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Iowa Press #2747 - Sen. Charles Grassley
July 23, 2000

Borg: THE 106TH UNITED STATES CONGRESS IS WRAPPING UP BUSINESS IN WASHINGTON D.C. WE'LL GET AN UPDATE FROM IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY ON THIS EDITION OF IOWA PRESS.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

THIS IS THE SUNDAY, JULY 23 EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE FINAL WEEKS OF THE CURRENT CONGRESS ARE WEDGED BETWEEN THE NATIONAL POLITICAL CONVENTIONS, THE CONGRESSIONAL SUMMER RECESS, AND THE FALL ELECTION CAMPAIGNS. ALTHOUGH TIME IS RUNNING SHORT, A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT ISSUES REMAIN ON THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA. AND EACH OF THOSE ISSUES REPRESENTS BOTH AN IMPORTANT POLICY DECISION AND, IN MANY CASES, AN ELECTION ISSUE. THE SO-CALLED "MARRIAGE TAX" AND THE "INHERITANCE TAX" RELIEF BILLS FALL INTO THAT CATEGORY. AND EQUALLY POLITICALLY SENSITIVE ARE A RANGE OF ISSUES, INCLUDING PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE AND A VOTE TO DECIDE IF CHINA IS GRANTED WHAT IS TERMED "PERMANENT NORMAL TRADE RELATION STATUS" WITH THE U.S. WELL, HERE TO PROVIDE HIS PERSPECTIVE IS REPUBLICAN SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY, NOW IN HIS 26TH YEAR REPRESENTING IOWA IN THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS. SENATOR, WELCOME BACK TO IOWA PRESS.

Grassley: I APPRECIATE BEING WITH YOU.

Borg: THANK YOU. ALSO AT THE IOWA PRESS TABLE: POLITICAL REPORTERS DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER AND MIKE GLOVER OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.

Glover: SENATOR, AS DEAN MENTIONED, WE'RE COMING CLOSE TO THE END OF THIS CONGRESS. WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS CONGRESS IS GOING TO BE REMEMBERED FOR? AS PEOPLE THINK BACK, THEY'LL SAY THIS CONGRESS DID THIS AND THAT'S MEMORABLE.

Grassley: I THINK PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS, WHICH STILL HAS TO GET THROUGH ITS FINAL STEP; I THINK PHARMACEUTICALS FOR SENIOR CITIZENS; PERMANENT NORMAL TRADING RELATIONS WITH CHINA AND THE BEST OPPORTUNITY FOR EXPORTS THAT THIS COUNTRY HAS HAD PROBABLY IN THE LAST 20 YEARS TO THE LARGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD; FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 30 YEARS, SAYING THAT WE ARE BALANCING THE BUDGET WITHOUT USING SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY; AND FOR THE FIRST TIME SAYING THAT WE CAN PAY DOWN SOME ON THE NATIONAL DEBT FROM THE GENERAL FUND, AS WELL AS WHAT WE HAVE FROM SOCIAL SECURITY AS WELL; AND I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT IF WE GET OUR ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT BILL THROUGH THE REAUTHORIZATION FOR EDUCATION, WE WILL BE MAKING THE MOST CHANGES IN EDUCATIONAL LEGISLATION PROBABLY IN 20 YEARS.

Glover: LET'S LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE ISSUES IN DETAIL. LET'S GO TO PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. THE DEMOCRATS AND VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE HAVE PROPOSED EXPANDING MEDICARE TO PROVIDE A PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT. REPUBLICANS GENERALLY FAVOR A PLAN THAT WOULD GIVE INCENTIVES TO THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY TO PROVIDE THAT COVERAGE. HAVEN'T YOU GIVEN THE DEMOCRATS A POLITICALLY MORE DEFENSIBLE STANCE ON THIS ISSUE?

Grassley: IT'S ONLY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WHERE THE APPROACH TO DO IT THROUGH THE INSURANCE COMPANIES -- EVERYTHING THAT WE'RE DOING IN THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE I SERVE ON IS TO DO IT THROUGH MEDICARE, HOPEFULLY IN CONJUNCTION WITH MEDICARE REFORM AS WELL. I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE IMPROVE MEDICARE AND MAKE SURE THAT IT'S PRESERVED FOR THE BABY BOOMERS STARTING TO RETIRE IN THE YEAR 2010, 77 MILLION BABY BOOMERS, SO WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT HAVING A GOOD PROGRAM FOR THEM IN ADDITION TO PHARMACEUTICALS. AND WE'RE WORKING TO DELIVER HELP FOR HIGH COST PHARMACEUTICALS TO MIDDLE CLASS AND LOWER INCOME PEOPLE -- MIDDLE CLASS THAT DO NOT HAVE INSURANCE COVERAGE NOW. REMEMBER, ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF THE SENIOR CITIZENS DO HAVE SOME PHARMACEUTICAL COVERAGE THROUGH THEIR PENSION OR THEIR CORPORATION PLAN OR THROUGH MEDICAP INSURANCE. AND WE WANT TO HELP THOSE THAT DON'T HAVE IT, AND THEN WE WANT TO HELP MIDDLE-CLASS PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE AS GOOD OF A PROGRAM.

Yepsen: SENATOR, IS IT YOUR SENSE THAT SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN ON THIS ISSUE OR DO YOUR COLLEAGUES IN WASHINGTON SIMPLY WANT A CAMPAIGN ISSUE? WILL PEOPLE SEE A PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT COME OUT OF THIS CONGRESS, IN THIS PRESIDENT, OR IS EVERYBODY JUST POSTURING?

Grassley: WE REPUBLICANS KNOW THAT IT'S BETTER FOR US TO GO IN THE ELECTION WITH A PHARMACEUTICAL PROGRAM ADDED ON TO MEDICARE AND HOPEFULLY WITH SOME MEDICARE REFORM.

Borg: SO YOU'RE GOING TO CONVINCE THE PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE THAT THE SENATE BILL IS BETTER?

Grassley: WHAT WE DON'T KNOW, AND ALONG THE LINES OF EXACTLY WHAT DAVID WAS ASKING, IS WE DON'T KNOW FOR SURE IF THE DEMOCRATS WANT TO PASS ONE, BUT WHAT THEY WANT AN ISSUE.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE BEFORE CONGRESS IS THE MARRIAGE PENALTY. CONGRESS HAS DECIDED TO ELIMINATE THAT. THAT'S THE FEATURE IN OUR TAX CODE THAT SAYS TWO PEOPLE LIVING TOGETHER SINGLY PAY LESS IN TAXES THAN TWO PEOPLE WHO ARE MARRIED. CONGRESS HAS TRIED ELIMINATE THAT. PRESIDENT SAYS IT'S TOO EXPENSIVE, AND WOULD VETO THAT. WHAT'S YOUR SENSE OF WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THAT ISSUE?

Grassley: WELL, HE MAY VETO IT. IT PASSED THIS PAST WEEK. THE PRESIDENT WILL HAVE IT NEXT WEEK TO SIGN OR TO VETO. THEY'RE TRYING TO MAKE A CASE THAT WE CAN'T AFFORD IT. WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT $89 BILLION, WHICH IS A FIVE-YEAR FIGURE, WHEN WE'RE HAVING A $3 3/10-TRILLION SURPLUS OVER THE NEXT TEN YEARS, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT LESS THAN 1 PERCENT OF OUR TOTAL INCOME INTO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. AND TO THINK THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS TO VETO A BILL -- A TAX CUT -- IN OTHER WORDS, LEAVING THE PEOPLE WITH THE MONEY TO SPEND THEMSELVES, AND AT $89 BILLION, IT'S LUDICROUS. NOW, IN ADDITION, WE HAVE THE ISSUE OF FAIRNESS IN HERE. YOU'VE DESCRIBED THE FAIRNESS ISSUE VERY WELL, DAVID, BY SAYING THAT YOU GET PENALIZED IF YOU'RE MARRIED AND HAVE THE SAME INCOME AS TWO PEOPLE FILING SEPARATELY. AVERAGE FAMILY IN AMERICA PAYING $1,400 MORE IN TAXES. WE THINK THIS IS UNFAIR SO WE'RE NOT ONLY DOING IT AS A TAX CUT, AND LETTING PEOPLE KEEP THEIR OWN MIND, BUT BECAUSE IT'S A MATTER OF FAIRNESS FOR MARRIED COUPLES, PARTICULARLY WHEN WE PUT SUCH EMPHASIS UPON FAMILY AS BEING THE FOUNDATION OF OUR AMERICAN SOCIETY, OUR TAX CODE SHOULD NOT PENALIZE IT.

Glover: THERE'S ANOTHER FIGHT IN THE TAX ISSUE, AND IT'S OVER INHERITANCE TAXES. REPUBLICANS WOULD LIKE TO ELIMINATE THE INHERITANCE TAX CALLED THE "DEATH TAX". DEMOCRATS COUNTERED THAT THAT'S LARGELY A TAX THAT BENEFITS THE WEALTHY, IF YOU ELIMINATE IT, AND WANT TO LIMIT INHERITANCE TAX REFORM TO COVER SMALLER ESTATES. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ELIMITING THE ELIMINATION OF INHERITANCE TAX TO PROTECT ONLY SMALLER ESTATES?

Grassley: WELL, THERE'S SEVERAL THINGS WRONG WITH IT BUT, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME SAY THAT BOTH IN THE CASE OF THE MARRIAGE TAX PENALTY, LEGISLATION WE PASSED, AND ELIMINATING THE ESTATE TAX, THESE HAVE BEEN BIPARTISAN VOTES IN BOTH HOUSES OF THE CONGRESS. SO, I HOPE THE PRESIDENT LOOKS AT A LOT OF PEOPLE IN HIS POLITICAL PARTY THAT REALIZE THE TAX CODE IS UNFAIR AND THAT WE'RE AT THE HIGHEST RATE OF TAXATION IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY. IT'S NOT FAIR TO THE PEOPLE TO RUN MORE THROUGH THE FEDERAL TREASURY AND LET POLITICIANS SPEND IT, AS OPPOSED TO LEAVING IT IN THE POCKETS OF THE TAXPAYERS AND LET THEM DECIDE HOW TO SPEND IT. BUT THE ISSUE WITH THE ESTATE TAX IS THAT NUMBER ONE, YOU HAVE TAXES TO RAISE MONEY. THERE IS SOME QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT THE $23 BILLION THAT COMES IN FROM THE ESTATE TAX IS ACTUALLY NET INCOME TO THE FEDERAL TREASURY, CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT PEOPLE, IN LEGAL WAYS, PLAN FOR THEIR ESTATES, JUST BILLIONS OF DOLLARS SPENT OF NONPRODUCTIVE INVESTMENT TO AVOID THE TAX IN THE FIRST PLACE IN A LEGAL WAY. AND THEN SECONDLY, THERE'S AN AWFUL LOT OF MONEY THAT IS EXPENDED ON THE ESTATE TAX, AUDITING OF IT BY THE IRS. THEN ONE LAST POINT, IF YOU'D LET ME MAKE. AND ANOTHER -- SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE THE "ESTATE TAX" OR THE "DEATH TAX" TO REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WASN'T FORMED TO REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH. AND SECONDLY, IF YOU LOOK AT THE REDISTRIBUTING OF WEALTH AND YOU FORCE THE FAMILY FARMER OR THE FAMILY BUSINESS TO SELL THEIR BUSINESS TO PAY THE "DEATH TAX" AND IT'S BOUGHT UP BY SOMEBODY BIGGER -- AND IT MOST OFTEN IS -- YOU'RE CONCENTRATING WEALTH AND NOT REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH AS A RESULT OF THE "DEATH TAX."

Yepsen: SENATOR, IS THERE A MIDDLE GROUND HERE OR, AGAIN, ARE PEOPLE JUST PLAYING FOR A POLITICAL ISSUE? WHAT ABOUT RATHER THAN ELIMINATE THE TAX, SIMPLY INCREASE THE LIMITS?

Grassley: IF THAT'S THE CHOICE I HAD, THAT OR NOTHING, I WOULD BUY INTO THAT VERY DRAMATICALLY AND VERY QUICKLY.

Yepsen: BECAUSE THAT COULD TAKE CARE OF THE SMALL FARMER AND SMALL BUSINESSMAN BUT STILL ALLOW BILL GATES TO PAY SOME TAX WHEN HE EXPIRES.

Grassley: BUT WE DO HAVE A PRINCIPLE OF TAXATION THAT WE OUGHT TO ABIDE BY THAT ALSO IS RELATED TO FAIRNESS AND ALSO HAS SOMETHING TO DO ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY AS WE WANT PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO INVEST AND CREATE JOBS, AND THAT IS THAT WE REALLY OUGHT TO ONLY TAX INCOME ONCE, AND TAX IT WHEN IT'S INCOME AND TAX IT THROUGH THE INCOME TAX, WHICH IS ALSO VERY PROGRESSIVE. AND THEN, FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE LISTENING, INCLUDING YOURSELVES, THAT WONDER ABOUT THE CAPITAL GAINS WITHIN AN ESTATE, WHEN IS THAT GOING TO BE TAXED? WELL, WE DO TAX THAT THROUGH THE CAPITAL GAINS TAX AT THE TIME THAT THE HEIRS WOULD SELL THE PROPERTY OR THE STOCK.

Yepsen: SENATOR, I WANT TO MOVE ON. ANOTHER ISSUE THAT IS OF CONCERN TO A LOT OF IOWANS IS THE QUESTION OF HIGH GASOLINE PRICES. NOW, THEY'VE COME DOWN HERE SOME IN RECENT WEEKS, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THEY'RE STILL TOO HIGH. THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT INVESTIGATIONS AND A LOT OF FINGER-POINTING. WHAT DO YOU THINK WAS THE CAUSE OF THAT SPIKE IN GAS PRICES AND, SECONDLY, IS THERE ANYTHING CONGRESS CAN DO ABOUT IT?

Grassley: WELL, IT'S A GOOD QUESTION AND IT'S A QUESTION I GET MORE AT MY TOWN MEETINGS THAN ANY OTHER QUESTION IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS, NOT JUST IN THE LAST MONTH. AND IT'S GOT SOMETHING, REALLY, THAT HITS RURAL AMERICA, BECAUSE WHERE WE'VE GOT OUR AGRICULTURE THAT CONSUMES SO MUCH ENERGY AND WE'VE GOT EVERYBODY DRIVING TO WORK IN A CAR BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE MASS TRANSIT. SO IT REALLY HURTS THE WORKING IOWANS AND OTHER PEOPLE IN RURAL AREAS. NOW, THERE ISN'T A LOT CONGRESS CAN DO THAT WOULD FORCE IT DOWN RIGHT NOW IN THE SENSE OF PASSING LEGISLATION. BUT I THINK OUR JAWBONING THROUGH MY REQUEST AND OTHER PEOPLE'S REQUESTS TO THE FTC TO INVESTIGATE PRICE FIXING AND GOUGING, AND FROM THAT STANDPOINT, I THINK THAT HAS BROUGHT THE PRICE DOWN SOME. I THINK THERE IS GOUGING. WHETHER OR NOT THERE'S VIOLATION OF THE LAW IN THE GOUGING THAT THEY'RE ACTUALLY IN COLLUSION, I CAN'T SAY, BUT THAT'S WHAT THE FTC IS LOOKING INTO. WE'LL GET A REPORT LATER ON THIS YEAR. I THINK WHAT WE DO IN CONGRESS THROUGH MY EFFORTS TO EXTEND THE ETHANOL TAX CREDIT FOR TEN YEARS LIKE I DID A COUPLE YEARS AGO, OR GETTING THE WIND ENERGY TAX CREDIT PASSED -- I'M TRYING TO GET A BIO-MASS TAX CREDIT PASSED. THESE ARE ALL VERY GOOD LONG TERM. BUT SHORT TERM, WE HAVE TO DO THE JAWBONING AND WE ALSO HAVE TO DO MORE WITH THE OPEC NATIONS. FOR INSTANCE, I'VE INTRODUCED LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE THEM SUBJECT TO OUR ANTITRUST LAWS BECAUSE THEY OBVIOUSLY ARE PRICE FIXING, SO THEY CAN BE SUED. NUMBER TWO, NOT TO GIVE THEM FOREIGN AID. WE GIVE $415 MILLION OF FOREIGN AID TO OPEC NATIONS. BUT I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE DON'T LET THE BIG OIL COMPANIES BLAME ETHANOL. THEY'VE GOT THE BIG MONEY ON THEIR SIDE. WE HAVE THE FACTS ON OUR SIDE ABOUT ETHANOL.

Borg: YOU BROUGHT IN THE SUBJECT OF FARMING, AND I WANT TO PURSUE THAT AS IT RELATIONS TO CURRENT FARM LEGISLATION AND THE FREEDOM TO FARM, WHICH IS ON THE BOOKS RIGHT NOW. A RECENT POLL AT IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY INDICATES IOWA FARMERS DON'T HAVE MUCH OPTIMISM ABOUT THE ECONOMIC FUTURE, RIGHT NOW, OF FARMING. DO SOME CHANGES NEED TO BE MADE IN THE CURRENT FARM LEGISLATION, THE FREEDOM TO FARM, AND WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

Grassley: OKAY, ABSOLUTELY. BUT I THINK MAYBE THE BEST WAY FOR ME TO APPROACH THIS IS THAT I'M GOING TO ADVISE OUR CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES NOT TO WAIT UNTIL THE YEAR 2002 TO REFORMULATE THE FREEDOM TO FARM LEGISLATION. I THINK THAT HE SHOULD DO AS PRESIDENT KENNEDY DID IN THE 1960 ELECTION, COME IN, RUN ON A PLATFORM THAT HE'S GOING TO PRESENT A PROGRAM ON AGRICULTURE TO THE CONGRESS TO ENACT IN THE YEAR 2001. NOW, IT MIGHT NOT BE EFFECTIVE UNTIL THE YEAR 2002, BUT WE'RE GETTING WAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE OF OUR REVIEW OF THE FARM PROGRAM. I COULD SUGGEST ONE, TWO, THREE THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW, BUT THE POINT IS, IT DOESN'T RUN OUT UNTIL 2002, SO IT'S NOT EFFECTIVE TILL THE 2003 CROP YEAR, AND I WANT TO GET THIS ADVANCE -- THIS WHOLE DISCUSSION ADVANCED. NOW, WE COULD STILL END UP WITH EXACTLY THE PHILOSOPHY THAT IS IN THE PRESENT FARM BILL. BUT I THINK WE NEED A REVIEW, AND IT OUGHT TO START IN THE NEW PRESIDENT'S TERM AND NOT HALFWAY THROUGH THAT.

Yepsen: YOU SAID YOU COULD GIVE US ONE, TWO, THREE. GIVE US SOME THINGS THAT YOU WANT TO SEE DONE, IN FARM LEGISLATION.

Grassley: WELL, I THINK, FIRST OF ALL, THE BASIC FARM PROGRAM IS NOT THE PROBLEM. WE HAVE NOT HAD ENOUGH PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP ON ADVANCING FOREIGN TRADE. THE TRADING AUTHORITY FOR THE PRESIDENT, HE HASN'T HAD THAT AUTHORITY FOR FOUR OR FIVE YEARS. HE HASN'T ASKED FOR IT. SO WE NEED TO PUSH TO GET TRADING AUTHORITY FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. WE DID IMPROVE THE CROP INSURANCE PROGRAM. THERE ARE SOME TAX LAWS THAT NEED TO BE CHANGED TO HELP FARMERS MANAGE RISK TO A GREATER EXTENT. WITHIN THE FARM PROGRAM, I WOULD SUGGEST GREATER EMPHASIS UPON MARKETING. I WOULD SUGGEST MORE AGGRESSIVE USE OF THE EXPORT ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM. RIGHT NOW WE APPROPRIATE MONEY FOR THE EXPORT ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM. THE LAST TIME THERE WAS A MASSIVE USE OF THAT PROGRAM WAS IN 1996. WE'RE NOT USING THE FOOD FOR PEACE PROGRAM AS MUCH AS WE SHOULD AND THINGS OF THAT –

Yepsen: HOW ABOUT COUNTERCYCLICAL PAYMENTS?

Grassley: I HAVE ALREADY BEEN ON RECORD SUPPORTING -- MAYBE THE BEST WAY I SHOULD SAY IT, BECAUSE I HAVE NOT MADE UP MY MIND EXACTLY WHAT DIRECTION I'M GOING WITH COUNTERCYCLICAL PAYMENTS, BUT I THINK THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I WOULD EXPECT THE PRESIDENT TO LOOK AT WHEN HE COMES FORTH. BUT I WANT THE PRESIDENT TO HAVE A NEW PROGRAM TO CONGRESS BY FEBRUARY NEXT YEAR.

Glover: ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT'S FACING THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE IS THE NOMINATION OF BONNIE CAMPBELL, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL AND FORMER CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, TO THE FEDERAL BENCH. WHERE DOES THAT STAND AND DO YOU THINK SHE'LL BE CONFIRMED?

Grassley: I THINK THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE SHE CAN BE CONFIRMED, BUT NOT TILL SEPTEMBER.

Glover: WHY?

Grassley: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, HER NOMINATION CAME UP VERY, VERY LATE, FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR, AND THE VACANCY EXISTED SINCE MARCH OF '99. SO THE WHITE HOUSE WAS A LONG TIME GETTING A NAME TO US. SECONDLY, IT TOOK ME A LOT OF WORK TO GET A HEARING FOR HER, BUT I DID GET A HEARING FOR HER. THERE'S TWO REASONS FOR THAT. THERE'S SOME CONTROVERSY ABOUT HER NOMINATION, BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS WHEN YOU GET DOWN CLOSE TO A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, LIKE WE ARE RIGHT NOW, WHATEVER PARTY IN CONGRESS THAT DOESN'T HAVE THE PRESIDENCY HAS TRADITIONALLY ALWAYS STOPPED ALL NOMINATIONS. SO I'M UP TO THAT WALL RIGHT NOW, AND SO WAS SENATOR HARKIN. BUT WE'RE GOING TO PUSH YET. I TALKED WITH MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, HOPING TO GET HER NAME ON THE AGENDA. AND I THINK THERE WILL BE MORE MOVING.

Glover: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO MEMBERS OF THE CONSERVATIVE WING OF YOUR PARTY WHO SAY YOU SHOULDN'T CONFIRM A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT TO THE COURT THIS CLOSE TO AN ELECTION, AND YOU OUGHT TO DO SOMETHING TO BLOCK IT? WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE PEOPLE?

Grassley: I'VE HAD A LOT OF LETTERS ON THAT, AND I SAY THIS: WHEN WE HAVE A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT, SENATOR HARKIN HAS COOPERATED WITH ME GETTING THROUGH FIVE REPUBLICAN NOMINEES, CONSERVATIVE NOMINEES, PEOPLE THAT HE WOULD NOT HAVE NOMINATED IF THERE HAD BEEN A DEMOCRAT PRESIDENT. SO WHEN WE HAVE A DEMOCRAT PRESIDENT, I HAVE WORKED WITH SENATOR HARKIN FOR HIM TO GET THREE DEMOCRAT NOMINEES. THEN, FOR CONSERVATIVES, THE ONLY THING I CAN SAY IS WE SHOULD HAVE WORKED HARDER TO ELECT BOB DOLE PRESIDENT IN '96 SO WE COULD -- SO I COULD BE SUGGESTING NAMES, AND WORK HARD FOR GOVERNOR BUSH TO BE ELECTED PRESIDENT IN THE YEAR 2000, SO OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS. WE CAN HAVE REPUBLICAN VACANCIES. IF BONNIE CAMPBELL'S NAME GET THROUGH THIS YEAR, THEN OBVIOUSLY THERE IS NOT A VACANCY THERE. BUT IF HER -- IF SHE WOULD NOT BE APPROVED BY THE SENATE BECAUSE OF TIME, THEN THERE'S A VACANCY FOR REPUBLICANS TO FILL. BUT ONE THING, IF SENATOR HARKIN HAD DISAGREED AND BLOCKED EVERY ONE OF MY REPUBLICAN NOMINEES AND IF I WOULD BLOCK EVERY ONE OF HIS DEMOCRAT NOMINEES, THE OBVIOUS CONCLUSION OF THAT THING WOULD BE WE WOULDN'T HAVE ANY COOPERATION, WE WOULD HAVE EIGHT VACANCIES IN THE JUDGESHIPS IN THE MIDWEST.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE, SENATOR, IS LIFTING THE EMBARGO WITH THE TRADE ON CUBA. WHERE DOES THAT ISSUE STAND? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?

Grassley: I HOPE WE CAN GET IT THROUGH TO THE PRESIDENT, AND I AM VERY STRONGLY IN SUPPORT OF IT.

Glover: OF LIFTING THE EMBARGO?

Grassley: HALFWAY... FOR MEDICINE AND FOR FOOD. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, BASIC TO THIS LEGISLATION IS THE PRINCIPLE THAT WE'RE ADOPTING, THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANY MORE UNILATERAL EMBARGOES AGAINST ANY COUNTRY. SO IF OTHER COUNTRIES DON'T JOIN US OF THIS EFFORT, THEN THE PRESIDENTIAL DECISION TO EMBARGO WOULD NOT BE LEGAL. AND THE REASON FOR THAT IS, PARTICULAR OF FARMING, IF WE'RE GOING TO NOT BE ABLE TO SELL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS TO SOME COUNTRY AND OTHER COUNTRIES THAT EXPORT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS CAN DO THAT, ONLY THE AMERICAN FARMER IS BEING HURT. SO WE'RE TRYING TO MOVE SLOWLY IN THIS AREA IN A WAY THAT HAS RATIONALE. WE ARE NOT DOING THIS JUST FOR CUBA. THE WHOLE POLICY HERE IS TO CHANGE THE TOPSY -- THE THING THAT GREW LIKE TOPSY, OF HAVING SANCTIONS, AND IT GREW OVER THE LAST THREE OR FOUR DECADES, AND THERE MIGHT BE A WHOLE DIFFERENT SET OF SANCTIONS ON ONE CASE VERSUS ANOTHER, ONE COUNTRY VERSUS ANOTHER. AND WE'RE TRYING TO BRING SOME UNIFORMITY TO IT, NOT JUST TO HELP CUBA. BUT I DO SUPPORT IT. I HAVEN'T HAD A VOTE ON IT THIS YEAR, BUT LAST YEAR ON A VOTE OF 76 TO 24, I WAS ONE OF THOSE SUPPORTING THAT.

Glover: THE ONLY INFORMATIVE OF THAT ISSUE, OF COURSE, IS THE CUBAN VOTE OF SOUTH FLORIDA. BUT THERE'S ANOTHER TRADE ISSUE THAT IS BEFORE CONGRESS, AND THAT'S MAKING PERMANENT THE SPECIAL TRADING RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA. WHERE DOES THAT STAND? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON IT AND WHAT BENEFIT DOES THE IOWA FARMER HAVE FROM MAKING THAT TRADING RELATIONSHIP PERMANENT?

Grassley: THAT'S PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE BEFORE CONGRESS, SO THANK YOU FOR ASKING ABOUT IT. THE REASON FOR THAT IS IT'S ONE OF THE MOST BENEFICIAL THINGS WE CAN DO FOR THE ECONOMY OF IOWA, AS WELL AS THE COUNTRY, AND ALSO FOR THE EXPANSION OF JOBS IN THE FUTURE. I WILL VOTE FOR IT. I VOTED TO GET IT OUT OF COMMITTEE. IT CAME OUT OF COMMITTEE ON A VERY BIPARTISAN VOTE, UNANIMOUS OUT OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE. IT WILL PASS THE SENATE ROUGHLY 30 -- 70 TO 30. AND I WANT IT PASSED THIS WEEK. IT WILL NOT BE PASSED THIS WEEK. IN FACT, WHEN IT CAME OUT OF COMMITTEE IN MAY, I WAS HOPING WE'D HAVE IT UP RIGHT AFTER THE MEMORIAL DAY RECESS. IT'S GOT INVOLVED IN SCHEDULING AND CONFLICT BETWEEN REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS, AND I THINK IT WOULD HAVE HELPED THE PROCESS IF THE PRESIDENT HAD PUSHED MEMBERS OF HIS PARTY TO HELP EXPEDITE APPROPRIATION BILLS IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE. HE HASN'T BEEN INVOLVED IN THAT GAME AT ALL, AND YET HE'S BEEN SAYING WE OUGHT TO MOVE ALONG THE CHINA TRADE BILL.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT WAY TOO MANY QUESTIONS AND NOT ENOUGH TIME. I WANT TO CHANGE SUBJECTS. AIRLINE SLOTS. CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION HAS HAD SOME SUCCESS IN OPENING UP MORE AIRLINE SLOTS, BUT THE INDUSTRY SAYS THEY STILL NEED SOME MORE IN ORDER TO LOWER AIRFARES HERE IN IOWA. WHERE DOES THAT ISSUE STAND?

Grassley: WELL, SENATOR HARKIN AND I ARE GOING TO CONTINUE TO PUSH IN A BIPARTISAN WAY FOR MORE COMPETITION FOR AIR SERVICE IN IOWA. I'M GOING TO HOLD A VERY HIGH LEVEL AIR COMPETITION, A CONFERENCE IN IOWA INVOLVING AIRPORT MANAGERS, AIRPORT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS, CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, AND BRING AIRLINES IN FROM OTHER -- THAT SERVICE IOWA, BRING THEM IN TO DO THAT AND SEE WHAT WE CAN DO THERE, WORKING DIRECTLY WITH THE COMPANIES. BUT WE'RE ALSO GOING TO PUSH FOR MORE SLOTS FOR THE MIDWEST, BECAUSE WE DIDN'T GET ALL THE SLOTS WE THOUGHT WE WERE ENTITLED TO.

Glover: SENATOR, ANOTHER ISSUE FACING CONGRESS AND AN EMERGING ISSUE IN A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THIS NEW BUDGET SURPLUS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? DO YOU USE THAT MONEY TO CUT TAXES? DO YOU USE THAT MONEY TO PAY DOWN THE DEBT? DO YOU USE THAT MONEY FOR NEW SPENDING PROGRAMS? WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON HOW THAT MONEY SHOULD BE USED?

Grassley: NUMBER ONE, TO PAY OFF THE NATIONAL DEBT ON A PLANNED PROGRAM OF SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 15 TO 20 YEARS, AND I THINK THAT'S VERY, VERY DOABLE. SECOND, TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE'S MONEY ADEQUATE TO IMPROVE AND WORK FOR IMPORTANT CHANGES IN SOCIAL SECURITY. AND NUMBER THREE, THEN TO LET PEOPLE KEEP MONEY WHEN WE'RE OVERTAXING THEM. NOT MUCH FOR NEW PROGRAMS EXCEPT IN THE AREAS OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, RURAL HOSPITALS CLAIM THEY STILL DON'T GET ENOUGH MONEY FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN REIMBURSEMENTS. ANY HOPE FOR INCREASING THAT?

Grassley: VERY DEFINITELY, AND THROUGH SEVERAL WAYS... A BIPARTISAN PROGRAM THAT SENATOR CONRAD OF NORTH DAKOTA AND I ARE PROPOSING THAT'S PRETTY BROAD BASED... ONE THAT I HAVE DIRECTLY TOWARD THE WAGE INDEX BY WHICH IMPROVING THAT WAGE INDEX, THE REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE WAGE INDEX, WILL GET A LOT MORE MONEY INTO RURAL HOSPITALS AND AWAY FROM URBAN HOSPITALS THAT ARE GETTING REIMBURSED MUCH MORE. AND THEN, THIRDLY, WITH A VERY -- A BASIC PLAN THAT I'M WORKING WITH SENATOR DOMENICI ON TO GET ABOUT $20 BILLION INTO HEALTH CARE IN RURAL AMERICA. NOW, IT'S NOT JUST HOSPITALS. IT WOULD BE HOSPITALS, NURSING HOMES, HOME HEALTH CARE, AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

Glover: YOU MENTIONED EARLIER A PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS BEFORE CONGRESS. DEMOCRATS SAY IT'S NOT A REAL PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS, IT'S A WATERED DOWN PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS. WILL THIS CONGRESS PASS A PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS THAT WILL BE MEANINGFUL AND GIVE PATIENTS IN HMOs REAL RIGHTS?

Grassley: YES. THE REASON THAT THE DEMOCRATS SAY THAT IT'S NOT A REAL PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS IS BECAUSE THEY WORK CLOSELY WITH THE TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION. AND THE TRIAL LAWYERS, THEY WANT TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO SUE. THEY'RE MORE INTERESTED IN TRIBUTE FOR LAWYERS THAN THEY ARE TREATMENT FOR PATIENTS BECAUSE IN MOST CASES WHEN YOU HAVE TO SUE TO GET YOUR RIGHT TO MEDICAL CARE, YOU'RE DEAD BEFORE YOU GET IT. SO WE'RE LOOKING AT INTERNAL PROCESSES AND EXTERNAL PROCESSES THROUGH THE ARBITRATION PROCESS, AND THROUGH MEDIATION THAT WILL GET PEOPLE WHAT DOCTORS SAY, BECAUSE WE WANT TO GUARANTEE THE TREATMENT THAT DOCTORS SAY THEIR PATIENT OUGHT TO HAVE AND NOT LET THE INSURANCE COMPANY STAND IN THE WAY. BUT YET, WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE A TWO-YEAR BATTLE IN COURT WHEN THE PERSON HAS BEEN DEAD A YEAR BEFORE THEY GET THE TREATMENT.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE ALWAYS LIKE TO TALK A LITTLE POLITICS ON THIS SHOW. THE POLLS SHOW THAT THE RACE FOR PRESIDENT IS STARTING TO TIGHTEN. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE WAY GOVERNOR BUSH IS RUNNING HIS CAMPAIGN? HE'S ALLOWING AL GORE TO CATCH UP WITH HIM.

Grassley: I'M SATISFIED WITH THE WAY HE'S RUNNING HIS CAMPAIGN, BECAUSE I THINK THAT THE REAL TEST OF HOW HE'S RUNNING HIS CAMPAIGN ISN'T WHAT HE DOES DURING APRIL, MAY, JUNE, UP TO LABOR DAY, BUT WHAT IT DOES FROM LABOR DAY ON AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, HOW WELL HE DOES IN THE DEBATES. I THINK HE'S GOING TO DO VERY, VERY WELL. I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT GOVERNOR BUSH, AND WHAT HE'S DONE WELL FOR HIS CAMPAIGN IS HE'S BUILDING UPON A VERY GOOD RECORD THAT HE HAD AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, OF BROADENING HIS BASE AND INTERESTS AND PARTICULARLY WORKING WITH DEMOCRAT LEGISLATORS AND TRYING TO BRING MORE PEOPLE INTO THE PROCESS; AND NOT ONLY TO HELP THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, BUT BECAUSE HE KNOWS IF HE'S GOING BE A POLITICAL LEADER, HE'S GOT TO BE A CONSENSUS- BUILDER. HE WAS SUCH A CONSENSUS-BUILDER IN TEXAS. HE KNOWS THAT THAT'S THE THING TO DO RUNNING FOR -- A NECESSARY THING TO DO RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, AND THEN, BEING PRESIDENT, THE ONLY WAY HE'S GOING GET HIS VISION FOR AMERICA THROUGH THE CONGRESS.

Glover: WHAT WILL YOUR ROLE BE IN THE CAMPAIGN? THE CAMPAIGN TROTTED YOU OUT LAST WEEK TO CRITICIZE THE VICE PRESIDENT ON CRIME. WILL YOU PLAY A ROLE IN THE CAMPAIGN?

Grassley: I'M GOING TO BE CHAIRMAN OF THE VICTORY 2000 CAMPAIGN WITHIN IOWA. I WILL DO IN THE MIDWEST WHAT THEY ASK ME TO DO. I CAN HELP MOST AMONG RURAL AND FARMERS. AND I'M AT THEIR BECK AND CALL IN THE SENSE THAT IT DOESN'T INTERFERE OF ANY WAY WITH THE OBLIGATION I HAVE FOR IOWA REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES, WHICH ARE BASICALLY LEGISLATIVE IS MY FIRST CONCERN, AND THEN, SECONDLY, NOT INTERFERING WITH MY SENATORIAL DUTIES.

Borg: DO YOU PREDICT HE'LL CARRY IOWA?

Grassley: HE WILL CARRY IOWA. IT WILL BE TOUGH BUT WE'VE LOST THE LAST THREE, AND IT LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A VERY GOOD OPPORTUNITY AND VERY COMPETITIVE AT THIS POINT. AND GOVERNOR BUSH'S PEOPLE IN AUSTIN FEEL VERY GOOD ABOUT IOWA AS WELL, AND THEY'RE GOING TO SPEND TIME HERE TO GET THAT JOB DONE.

Borg: THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

Grassley: THANK YOU.

Borg: SENATOR GRASSLEY'S COLLEAGUE IN THE U.S. SENATE, TOM HARKIN, WILL JOIN US TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY TO DISCUSS THE ISSUES AND POLITICS DRIVING THE CLOSING WEEKS OF THE CURRENT SESSION OF CONGRESS. THAT'S SUNDAY, AUGUST 6 AT NOON AND 7:00 FOR SENATOR TOM HARKIN HERE ON IOWA PRESS. ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF IOWA PRESS, WE FOCUS ON "VISION IOWA," THE NEW INITIATIVE CREATED BY GOVERNOR TOM VILSACK AND THE IOWA LEGISLATURE, TO PROVIDE SOME $300 MILLION OF STATE QUALITY-OF-LIFE ASSISTANCE TO COMMUNITY PROJECTS. MICHAEL GARTNER, RECENTLY NAMED AS THE CHAIR OF THE 13-PERSON COMMISSION TO ADMINISTER THAT FUND, WILL JOIN US TO DISCUSS "VISION IOWA." THAT PROGRAM AIRS AT NOON ONLY NEXT SUNDAY. AND REMEMBER, TOO, YOU CAN JOIN US ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB FOR TRANSCRIPTS OF PAST IOWA PRESS PROGRAMS, REPORTER BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, COMMENTARY, TOO, FROM IOWA PRESS REPORTERS, AND NEWS LINKS TO OTHER NEWS SOURCES RELATED TO THE TOPICS THAT WE DEAL WITH HERE AT THE IOWA PRESS TABLE. THE WEB SIGHT ADDRESS TO CLICK IN IS WWW.IOWAPRESS.IPTV.ORG. AND THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEK'S EDITION OF IOWA PRESS. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH NEXT SUNDAY AT NOON. UNTIL THEN, I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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