TO OFFSET EVERY DOLLAR BECAUSE IT'S RIDICULOUS AND IDIOTIC TO THINK THAT YOU NEED -- THAT THERE'S GOING TO BE REVENUE COMING IN FROM THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX FROM THE MIDDLE INCOME PEOPLE THAT WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE HIT BY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE, ARE BEING HIT BY IT, SO THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE SCORES IT AND WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING IT IN. BUT WE'RE -- IT'S GOING TO RUIN THE MIDDLE CLASS. AND THEY WERE NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE PAYING IT IN ANYWAY, SO I'M OF THE VIEW THAT WE'VE GOT TO ADMIT THAT CONGRESS MADE A MISTAKE AND JUST DO AWAY WITH IT. IN ADDITION, YOU KNOW, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO HIT JUST VERY WEALTHY PEOPLE, UNDER THE GUISE THAT IF YOU WERE NOT -- IF YOU DIDN'T PAY ANY TAX LEGALLY, YOU OUGHT TO PAY A LITTLE BIT. THAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX. IT'S NOW HITTING MIDDLE -- THREE MILLION PEOPLE, WHEN IT WAS ONLY SUPPOSED TO HIT 155 IN 1969 WHEN IT WAS PUT IN PLACE, VERY RICH PEOPLE. YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS NOW? WE'VE GOT 2,300 PEOPLE IN AMERICA THAT ARE VERY, VERY WEALTHY THAT HAVE NOT ONLY FOUND A WAY OF GETTING OUT OF THE INCOME TAX BUT THEY'RE ALSO FINDING WAYS OF GETTING OUT OF THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM INCOME TAX, SO IT'S NOT EVEN HITTING THE PEOPLE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO HIT. SO LET'S CALL IT A FAILURE AND JUST DO AWAY WITH IT.

Glover: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT'S FACING CONGRESS -- IT SEEMS IT'S A PERENNIAL ISSUE -- IS THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION. MOST PEOPLE SAY THERE ARE ABOUT 11 MILLION ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN THE UNITED STATES, A NUMBER THAT'S GROWING EVERY DAY. WHAT DOES THE CONGRESS DO ABOUT THAT?

Grassley: WELL, WE'RE GOING TO PASS A BILL YET MAYBE THIS SUMMER IN THE SENATE. WE'RE GOING TO BE WORKING ON IT.

Glover: WHAT'S IT GOING TO LOOK LIKE?

Grassley: WELL, IT'S GOING TO ADD 12,000 BORDER PATROL. IT'S GOING TO CONTINUE TO HAVE THE FENCE, AND WHERE WE DON'T HAVE A REAL FENCE, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A VIRTUAL FENCE, ELECTRONIC AND STUFF OF THAT NATURE. WE'RE GOING TO HAVE EVERY EMPLOYER HAVE TO VERIFY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION. WE'RE GOING TO ENHANCE EMPLOYER SANCTIONS AND FINES. AND IT'S GOING TO HAVE AMNESTY IN IT. IF IT DOES HAVE AMNESTY IN IT, EVEN THOUGH I LIKE ALL THESE THINGS, I'M GOING TO VOTE AGAINST IT, BECAUSE I VOTED FOR AMNESTY TWENTY YEARS AGO WHEN WE HAD THE LAST IMMIGRATION BILL UP. WE THOUGHT IT WOULD WORK. I THOUGHT IT WOULD WORK. TAKE CARE OF THE ILLEGAL PEOPLE ONCE AND WE'D BE DONE AWAY WITH THE PROBLEM. I FOUND OUT THAT REWARDING ILLEGALITY, YOU GET MORE OF IT. SO I WANT TO HAVE A TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAM WHERE PEOPLE -- WHERE WE NEED WORKERS SO THAT THEY CAN COME IN LEGALLY. I BELIEVE PEOPLE WOULD RATHER COME HERE LEGALLY THAN ILLEGALLY. AND IF WE HAD A TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAM THAT WORKED, PEOPLE COME HERE, WORKED, AND THEN GO HOME, WE WOULD SOON DISPLACE EVERY ILLEGAL WORKER WITH LEGAL WORKERS.

Glover: AND THEN THE QUESTION BEING WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THOSE 11 MILLION PEOPLE.

Grassley: OKAY. YOU'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE THE ARMY AND ROUND THEM UP AND SHIP THEM OUT. YOU MIGHT BY THE DOZENS BUT YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO GET THE MILLION OUT. AND THEN THAT GETS BACK TO THE POINT I JUST MADE; PEOPLE WOULD RATHER COME HERE LEGALLY THAN ILLEGALLY. AND IF WE HAVE A TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAM THAT IS NOT A BUREAUCRATIC NIGHTMARE, THAT WILL GET THE WORKERS INTO THE COUNTRY LEGALLY, SOON PEOPLE WOULD BE COMING HERE LEGALLY INSTEAD OF ILLEGALLY AND YOU'VE REPLACED THESE ILLEGAL WORKERS. MAYBE NOT EVERY ONE OF THEM BUT YOU'D REPLACE A LOT OF THEM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT TO GO BACK TO THESE QUESTIONS OF THE NATION'S FINANCES. THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL HAS SAID THE NATION FACES A TSUNAMI OF DEBT: ANNUAL DEFICITS, SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE. I JUST WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT -- THE ANNUAL DEFICIT. WHAT'S GOING TO BE DONE TO END ANNUAL DEFICIT SPENDING, ESPECIALLY IF YOU DO WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ON THE ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX, WHICH IS TO JUST END A WHOLE BUNCH OF FEDERAL REVENUE?

Grassley: WELL, BUT DON'T FORGET WHEN I SAID IF THAT INCREASES THE DEFICIT, WE'RE SCORING MONEY THAT MIDDLE INCOME PEOPLE WERE NEVER INTENDED TO PAY. NOW, THAT'S AN IDIOTIC THING TO SCORE MONEY, TAXING PEOPLE THAT WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO PAY IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. SO IF THAT MAKES THE DEFICIT WORSE, IT WOULD BE WORSE ANYWAY BECAUSE THEY AREN'T SUPPOSED TO TAKE IT. OR IF YOU WANT TO TAX THOSE PEOPLE, RUIN THE MIDDLE CLASS IN AMERICA -- WE SHOULDN'T BE HAVING TAX POLICY LIKE THAT. SO IF THAT MAKES IT WORSE, THEN IT'S MONEY OUT THERE THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE COMING IN ANYWAY. EXCEPT FOR THAT, DON'T FORGET THAT WE'RE ALREADY ON A PROGRAM THAT HAS GOTTEN THE DEFICIT DOWN TO 1.9 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT. DON'T FORGET THAT THE 40-YEAR AVERAGE IS 2.3 PERCENT OF GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT, AND BY THE END OF THIS YEAR, IT WILL BE DOWN TO 1.3. AND WE'RE ON A PATH TO BALANCING THE BUDGET BY THE YEAR 2012, AND THEN WE WILL BE PAYING DOWN AUTOMATICALLY ON THE NATIONAL DEBT THE SAME WAY WE DID $580 BILLION BETWEEN 1997 AND THE YEAR 2000.

Yepsen: WHEN YOU SAY THAT WE'RE ONLY SPENDING 1.9 PERCENT OF OUR GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT ON --

Grassley: AND THAT'S BELOW THE 40-YEAR AVERAGE.

Yepsen: BUT DOES THAT INCLUDE THE COST OF THE WAR IN IRAQ?

Grassley: YES, IT DOES. YEAH, BECAUSE THAT'S ALL SPENDING: INTEREST ON THE NATIONAL DEBT, ENTITLEMENTS, HOMELAND SECURITY, ALL OF THE DOMESTIC PROGRAMS THAT WE HAVE.

Glover: YOUR FAVORITE TOPIC, SOCIAL SECURITY. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?

Grassley: WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE INCREASE THE RETIREMENT AGE. WE NEED TO HAVE A MORE PROGRESSIVE PAYOUT SO THAT HIGHER INCOME PEOPLE GET LESS THAN -- THAN LOWER INCOME PEOPLE DO ON PAYOUT AND MORE PROGRESSIVE THAN IT IS NOW, BECAUSE IT'S ALWAYS BEEN SOMEWHAT PROGRESSIVE. IT NEEDS TO BE MORE PROGRESSIVE. THERE CAN PROBABLY BE SOME INCREASE IN THE CAP ON TAXES, BUT I'M NOT FOR TAKING THE CAP OFF TOTALLY BECAUSE THEN WE WOULD HAVE THE HIGHEST TAX RATE OF ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD AND WE'D RUIN OUR COMPETITIVENESS IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. AND THEN I WOULD SET UP PERSONAL ACCOUNTS ONE OF TWO WAYS: EITHER AN ADD-ON PERSONAL ACCOUNT WHERE WE WOULD HAVE ANOTHER PERCENTAGE WITHHOLDING THAT WOULD BE MATCHED BY THE PEOPLE THAT WOULD BE A PERSONAL ACCOUNT; OR ELSE I WOULD LET PEOPLE KEEP 1 OR 2 PERCENTAGE POINTS, SO THE 12 PERCENTAGE POINTS THAT ARE PAID IN NOW FOR A PERSONAL ACCOUNT -- AND THE REASON YOU'D HAVE A PERSONAL ACCOUNT IS BECAUSE THE INVESTMENT IN STOCKS AND BONDS, MUTUAL FUNDS, ET CETERA, WOULD GROW MUCH FASTER THAN IT DOES FROM THE TREASURY INTEREST.

Glover: RAISE THE RETIREMENT AGE; RAISE THE SOCIAL SECURITY TAX: I HEAR BOOMERS OF MY GENERATION RIGHT NOW RISING UP IN IRE.

Grassley: YEAH, WELL, FIRST OF ALL, IF YOU'RE OVER 55 -- AND YOU PROBABLY AREN'T -- BUT IF YOU ARE, THEN --

Glover: I AM, SENATOR.

Grassley: -- THEN YOU WON'T BE AFFECTED, BECAUSE THERE'S A POINT WHERE YOU CAN'T MAKE THE CHANGES TO AFFECT PEOPLE THAT ARE CLOSE TO RETIREMENT OR IN RETIREMENT. AND THAT GOES BACK TO WHAT WE PLANNED TWO YEARS AGO, SO I'M NOT STATING A NEW POLICY THERE. SO THAT PEOPLE YOUNGER THAN A CERTAIN AGE -- AND THAT 55 IS NOT MAGIC. IT COULD BE 50 OR IT COULD BE 45, BUT YOU GIVE THESE ALTERNATIVES TO PEOPLE THAT HAVE PLANS -- HAD PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THEIR PLANS FOR RETIREMENT.

Yepsen: WHAT'S THE LIKELIHOOD OF YOUR IDEA EVER BECOMING LAW? I MEAN YOU'VE OUTLINED QUITE A SERIES OF REFORMS. ANY CHANCE OF IT EVER PASSING?

Grassley: THE ONLY WAY THAT THIS CAN HAPPEN IS IF WE GOT A BIPARTISAN COMMISSION THAT WOULD BE SET UP LIKE THE BRAC COMMISSION WHERE THESE RECOMMENDATIONS WOULD BE MADE, AND THEY'D HAVE TO BE VOTED UP OR DOWN WITHOUT -- BY A MAJORITY VOTE WITHOUT A FILIBUSTER IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE. THEN WE COULD GET IT DONE. BUT BOTH PARTIES ARE GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THE WELL TO WORK THIS OUT BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE ONE PARTY OR THE OTHER, IT'S TOO POLITICALLY SENSITIVE AND IT WON'T GET DONE.

Yepsen: WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE ANNUAL BUDGET DEFICITS, AND WE'VE TALKED ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY. NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT THE REAL MONEY THAT'S GOING TO BE -- THE REAL DEBT THAT'S COMING AT THE UNITED STATES, AND THAT'S THE COST OF PAYING FOR MEDICARE. WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE TO CHANGE IN THE MEDICARE SYSTEM SO IT DOESN'T BANKRUPT THE COUNTRY?

Grassley: WELL, I WOULD NOT ATTACK THE MEDICARE SYSTEM RIGHT OFF THE BAT BECAUSE IT'S -- IT AND VETERANS PROGRAMS ARE 45 PERCENT OF ALL THE HEALTH CARE COSTS IN AMERICA, SO -- AND IF WE SOLVE MEDICARE, IT MIGHT NOT DO ANYTHING FOR THE OTHER 55 PERCENT, SO I THINK YOU'VE GOT TO TAKE ON THE 100 PERCENT AND DO WHAT WE CAN TO GET THE COST OF MEDICINE DOWN GENERALLY AND THEN WORK ON MEDICARE SEPARATELY. THINGS LIKE TORT REFORM, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM LEGISLATION, THAT'S 5 PERCENT OF THE COST OF MEDICINE. NOT ENOUGH EMPHASIS ON PREVENTIVE MEDICINE. ELECTRONIC RECORD KEEPING WOULD REDUCE A LOT OF ERRORS AND CUT DOWN ON THE COST OF MEDICINE TO A GREAT EXTENT. MAKING SURE THAT WE HAVE MORE TAX INCENTIVES FOR INDIVIDUALS' INSURANCE -- HEALTH INSURANCE POLICIES SO THAT A PERSON THAT'S AN INDIVIDUAL HAS HEALTH INSURANCE LIKE JOHN DEERE'S DOES. AND THAT WILL CUT DOWN ON THE COST OF EMERGENCY ROOM COSTS. THESE ARE THINGS AND MORE, A LOT MORE THAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET MEDICAL CARE COSTS DOWN GENERALLY, AND WE'RE MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION TO DO THOSE THINGS.

Yepsen: WELL, WHAT'S THE ANSWER, THEN? WHAT'S THE LIKELIHOOD THAT CONGRESS WILL ACTUALLY DO ANY OF THOSE THINGS?

Grassley: WELL, THERE'S A GOOD LIKELIHOOD THAT WE'LL DO THINGS FOR THE UNINSURED THIS TIME. ELECTRONIC RECORD KEEPING WAS JUST ABOUT DONE IN DECEMBER LAST YEAR. BEFORE WE COULDN'T COMPROMISE ON SOME CONSUMER BENEFITS. MEDICINE GENERALLY IS MOVING TOWARD MORE PREVENTIVE MEDICINE, AND WE'RE MOVING MEDICARE MORE TOWARDS PREVENTIVE MEDICINE AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE. I THINK WE'RE MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION.

Glover: SENATOR, I'D LIKE TO GET YOU TO PUT YOUR POLITICAL HAT ON FOR A SECOND, IF YOU COULD, AND WE'LL START CLOSE TO HOME. WHAT'S YOUR FUTURE? ARE YOU RUNNING AGAIN IN 2010?

Grassley: I WILL RUN FOR REELECTION, YES. I THINK WITH MY SENIORITY -- I HAVEN'T BEEN IN THE SENATE ANY LONGER THAN YOU'VE BEEN IN YOUR PROFESSION. YOU'RE WORTH MORE TO YOUR EMPLOYER NOW THAN YOU WERE THIRTY YEARS AGO. AND I THINK WITH MY SENIORITY, I'M WORTH MORE TO MY EMPLOYER, THE PEOPLE OF IOWA, THAN I WAS BEFORE. AND I WANT TO WORK -- USE THAT TO THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE OF IOWA.

Yepsen: LET ME FOLLOW THAT UP, SENATOR, WITH A QUESTION ABOUT SENATOR HARKIN WHO IS SEEKING REELECTION IN 2008. HE'S RAISED A LOT OF MONEY. THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE A REAL SERIOUS REPUBLICAN CHALLENGER ON THE HORIZON FOR HIM. DO YOU SEE YOUR PARTY FIELDING A SERIOUS, CREDIBLE CHALLENGER AGAINST TOM HARKIN?

Grassley: I DON'T HAVE A NAME TO THROW OUT NOW, BUT THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT RUNNING AGAINST HIM AND THERE'S A LOT OF RECRUITING GOING ON AS WELL. AND I THINK YOU COULD HAVE A SITUATION LIKE YOU HAD MAYBE IN 19 -- WELL, WHATEVER YEAR IT WAS WHEN WE HAD SOMEBODY COME OUT IN FEBRUARY OF THE ELECTION YEAR AND IT WAS THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE THAT SENATOR HARKIN HAS EVER HAD.

Yepsen: YEAH, BUT, SENATOR, YOU DIDN'T WIN. AND NEVERTHELESS THE FACT THAT CHARLES GRASSLEY CAN'T GIVE ME THE NAME OF A REPUBLICAN WHO'S A SERIOUS CHALLENGER AGAINST TOM HARKIN, DOESN'T THAT TELL ME SOMETHING, THAT REALLY YOUR PARTY IS IN FACT GOING TO LET HIM HAVE A FREE RIDE?

Grassley: NO, IT JUST TELLS ME THAT YOU'RE MEASURING THE SENATE RACE THE SAME WAY THAT THE HOT PRESIDENTIAL RACES ARE, AND YOU'VE GOT TO BE OUT THERE TWO YEARS AHEAD OF TIME. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE.

Yepsen: HAVE IOWANS REACHED A POINT WHERE WE REALLY LIKE THE TWO OF YOU -- THE COMBINATION OF THE TWO OF YOU IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE, A SENIOR REPUBLICAN AND A SENIOR DEMOCRAT, AND THE TWO PARTIES REALLY AREN'T INTERESTED ANY MORE IN WASTING TIME TRYING TO KNOCK OFF THE OPPONENT?

Grassley: WELL, THERE'S SOME TRUTH, BASED UPON PEOPLE THAT TELL ME, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE'VE GOT TWO OF YOU DOING A GOOD JOB AND WE OUGHT TO LEAVE YOU THERE. THERE IS SOME OF THAT THOUGHT.

Borg: YOU LIKE THAT SIDE OF THE EQUATION AS IT AFFECTS YOU. [ LAUGHTER ]

Glover: SENATOR, LET'S TURN TO THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE IF WE COULD. IT'S ALREADY UP AND RUNNING. THE CANDIDATES ARE ALREADY HERE. LET'S LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE CAMPAIGNS. JOHN MCCAIN FROM ARIZONA WENT INTO THIS AS THE PRESUMPTIVE FAVORITE. HIS CAMPAIGN SEEMS TO HAVE HAD A LITTLE TROUBLE, HIT SOME BUMPS LATELY. THE MONEY HAS NOT BEEN THAT GREAT. WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIS CAMPAIGN?

Grassley: WELL, DON'T FORGET HE'S A FULL-TIME SENATOR. HE'S A VERY ENERGETIC SENATOR.

Glover: RIGHT.

Grassley: HE'S DOING A GOOD JOB. I THINK THAT THE ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE WAR AMONG THE PUBLIC, GENERALLY, MAY BE AFFECTING HIM. HE'S TAKEN A VERY STRONG POSITION IN SUPPORT OF THE PRESIDENT. AND I THINK THE OUTCOME OF THIS LATEST EFFORT IN IRAQ IS GOING TO HAVE A REAL IMPACT ON WHETHER OR NOT JOHN MCCAIN WILL BE AN OUTSTANDING CANDIDATE OR NOT.

Glover: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIS MONEY? HIS MONEY WASN'T NEARLY WHAT THE TOP PRODUCER WAS, MITT ROMNEY.

Grassley: WELL, HE'S GOT A LOT OF NAME RECOGNITION, AND HE'S THREE OR FOUR TIMES AHEAD IN THE POLLS OF WHAT MITT ROMNEY HAS GOT SO, YOU KNOW, THAT MAKES UP FOR THE LACK OF MONEY. THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEND MONEY JUST TO GET PEOPLE ACQUAINTED WITH THEIR NAME. JOHN MCCAIN IS NOT GOING TO HAVE TO DO THAT.

Yepsen: RUDY GIULIANI SAID THIS WEEK THAT HE'S GOING TO COMPETE IN THE IOWA REPUBLICAN CAUCUSES. MY QUESTION TO YOU IS HOW WILL HE -- HOW WILL HE DO. AND HE SECONDLY AND PARTICULARLY, HOW DOES HE GET PAST THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES IN YOUR PARTY WHO ARE GOING TO DISAGREE WITH HIM ON ABORTION AND GAY RIGHTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT?

Grassley: LISTEN, WHAT REPUBLICANS ARE INTERESTED IN DOING AND WHAT WE THINK WE'VE GOT A REAL OPPORTUNITY TO DO IS TO KEEP THE PRESIDENCY IN OUR PARTY BECAUSE OF THE NEGATIVISM TOWARDS AN ATTITUDE THAT PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT MRS. CLINTON, AS AN EXAMPLE. AND WE HAVE A REAL OPPORTUNITY WITH THIS DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS COMING OUT WITH BIG TAX INCREASES, WITH BIG DEFICITS, AND WITH BIG SPENDING, THAT I THINK THEY'RE PUTTING THEIR PARTY IN A POSITION THAT -- THAT A LOT OF REPUBLICANS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT KEEPING THE PARTY. AND WE'RE GOING TO LOOK LESS LITMUS TEST APPROACH TO CANDIDATES THAN WE HAVE IN THE PAST.

Yepsen: HOW DO YOU THINK RUDY GIULIANI WILL DO IN IOWA?

Grassley: I THINK HE'LL DO VERY WELL, BECAUSE I THINK THAT NOT ONLY THE POLLS SHOW THAT BUT I DON'T HEAR -- IN YOUR PREVIOUS QUESTION, YOU BROUGHT UP SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES AND YOU BROUGHT UP A LOT OF OTHER LITMUS TEST TYPE THINGS THAT MAYBE WE PREVIOUSLY HAVE. WE'RE LOOKING TO GET THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE CANDIDATE WE CAN, BECAUSE WE THINK WITH THIS DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS GOING HOG WILD THAT WE'VE GOT AN OPPORTUNITY TO KEEP THE PRESIDENCY.

Yepsen: AND FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY, A LOT OF PEOPLE HEAR SOME TALK THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF REPUBLICANS WHO WILL HAVE TROUBLE VOTING FOR HIM BECAUSE HE'S A MORMON. DO YOU SEE THAT AS A PROBLEM FOR MITT ROMNEY?

Grassley: IT WASN'T A PROBLEM FOR KENNEDY BEING A CATHOLIC. I DON'T THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A PROBLEM FOR MITT ROMNEY BEING A MORMON.

Glover: A COUPLE PART QUESTION. FIRST, ARE YOU GOING TO ENDORSE A CANDIDATE?

Grassley: I MAY BUT I'M NOT GOING TO DO IT FOR A WHILE. AND I MAY DECIDE TO STAY OUT SO I CAN BE A UNIFIER AFTER THE FACT FOR OUR PARTY.

Glover: AND A LARGER QUESTION -- I MEAN THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF BUZZ IN THE PAST WEEK ABOUT MONEY. BARACK OBAMA REPORTING HE'D RAISED $25 MILLION. HILLARY CLINTON REPORTED SHE'S RAISED $26 MILLION. THESE ARE UNHEARD OF SUMS. BUT ON A BIGGER QUESTION, IF YOU LOOK AT THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF MONEY RAISED BY DEMOCRATS, IT WAS ABOUT $80 MILLION. THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF MONEY RAISED BY REPUBLICANS WAS $40 MILLION. WHAT'S WRONG WITH REPUBLICANS?

Grassley: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, YOU GET BACK TO SOMEBODY LIKE MCCAIN WHO CAN RAISE A LOT OF MONEY BUT DIDN'T RAISE IT BECAUSE HE'S GOT GOOD NAME I.D. AND HE DIDN'T HAVE TO SPEND HIS TIME RAISING MONEY RIGHT NOW. BUT WITH THE CAPABILITY OF RAISING MONEY, I THINK YOU'RE DRAWING CONCLUSIONS TOO SOON JUST BASED UPON ONE QUARTERLY REPORT THAT WE AREN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO BE COMPETITIVE. WE'VE BEEN -- WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO RAISE MONEY MUCH MORE EASILY THAN DEMOCRATS HAVE IN THE PAST.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT ABOUT FIFTEEN SECONDS LEFT. WHAT'S THE MOOD YOU FIND IN IOWA RIGHT NOW? WHAT'S THE MOOD OF THE PEOPLE OF IOWA?

Grassley: IF IT WAS BASED UPON MY TOWN MEETINGS THAT I'VE HAD THIS YEAR THUS FAR, INCLUDING THE ONES I JUST HAD THAT WEEK ON THE FARM PROGRAM, I THINK THE ATTITUDE OF PEOPLE TOWARDS THE ECONOMY IS VERY, VERY POSITIVE, AND TOWARDS THE FUTURE, VERY, VERY POSITIVE. I THINK ONE THING THAT WOULD MAKE A GLARING IMPROVEMENT WOULD BE IF YOU COULD SEE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL ON THE WAR ON TERROR, PARTICULARLY THE PART IN THE WAR ON TERROR AS IT RELATES TO IRAQ.

Borg: WE'VE REACHED THAT LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. THANKS FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

Grassley: WELL, I'VE ENJOYED IT.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS,' PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, TALKING WITH ONE OF THE CANDIDATES HOPING TO KEEP A REPUBLICAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR MIKE HUCKABEE, DISCUSSING HIS CAMPAIGN AS HE'S ASSESSING THE IOWA CAUCUS SUPPORT FOR HIM. YOU'LL SEE GOVERNOR HUCKABEE AT THE REGULAR 'IOWA PRESS' TIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT; 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. 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; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.


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