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Senator Charles Grassley

(#3113)
November 28, 2003

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IOWA PRESS #3113 >>

Borg: CONGRESS PERFORMS CONTROVERSIAL SURGERY ON MEDICARE. PROGNOSIS UNCERTAIN. IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY HAD A MAJOR ROLE IN THE OPERATION, AND WE'LL QUESTION HIM ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION... GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS WHO FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT THE PROGRAMS THEY WATCH ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION;

AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THE FIRST SESSION OF THE 108TH U.S. CONGRESS HAS ALL BEEN OVER. THE HOUSE AND SENATE, NOW IN RECESS, RETURN FOR A BRIEF SESSION ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 8, BUT OTHERWISE IT'S ALL OVER UNTIL JANUARY 20. EARLIER THIS WEEK THE SENATE COMPLETED ACTION ON REVAMPING MEDICARE, THE BIGGEST OVERHAUL IN ITS 38-YEAR HISTORY, ADDING A PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT. IOWA SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY INSTRUMENTAL IN THE MEDICARE CHANGES, AS CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE. SENATOR GRASSLEY, GOOD TO HAVE YOU AS A GUEST TODAY AFTER THAT MONUMENTAL LEGISLATION THIS WEEK.

Grassley: AND I'M GLAD WE FINALLY GOT IT DONE.

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

Glover: SENATOR GRASSLEY, AS DEAN MENTIONED, THIS SESSION OF CONGRESS IS PRETTY WELL WRAPPED UP. GIVE THIS CONGRESS A RATING. HOW DID IT DO? YOU HAD A SESSION AS CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE, AN IMPORTANT PLAYER IN THAT CONGRESS. HOW DID CONGRESS DO?

Grassley: WELL, 60 OR 70 PERCENT OF THE WORK OF THIS SENATE WAS OUT OF MY COMMITTEE, AND IF WE'D GOTTEN THE ENERGY BILL THROUGH BEFORE NOW, I WOULD SAY THAT EVERYTHING WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET DONE OUT OF MY COMMITTEE GOT DONE. SO I SUPPOSE I WOULD RATE IT A B+. I WOULD HAVE GIVEN IT AN "A" IF THE ENERGY BILL HAD GOTTEN THROUGH. NOW, THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS THAT ARE GOOD ABOUT THIS CONGRESS BEYOND WHAT CAME OUT OF MY COMMITTEE THAT PROBABLY OTHER COMMITTEE CHAIRMEN WOULD SAY RANKS IT VERY HIGH. THE FAILURE OF THIS CONGRESS IS THE FAILURE TO DEAL WITH OUR TORT REFORM SYSTEM. WE FAILED ON CLASS ACTION TORT REFORM, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM, AND THE ASBESTOS PROBLEM, WHICH IS A PROBLEM. AND WE -- ALL OF THOSE HAVE PASSED THE HOUSE, BUT THEY'RE TIED UP WITH DEMOCRATIC FILIBUSTERS IN THE SENATE.

Glover: IN LOOKING BACK ON THIS CONGRESS, YOU'VE GIVEN IT A PRETTY GOOD RATING. WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT PEOPLE WILL REMEMBER FROM THIS SESSION OF CONGRESS?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK THAT IT'S THE ACTION OF THE LAST 24 HOURS IN WHICH -- IN THE LAST WEEK, IN WHICH WE FINALLY WERE ABLE TO STICK TO IT AND GET THE BIGGEST EXPANSION IN THE SOCIAL FABRIC OF OUR SOCIETY, MEDICARE, THROUGH. WE HAVE EFFECTIVELY PLUGGED THE HOLE THAT IS IN THAT SAFETY NET WE CALL MEDICARE. THAT HOLE HAS EXISTED FOR 38 YEARS BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T HAD PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. I DON'T BLAME PEOPLE THAT WROTE IT BECAUSE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS WEREN'T VERY IMPORTANT IN 1965, BUT THEY'RE VERY, VERY IMPORTANT NOW. WE BROUGHT MEDICARE INTO THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Yepsen: WE WANT TO GET TO THAT IN GREATER DETAIL, BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ENERGY BILL FOR A MOMENT.

Grassley: SURE.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR GETTING THAT PIECE OF LEGISLATION WHEN YOU COME BACK IN JANUARY?

Grassley: OKAY. I THINK THAT THEY'RE VERY TIGHT. THE PROBLEMS THAT WE HAVE ON THE LAWSUITS IN REGARD TO MTBE, IF YOU CHANGE THOSE TO GET SOME VOTES, YOU MIGHT LOSE VOTES IN THE STATES OF TEXAS. SO CONSEQUENTLY, I THINK IT'S GOING TO TAKE ABOUT FIVE VOTES TO BE CHANGED. AND RIGHT NOW WE OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE WEST VIRGINIA. THERE'S A GREAT DEAL IN THIS BILL FOR COAL -- CLEAN COAL. THEN WE OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE THE TWO DEMOCRAT VOTES IN WISCONSIN, ONE IN ILLINOIS, ONE IN INDIANA, BECAUSE THEY VOTED AGAINST IT AND THEY COME FROM CORN STATES AND THEY OUGHT TO BE FOR THIS. SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE CHANCES ARE, BUT THAT'S WHERE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FOCUS OUR ATTENTION. WE'RE PROBABLY GOING TO HAVE TO FOCUS OUR ATTENTION TOO IN A POLITICAL WAY, AS OPPOSED TO A SUBSTANTIVE WAY, AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THE LEADERSHIP OF DASCHLE IS BEING EXERTED THE WAY IT SHOULD, BECAUSE IN HIS COMMERCIALS IN SOUTH DAKOTA, HE KEPT REMINDING PEOPLE THAT WHEN IT CAME TO THE ETHANOL ISSUE, HE'S THE DEMOCRAT LEADER, HE BRINGS SOUTH DAKOTA TO THE TABLE. HE BROUGHT 13 VOTES AND WE NEED 15 VOTES. AND YOU'D THINK THAT A DEMOCRAT LEADER COULD DELIVER MORE THAN A THIRD OF HIS CAUCUS.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WHAT'S THE ARGUMENT FOR YOUR POSITION ON MTBE, THAT THE LAWSUITS OUGHT TO BE LIMITED? IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IF A PRODUCT CAUSES HARM TO PEOPLE, COMMUNITIES OUGHT TO HAVE THE RIGHT TO FILE A LAWSUIT.

Borg: AND FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW, MTBE, GASOLINE ADDITIVE.

Grassley: IT'S AN ADDITIVE THAT'S THE SAME -- IT'S AN OXYGENATE THAT SERVES THE SAME PURPOSE AS ETHANOL, BUT IT'S NOT A RENEWABLE FUEL. IT COMES FROM NATURAL GAS, AND IT'S A PRODUCT THAT WAS USED BEFORE. IT WAS A PRODUCT THAT WAS USED BEFORE WE EVEN HAD THE OXYGENATE STANDARD. SO FIRST OF ALL, LET ME ANSWER YOUR QUESTION THIS WAY. I THINK SENATOR PETE DOMENICI -- AND I FEEL THIS WAY EVEN MORE SO THAN PETE -- THIS SHOULDN'T EVEN BE IN THERE. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE THIS PROVISION IN THERE, BUT IT WAS PART OF THE COMPROMISE THAT WAS NECESSARY TO GET AN ENERGY BILL. SO OBVIOUSLY IT -- I'M ARGUING A POSITION TO GET THIS BILL THROUGH ON THE MTBE THAT I WISH I WERE NOT ARGUING BECAUSE I THINK WE OUGHT TO ALLOW THESE SORTS OF SUITS. BUT ANYWAY, IT HAS -- IT'S A STUMBLING BLOCK BECAUSE THE SUITS ARE CURTAILED.

Glover: AND YOU'RE ESSENTIALLY -- IN THAT ARGUMENT, THE QUESTION IS THIS ADDITIVE HAS MADE ITS WAY INTO GROUNDWATER IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND THERE ARE LAWSUITS BEING FILED BY THESE COMMUNITIES AND THIS BILL WOULD PROHIBIT THOSE. ISN'T THAT A RATHER UNCOMFORTABLE POSITION? YOU SAY YOU DON'T LIKE IT BUT HOW --

Grassley: YOU'RE ALSO UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE DON'T FORGET THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS LEGALIZED AND MANDATED THIS PRODUCT OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, SO YOU'RE KIND OF PUTTING THE COMPANIES THAT COULD BE SUED IN A VERY ROUGH POSITION BECAUSE THEY'RE BEING SUED FOR SOMETHING THEY WERE TOLD THAT THEY OUGHT TO PRODUCE SO WE COULD USE IT TO CUT DOWN ON SMOG IN BIG CITIES.

Yepsen: ISN'T ONE OPTION IN FRONT OF THE CONGRESS TO GO AHEAD AND PASS THE ENERGY BILL BUT THEN MAKE THIS ADJUSTMENT TO THIS MTBE THING IN A SEPARATE PIECE OF LEGISLATION, THE SPENDING BILL?

Grassley: WE TRIED THAT. WE PICKED UP TWO OR THREE VOTES AS A RESULT OF DOING THAT AND LOST THREE OR FOUR MORE FROM OTHER STATES.

Borg: FOR A WHILE WITHIN THAT ENERGY BILL, YOU HAD THE IOWA CHILD PROVISION. AND AS I UNDERSTAND IT, THE PROVISION THERE WOULD HAVE GIVEN SOME TAX CREDITS TO THOSE WHO INVESTED IN THAT -- WITH BUYING BONDS IN THAT RAIN FOREST TO BE BUILT OVER NEAR CORALVILLE. NOW, THAT WAS STRIPPED OUT OF THE ENERGY BILL, BUT I UNDERSTAND IT'S STILL ALIVE. YOU'RE STILL PUSHING THAT SOMEPLACE ELSE.

Grassley: THE REASON IT WAS STRIPPED OUT IS BECAUSE WE HAD IT GROUPED WITH OTHER -- WHAT WE CALL GREEN BOND PROPOSALS. THOSE OTHERS WERE PROFIT. THIS WAS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION. THE IOWA IS THE ONLY NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION. AND QUITE FRANKLY, PEOPLE FELT THAT THE BONDS WE WERE USING WERE NOT APPROPRIATE, SO WE DIDN'T GET THE SUPPORT IN THE HOUSE WE NEEDED. BUT I WAS PROMISED BY LEADERSHIP OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE THAT WE'D BE ABLE TO GET IT IN THE APPROPRIATION BILL, ALMOST THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY, BUT A DIRECT APPROPRIATION AS OPPOSED TO THE OTHERS. WE OUGHT TO EXPLAIN TO YOUR LISTENERS THAT WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT A RAIN FOREST. THAT KIND OF SOUNDS FUNNY IN FRIGID, IOWA. WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IS A BROWNSFIELD AREA THAT NEEDS TO BE CLEANED UP ANYWAY. THAT'S AN ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM. THAT'S GOING TO BE PUT THERE AT THIS LOCATION IN CORALVILLE. WE ALSO NEED TO MAKE CLEAR THAT IT'S A VERY GOOD ADJUNCT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA ON ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND ALSO REMEMBER THAT IT'S VERY MUCH A TOURIST ATTRACTION. BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT EMPHASIS IS TO HAVE AN EDUCATIONAL FACILITY TO TEACH PEOPLE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY, AND IT IS NONPROFIT. IT'S NOT A PROFIT MAKING ORGANIZATION.

Glover: LET'S GO BACK TO THAT MEDICARE BILL THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT. IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENT OF CONGRESS. ONE THING I THINK IT'S SAFE TO SAY ABOUT THAT BILL IS IT'S VERY, VERY COMPLICATED AND THERE'S A LOT IN IT. IF I'M A TYPICAL IOWA SENIOR, AND SOME PEOPLE ARGUE I AM, WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME WITH THIS BILL? HOW IS MY LIFE GOING TO CHANGE?

Grassley: I DON'T ARGUE WITH YOU USING THE WORD "COMPLICATED," BUT PEOPLE THAT WANTED TO DENIGRATE THIS LEGISLATION ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE KEPT USING THAT ARGUMENT, AND THE VERY SAME PEOPLE THAT WERE ARGUING ABOUT HOW COMPLICATED THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROVISIONS ARE COULDN'T EVEN EXPLAIN MEDICARE, AND IT'S BEEN IN EXISTENCE FOR 38 YEARS. SO IT'S A FALLACIOUS ARGUMENT. BEYOND THAT, WHAT PEOPLE ARE GETTING IS, FIRST OF ALL, STARTING RIGHT AWAY ON APRIL 1, THEY'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO GET A DRUG CARD LIKE THIS THAT WILL GIVE 15 TO 25 PERCENT DISCOUNTS IF THEY CHOOSE TO DO IT.

Glover: AND HOW MUCH WILL THAT COST?

Grassley: THIS COSTS $35. AND THIS WILL BE GOOD FOR THE FIRST TWO YEARS BEFORE THE NEW PROGRAM KICKS IN. THERE WILL ALSO BE A $600 SUBSIDY FOR PEOPLE UNDER 135 PERCENT OF POVERTY FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. SO WE'RE GOING TO GET THIS DRUG PROGRAM STARTED IN APRIL, AND THEN THE BIG, LONG-TERM PROGRAM STARTS IN THE YEAR 2006, TWO YEARS FOR THE BUREAUCRATS TO GET IT GOING. WHETHER IT SHOULD TAKE THAT LONG, YOU KNOW, MIGHT NOT SEEM REASONABLE, BUT WE ASK YOU, SEE? THEN ONCE IT GETS GOING, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HAVE A CHANCE TO JOIN. IF THEY WANT TO KEEP TRADITIONAL MEDICARE, NO CHANGES, THEY CAN KEEP IT. THEY DON'T HAVE TO GET INTO THIS DRUG PROGRAM. IT'S VOLUNTARY. IT'S COMPREHENSIVE. IT'S UNIVERSAL. ANYBODY CAN GET IN. WE'RE ALSO -- THEN IF THEY DECIDE TO GET INTO IT, THEY CAN STAY IN TRADITIONAL MEDICARE AND HAVE AN ADD-ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROGRAM THAT THEY WOULD VOLUNTARILY JOIN. THEY WOULD HAVE TWO PLANS THEY COULD CHOOSE FROM, BECAUSE WE WANT TO GIVE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE. AND THEN THERE WILL ALSO BE A NEW PREFERRED PROVIDER ORGANIZATION, NEW MEDICARE SETUP, WITH AT LEAST TWO PROGRAMS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY FOR PEOPLE TO CHOOSE FROM WITH AN INTEGRATED DRUG BENEFIT THAT WOULD BE VERY CLOSE TO WHAT BABY BOOMERS HAVE IN THEIR CORPORATE RETIREMENT PLAN.

Glover: IF IT'S SUCH A GOOD IDEA, WHY WAIT TWO YEARS TO PUT IT ON THE BOOKS?

Grassley: I WISH WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN ON THE BOOKS IN ABOUT FIFTEEN MONTHS, BUT I HAVE TO ASK -- AS WRITING THE BILL, ASK THE PEOPLE AS HHS THAT HAVE TO SET IT UP, AND THEY SAID IT'S GOING TO TAKE US TWO YEARS TO DO THIS. IT TOOK ONE AND A HALF YEARS FOR THE ORIGINAL MEDICARE PROGRAM 75 YEARS AGO.

Yepsen: SENATOR, HOW MANY IOWANS WILL BENEFIT FROM THIS?

Grassley: I THINK 480,000 IOWANS, IF THEY CHOOSE TO BENEFIT, BECAUSE IT'S THEIR CHOICE, YOU KNOW. AND SOME OF THOSE ARE DISABLED PEOPLE, NOT ALL SENIORS. SENIORS AND DISABLED PEOPLE ON MEDICARE.

Yepsen: AND WHAT DOES THIS BILL DO FOR RURAL HOSPITALS AND REIMBURSEMENTS TO THEM?

Grassley: $25 BILLION. AND THE WAY WE FACILITATED THE $25 BILLION GOING INTO THE 30 STATES BELOW THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, OF WHICH IOWA IS ONE OF THOSE STATES THAT ARE UNDERREIMBURSED, WE CHANGED FORMULAS THAT PRESUMED TWENTY YEARS AGO THAT YOU COULD DELIVER MEDICAL CARE IN RURAL IOWA CHEAPER THAN IN URBAN AMERICA. AND SO JUST AS A COUPLE EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE DO... DOCTORS IN IOWA TODAY ARE CONSIDERED TO BE .78 FOR THEIR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES COMPARED TO 1.0 NATIONAL AVERAGE. SO WE BRING IOWA UP FROM .78 UP TO 1.0. THEN FOR HOSPITALS, THE LABOR FACTOR IN HOSPITALS IN RURAL AMERICA IS CONSIDERED TO BE 72 PERCENT. THE NATIONAL AVERAGE IS 62 PERCENT, SO WE BRING DOWN THE LABOR FACTOR IN IOWA HOSPITALS WAS 62 PERCENT, SO THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BE REIMBURSED ANOTHER $300 MILLION THAT THEY WOULDN'T OTHERWISE GET.

Yepsen: DOES THIS SOLVE THE COMPLAINT THAT RURAL HOSPITALS HAVE MADE THAT THEY'RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH OUT OF THIS SYSTEM?

Grassley: THE IOWA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION VERY VIGOROUSLY BACKED MY PROPOSAL.

Glover: AT THE END OF THE DAY --

Grassley: AND THE IOWA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION VERY VIGOROUSLY BACKED THE DAY.

Glover: IOWA RANKS FIFTIETH IN THE NATION RIGHT NOW IN MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENT. WITH THIS BILL FULLY ON THE -- THIS BILL FULLY ON THE BOOKS, WHERE WILL IOWA RANK?

Grassley: YOU'LL NEVER HAVE A WAY OF KNOWING FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE STATISTICS THAT HAVE BEEN IN THE IOWA PAPERS OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS TO HIGHLIGHT -- AND THEY DID A GOOD JOB OF HIGHLIGHTING, AND IT HELPED ME SELL THE PROGRAM -- BECAUSE CMS, A YEAR AGO, QUIT ISSUING THOSE STATISTICS BECAUSE THEY SAID THAT THEY WERE NOT ACCURATE AND DIDN'T CLEARLY SHOW THE RANKINGS OF THE VARIOUS STATES.

Borg: SENATOR, ONE OF THE --

Grassley: BUT HHS TELLS US THAT OUR PER CAPITA REIMBURSEMENT WILL GO UP FROM ABOUT $5,300 TO $6,900 BETWEEN NOW AND THE YEAR 2008.

Borg: ONE OF THE MAJOR THINGS THAT MAKES PEOPLE NERVOUS IS THAT THIS TAKES IT, AN ESSENTIALLY GOVERNMENT PROGRAM, AND BEGINS TO TURN IT OVER TO PRIVATE INDUSTRY. IS THAT A GOOD IDEA?

Grassley: YEAH, A VERY GOOD IDEA.

Borg: WHY?

Grassley: WELL, A VERY GOOD IDEA BECAUSE WE HAVE COMPETITION. FOR INSTANCE, AS AN EXAMPLE -- AND THIS IS -- OUR PROGRAM IS NOT EXACTLY LIKE THE FEDERAL HEALTH EMPLOYEE BENEFIT PROGRAM, BUT YOU HAVE COMPETITION IN THOSE PROGRAMS. EVERY DECEMBER YOU GET A CHANCE DO YOU WANT TO STAY IN BLUE CROSS OR DO YOU WANT TO GO OVER HERE TO THE POSTAL UNION PROGRAM OR THE TREASURY UNION PROGRAM. WE HAVE THOSE OPTIONS. THOSE COMPETING OPTIONS HAVE ALSO GIVEN PEOPLE CHOICE TO HAVE SOMETHING THAT FITS THEIR NEEDS, BUT THE COMPETITION HAS ALSO KEPT THE PRICE DOWN. SO WE FEEL THAT COMPETITION IS GOING TO DRIVE DOWN THE PRICE OF DRUGS. SEE, IF YOU HAVE TWO BENEFITS AND THEY'RE DEALING FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP AND THEY'RE DEALING WITH THE PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES OF BARGAINING PRICES DOWN, WE THINK IT WILL BRING DOWN THE PRICE OF DRUGS 15 TO 25 PERCENT. WHEREAS, WHEN THE GOVERNMENT SETS THINGS, YOU HAVE THE ANOMALY, FOR INSTANCE, THAT WE PAY -- WE'LL PAY FOR YOU TO BE OPERATED FOR KIDNEY DIALYSIS, BUT WE DON'T PAY FOR THE DRUGS THAT WOULD HAVE KEPT YOU OUT OF KIDNEY DIALYSIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. SO 1965 MODEL MEDICARE, WE'RE GOING TO KEEP IN PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO CHOOSE IT, BUT IT'S A FAR CRY FROM WHAT BABY BOOMERS HAVE IN THE WORKPLACE. AND WE WANT A NEW PROGRAM THAT FITS THE NEEDS OF BABY BOOMERS.

Glover: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO ARGUMENT THAT YOU HEAR ALL THE TIME THAT WHAT THIS AMOUNTED TO, DESPITE ALL THE FIGHTS, THAT THIS AMOUNTED TO PRESIDENT BUSH AND THE REPUBLICANS TAKING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS OFF THE TABLE AS A POLITICAL ISSUE? NOW YOU CAN SAY YOU'VE DONE A PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT.

Grassley: WELL, IF THIS WERE A REPUBLICAN ONLY ISSUE, WE WOULD HAVE NEVER GOTTEN IT PASSED. FOR INSTANCE, HERE'S THE ROLE CALL THAT WE HAD: 42 REPUBLICANS, 11 DEMOCRATS, AND 1 INDEPENDENT VOTED FOR THIS. YOU CAN'T GET ANYTHING THROUGH THE UNITED STATES SENATE THAT'S JUST REPUBLICAN. IF I'D STARTED OUT AS CHAIRMAN OF THIS COMMITTEE TO PUT OUT A REPUBLICAN ONLY BILL, I WOULD BE LUCKY TO GET 40 VOTES OUT OF IT. I STARTED WITH THE PREMISE THAT I'M GOING TO CORRECT THE MISTAKES OF TOM DASCHLE OF LAST YEAR WHEN HE WANTED AN ISSUE INSTEAD OF A PRODUCT. HE BET ON NOT PASSING A BILL, REPUBLICANS WOULD BE BLAMED FOR IT, AND THEN HE WOULD WIN MORE SEATS. HE LOST THAT GAMBLE. REPUBLICANS TAKE OVER. WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO DELIVER. IF I'D WANTED TO DELIVER A REPUBLICAN ONLY BILL, THERE WOULDN'T BE A BILL. WE WOULDN'T HAVE HAD THE VICTORY WE HAD THIS WEEK. SO WE'RE MOVING -- I MOVED AHEAD IN A BIPARTISAN WAY, AND THAT'S HOW YOU GET THINGS DONE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, WE'VE GOT A LOT OF ISSUES TO TALK ABOUT AND NOT ENOUGH TIME, SO I WANT TO MOVE ON. GAY MARRIAGE IS A HOT ISSUE IN AMERICAN POLITICS RIGHT NOW, THANKS TO THE MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME COURT. THE FAMILY PROTECTION CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT SPECIFYING THAT MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN WAS INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE, I BELIEVE, THIS WEEK. WHAT'S YOUR POSITION ON THAT AMENDMENT?

Grassley: I THINK IT'S PREMATURE TO EVEN THINK YOU OUGHT TO HAVE AN AMENDMENT AT THIS POINT, BECAUSE WE HAD THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT THAT PASSED 85 TO 15, ABOUT FIFTEEN -- MAYBE TWELVE YEARS AGO. AND THAT LAW IS ON THE BOOKS. IT LETS ANY STATE DO WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO IN REGARD TO MARRIAGES. MARRIAGES ARE A STATE ISSUE. THERE'S NEVER BEEN ANY FEDERAL LAW, AS FAR AS I KNOW, ON MARRIAGES. AND IT SAYS THAT UNDER THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT CLAUSE OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION THAT IF, LET'S SAY -- VERMONT IS PROBABLY THE BEST EXAMPLE. IF VERMONT WANTS TO, AS THEY HAVE, RECOGNIZE WHAT THEY CALL CIVIL UNIONS, THAT YOU'D NORMALLY THINK, WELL, IOWA WOULD HAVE TO DO THAT UNDER THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT CLAUSE. BUT THIS LAW DOES NOT MAKE IOWA DO THAT. SO WE OUGHT TO JUST LEAVE THE DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT IN PLACE, AND THAT OUGHT TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS.

Glover: WE'RE GOING TO HOP AROUND TO SOME ISSUES.

Grassley: YEAH.

Glover: IOWA IS A BIG FARM STATE. YOU'RE A FARMER. THERE ARE SOME FARM ISSUES THAT ARE LAYING OUT THERE. ONE OF THEM IS A BAN ON PACKER OWNERSHIP OF LIVESTOCK. IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN? WE KNOW YOU SUPPORT IT.

Grassley: IN THIS OMNIBUS BILL THAT'S COMING BEFORE -- THE OMNIBUS APPROPRIATION BILL, THE APPROPRIATORS AND BIG INDUSTRY, THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES, THE PROCESSORS, THE WHOLESALE GROCERIES, THE RETAIL GROCERIES, THEY'VE EFFECTIVELY KILLED "COOL," THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELING LEGISLATION. I THINK IT'S VERY BAD FOR AMERICAN AGRICULTURE. IT'S VERY BAD FOR THE CONSUMERS OF AMERICA. WHAT THEY DID IS THEY PUT IT OFF FOR TWO YEARS. THAT EFFECTIVELY KILLS IT, AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED. THERE'S NO REASON THIS CAN'T BE IMPLEMENTED NEXT SEPTEMBER, WHEN IT GOES INTO EFFECT. WE SHOULD HAVE FULLY FUNDED IT, AND I JUST THINK IT'S A TERRIBLE VICTORY FOR BIG BUSINESS, A TERRIBLE LOSS FOR THE FAMILY FARMER.

Glover: AND THE CAP ON FARM SUBSIDY PAYMENTS, IS THAT LIKELY TO HAPPEN?

Grassley: NOT THIS YEAR. AGAIN, I WON A SMALL VICTORY IN THE SENATE ON THE EQIP PROGRAM, THE ENVIRONMENTAL FACILITIES PROGRAM, BY PUTTING A CAP ON IT SO MORE FARMERS COULD PARTICIPATE IN IT, AND THAT WAS TAKEN OFF IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. WE CAN'T GET BEYOND THE BIG SOUTHERN FARMERS CONTROLLING AGRICULTURE. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WE CAN'T GET ANY OF THE POPULOUS FARM LEGISLATION WE NEED TO PRESERVE THE FAMILY FARMER IN AMERICA. WE CAN IN THE SENATE, BUT NOT IN THE HOUSE.

Yepsen: A QUESTION ON TRADE, SENATOR. LAST WEEK YOU INTRODUCED LEGISLATION. YOU CALL IT THE TEQUILA TARIFF, THAT IN RESPONSE TO MEXICO REFUSING HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP OR PUTTING A HIGH TARIFF ON HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP FROM THE MIDWEST, YOU WANT TO IMPOSE A TARIFF ON MEXICAN GOODS. ARE WE STARTING A TRADE WAR HERE WITH MEXICO?

Grassley: IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT I DO VERY MUCH AS A LAST RESORT. I'M VERY MUCH A FREE TRADER BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN FREE AND FAIR TRADE. BUT I'VE BEEN WARNING THE MEXICAN CONGRESS FOR WELL OVER A YEAR THAT THEY NEED TO GET RID OF THEIR TAX ON HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, AND THEY HAVEN'T MOVED. AND I PUT THIS IN BECAUSE I'M TIRED OF TRYING TO REASON WITH THEM. I MEET WITH MEXICAN SENATORS. I MEET WITH MEXICAN MEMBERS OF THE CABINET, YOU KNOW, ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE. AND YOU DON'T SEEM TO -- WE CAN'T MAKE OUR POINT, AND THEY'RE VIOLATING NAFTA. AND I THINK THAT -- AND I TRIED TO WRITE A BILL THAT WILL MEET WTO. I THINK IT'S QUESTIONABLE BUT WE TRIED OUR BEST TO WRITE WTO COMPLIANT LEGISLATION, AND I INTEND TO PUSH FORWARD WITH IT BECAUSE WE CAN'T HAVE THEM STICKING THEIR FINGER IN OUR EYE ALL THE TIME ON THIS ISSUE.

Glover: SENATOR, THERE HAVE BEEN SOME REPORTS IN RECENT DAYS THAT THE ECONOMY SEEMS TO BE PICKING UP A LITTLE BIT. SOME PEOPLE ARE CREDITING THE TAX CUT THAT WENT THROUGH CONGRESS WITH THAT INCREASE IN THE ECONOMY. IS IT TIME TO MAKE THE TAX CUTS PERMANENT, AND WILL THE RECENT REPORTS MAKE IT EASIER TO HAVE THAT HAPPEN?

Grassley: I THINK ANYTIME THAT YOU CAN MAKE TAX CUTS PERMANENT, IT'S GOING TO BE GOOD FOR THE INDIVIDUAL, A TAXPAYER, IT'S GOING TO BE GOOD FOR THE INVESTOR BECAUSE THEY SEE LONG TERM, AND YOU'RE GOING TO GET BETTER RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMY. BUT I DON'T THINK WE'LL HAVE THE VOTES TO DO THAT UNTIL LATER DOWN THE ROAD. IF WE CAN HAVE THIS RECOVERY GO AHEAD AS IT'S BEEN GOING NOW FOR ANOTHER YEAR, I THINK WE CAN DO THAT AND WE NEED TO DO THAT.

Yepsen: IRAQ, IS $87 BILLION GOING TO BE ENOUGH?

Grassley: NO, I DON'T THINK SO. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, I DO THINK THAT WE'RE STARTING TO PUT IN PLACE THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO CUT DOWN ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE UNITED STATES, MORE U.N. INVOLVEMENT. WE'VE MADE A MOVE TWO MONTHS AGO IN THAT DIRECTION. WE'RE BACK AT THE U.N. NOW TO GET MORE U.N. INVOLVEMENT. THE MORE INTERNATIONALIZATION, IF WE GET THIS, THE LESS THERE WILL BE ON THE TAXPAYERS OF OUR COUNTRY. AND THEN IN ADDITION, AS TIME GOES ON, MORE OIL IS GOING TO FLOW FROM IRAQ AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE MORE RESOURCES OF THEIR OWN.

Glover: SENATOR, I'D LIKE TO HAVE YOU ADDRESS SORT OF A BROADER QUESTION. YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE?

Grassley: LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY: ORGANIZATIONS THAT RATE ME, RATE ME AS A FISCAL CONSERVATIVE.

Glover: THIS CONGRESS AND THIS PRESIDENT JUST PUSHED THROUGH A $400-BILLION REVISION IN THE MEDICARE PROGRAM. WE'RE SPENDING $87 BILLION ON IRAQ. ALL OF IT'S BORROWED MONEY. THE DEFICITS ARE UP NEAR A HALF TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. HOW CAN YOU CLAIM THE TITLE "FISCAL CONSERVATIVE"?

Grassley: BECAUSE 50 PERCENT OF THE DEFICIT IS RELATED NUMBER THREE -- NUMBER ONE, TO THE DOWNTURN IN THE ECONOMY THAT WE HAD, THE RECESSION THAT STARTED ABOUT THE LAST DAYS OF THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION AND WENT THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2001. THEN WE HAD THE TERRORIST ATTACK ON THE UNITED STATES. WE HAD THE INCREASED MONEY WE HAD TO SPEND BECAUSE OF THE WAR ON AFGHANISTAN AND THEN LATER IRAQ AND, ALSO, NOW THE HOMELAND SECURITY PROBLEMS. SO HALF OF IT IS RELATED TO THE WAR. HALF OF IT IS RELATED TO TAX CUTS WE'VE HAD. THE OTHER HALF IS RELATED TO THE WAR THAT WE HAD. BUT WE NEEDED THE TAX CUTS TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY AFTER THE RECESSION OF 2001.

Glover: THEN WHEN WILL WE BE BACK TO HAVING A BALANCED BUDGET?

Grassley: 2009.

Glover: AND YOU'RE CONFIDENT OF THAT?

Grassley: YES.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S TIED UP THE U.S. SENATE HAS BEEN FIGHTS OVER JUDGES AND FILIBUSTERS. YOU'RE ON THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE. HOW IS THAT GOING TO GET RESOLVED? ARE WE EVER GOING TO GET TO A POINT IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE THE UNITED STATES SENATE DOES NOT HAVE THESE QUARRELS? WE HAD IT WITH OTHER PRESIDENTS IN PREVIOUS CONGRESSES.

Grassley: WELL, IT'S WRONG. WE'VE NEVER HAD THESE QUARRELS. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN 214 YEARS, THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY, THAT WE'VE HAD A FILIBUSTER KILL JUDGES FOR THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS. WE'VE NEVER EVEN HAD ONE FOR THE SUPREME COURT. NOW, SOME PEOPLE WOULD ARGUE WITH ABE FORTAS, BUT HE DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH VOTES TO GET THROUGH THE CONGRESS ANYWAY, EVEN IF THERE WAS A FILIBUSTER. IF THERE HAD BEEN AN UP OR DOWN VOTE ON HIM, HE WOULD HAVE LOST 48 TO 52.

Glover: SENATOR, IT WOULDN'T BE AN OFFICIAL "IOWA PRESS" PROGRAM IF WE DIDN'T GET AWAY FROM ISSUES AND TALK JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POLITICS.

Grassley: OH, NO KIDDIN'.

Glover: YES, THAT'S RIGHT. LET'S LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ELECTION. PRESIDENT BUSH LOST THIS STATE BY ABOUT 4,000 VOTES IN 2000. HE'S CLEARLY DEVOTED A LOT OF ATTENTION HERE. CAN HE CARRY THE STATE IN 2004?

Grassley: IF HE SPENDS AS MUCH POLITICAL TIME CONCERNED ABOUT IOWA IN THE ELECTION YEAR AS HE DID IN THE YEARS 2001 AND 2002, THE ANSWER IS YES, ASSUMING TWO THINGS: THAT THINGS CONTINUE TO IMPROVE AS THEY ARE IN IRAQ; AND NUMBER TWO, THE ECONOMY CONTINUES. AND THEY BOTH LOOK LIKE THEY WILL TURN AROUND.

Glover: IS THERE ANYTHING HE HAS TO AVOID?

Grassley: I THINK THAT HE NEEDS TO AVOID PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST HIS OPPONENT. HE DOES PRETTY WELL AT THAT, SOMETIMES TO THE CHAGRIN OF MEMBERS -- REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF THE SENATE THAT THINK HE COULD GET MORE DONE IF HE WOULD ATTACK PEOPLE LIKE DASCHLE A LITTLE MORE.

Yepsen: WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING SENATOR, TO HELP CARRY THE STATE FOR BUSH? YOU'RE UP FOR REELECTION. YOU'VE GOT A 70-PERCENT JOB APPROVAL. THE DEMOCRATS DON'T HAVE A CANDIDATE. IT SEEMS TO ME YOU'RE THE GUY WHO IS GOING TO HAVE TO PULL BUSH ACROSS THE LINE HERE.

Grassley: WELL, I GUESS I WON'T DO DIFFERENTLY THAN I HAVE IN PREVIOUS ELECTIONS. BUT, YOU KNOW, SINCE JANUARY OF 2003, I'VE BEEN FULL CAMPAIGN MODE, TRYING TO RAISE AS MUCH MONEY AS I CAN, HOLDING MY TOWN MEETINGS IN EVERY COUNTY AS I DO EVERY YEAR, HELPING VARIOUS COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS RAISE MONEY, HELP THE STATE OF IOWA RAISE MONEY. I'M JUST GOING TO CONTINUE THAT THROUGH THE YEAR 2004. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I CAN DO ANY MORE FOR THE PRESIDENT OR FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY THAN JUST BE IN FULL CAMPAIGN MODE BETWEEN NOW AND NOVEMBER.

Yepsen: THE DEMOCRATS IN THIS STATE HAVE SIGNALED THAT THEY'RE GOING TO BE PUTTING ON A FULL-COURT PRESS TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE LEGISLATURE. SINCE YOU DON'T HAVE A DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT, WILL YOU BE TRYING TO DO SPECIAL THINGS TO HELP ELECT REPUBLICAN LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES?

Grassley: I USUALLY WORK EVERY ELECTION, WHETHER I'M UP FOR ELECTION OR NOT, IN ABOUT 30 RACES FOR THE STATE SENATE AND HOUSE, AND I WILL DO THE SAME THIS TIME.

Yepsen: AND YOU STARTED IN IOWA POLITICS IN THE IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. DO YOU THINK REPUBLICANS CAN HOLD ON TO THIS IN THE FACE OF THE DEMOCRATIC ONSLAUGHT?

Grassley: I BELIEVE IF WE DO A GOOD JOB OF RECRUITING, THE ANSWER IS YES. THERE IS CONCERN AMONG REPUBLICAN LEADERS IN IOWA ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT WE RECRUITED ENOUGH, AND THE JOB IS GOING ON. I THINK THAT THERE ARE FEW LEADERS OF THE IOWA LEGISLATURE DOING A VERY GOOD JOB. BUT I THINK THE MAJOR THING ISN'T JUST WHAT WE DO FOR THE LEGISLATURE, BUT IT ALSO APPLIES TO THE PRESIDENT. WE'VE GOT TO BE ABLE TO DUPLICATE WHAT THE PRESIDENT -- WHAT THE DEMOCRATS DO ON ABSENTEE BALLOTS. IF WE CAN DO THAT, WE WILL CARRY THE STATE FOR THE PRESIDENT AND THE STATE LEGISLATURE.

Borg: SENATOR, THANKS FOR BEING OUR GUEST TODAY. IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK IN IOWA AGAIN.

Grassley: ALWAYS GLAD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: AND WE'LL BE HEARING MORE ON THESE ISSUES AND OTHERS AS THE SECOND SESSION OF CONGRESS CONVENES IN JANUARY. THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH NEXT WEEK, SAME TIME: 7:30 FRIDAY, SUNDAY AT NOON. TRAVEL SAFELY ON THIS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND. WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION... GENERATIONS OF FAMILIES AND FRIENDS WHO FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT THE PROGRAMS THEY WATCH ON IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.