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Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley

(#3139)
May 21, 2004

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IOWA PRESS #3139>>

Borg: IN WASHINGTON, SENATE LEADERS SCRAMBLE FOR VOTES TO APPROVE A FEDERAL BUDGET RESOLUTION WITH TAX CUTS AND BILLIONS MORE TO PAY FOR THE WAR ON IRAQ. WE'LL QUESTION SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR CHARLES GRASSLEY 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, MAY 21 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: THERE WAS A HIGH STAKE'S HEAD COUNT IN THE U.S. SENATE LATE THIS WEEK, AND THE REPUBLICAN MAJORITY CAME UP SHORT OF THE VOTES NECESSARY TO PASS A $2.4-TRILLION BUDGET PLAN. SENATE MAJORITY REPUBLICANS LEADERS CONCEDED THEY COULDN'T FIND ENOUGH DEMOCRATS TO MAKE UP FOR A MUTINY OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS WHO WON'T VOTE FOR EXTENDING THE TAX CUTS THAT ARE IN THAT LEGISLATION UNLESS THERE ARE ALSO SPENDING CUTS OR TAX INCREASES ELSEWHERE. THE FEDERAL BUDGET VOTE MAY BE POSTPONED NOW UNTIL AT LEAST NEXT MONTH. AFTER THE SENATE VOTE WAS POSTPONED ON THURSDAY, SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY FLEW BACK TO IOWA TO CAMPAIGN FOR REELECTION AND TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS HERE AT THE IOWA PRESS TABLE. SENATOR GRASSLEY, NO DOUBT A STRESSFUL WEEK IN WASHINGTON FOR YOU.

Grassley: I'M GLAD TO BE WITH YOU.

Borg: MAYBE IT'S LIKE ALL WEEKS IN WASHINGTON.

Grassley: MORE OR LESS. IT'S PRETTY NONPREDICTABLE.

Borg: ALSO WITH US HERE AT THE IOWA PRESS TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "RADIO IOWA" NEWS DIRECTOR KAY HENDERSON.

Henderson: SENATOR, LET'S BEGIN WITH IRAQ. THIS PRISON ABUSE SCANDAL, SOME OF YOUR REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES HAVE SAID THAT IT'S TAKING AWAY TOO MUCH ATTENTION FROM THE REAL FOCUS ON THE WAR IN IRAQ. DO YOU AGREE THAT THERE'S TOO MUCH HARANGUING ON THE PART OF YOUR SENATE COLLEAGUES ON THIS ISSUE?

Grassley: I DO AGREE THAT IT'S TAKING TOO MUCH TIME AWAY FOR, LET'S SAY, OUR GENERALS THAT COME BACK TO TESTIFY AND THE SECRETARY, BECAUSE THEY OUGHT TO BE RUNNING THE WAR. ON THE OTHER HAND, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT IS VERY IMPORTANT AND SOMETHING IS OBVIOUSLY WRONG THERE. THE SOONER WE GET IT OUT THE BETTER. AND WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO, AS PAINFUL AS IT IS, PAY THE ATTENTION THAT IS NECESSARY TO GIVE IT TO MAKE SURE THAT PROPER PUNISHMENT IS PUT IN PLACE, PROPER THINGS THAT ARE -- REGULATIONS ARE CHANGED TO MAKE SURE THAT THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE.

Henderson: YOU MENTIONED THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, DONALD RUMSFELD. IS HE HANDLING THIS APPROPRIATELY, OR DO YOU THINK HE SHOULD RESIGN?

Grassley: I DON'T THINK HE SHOULD RESIGN. AND LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY, I WAS ASKED THAT MAYBE THE FIRST TIME THIS WAS EXPOSED, AND I SAID I'M GOING TO RESERVE JUDGMENT. BUT I HAVE FOLLOWED HIS ANSWERS A LOT IN THE NEWS CONFERENCES AND THE APPEARANCES BEFORE CONGRESS, AND I BELIEVE THAT HE'S VERY OPEN ABOUT IT AND THAT NONE OF IT CAN BE PUSHED DIRECTLY TO HIM, THAT UNDERLINGS WERE NOT FOLLOWING THE PROPER REGULATIONS, THE PROPER GENEVA CONVENTIONS, AND ALL THAT, AND I THINK THAT WE NEED HIM THERE. I THINK HE'S DOING A VERY GOOD JOB. AND ANOTHER THING I THINK WE SHOULD NOT LET THIS WHOLE THING DETRACT US FROM IS THE FACT THAT WE'VE GOT A FEW PEOPLE THAT VIOLATED GENEVA CONVENTIONS, BUT WE'VE GOT 130,000 TROOPS THERE NOW, 200,000 OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST YEAR THAT HAVE BEEN DOING WHAT THEY'RE DOING AND DOING AMERICA PROUD.

Henderson: IN REGARDS TO THE PHOTOS THEMSELVES AND THE VIDEO ITSELF, HAVE YOU SEEN THOSE IMAGES PERSONALLY IN THOSE PRIVATE BEHIND-CLOSED-DOOR SESSIONS THAT HAVE BEEN HELD FOR SENATORS, (A)? AND (B) YOU'VE BEEN AN ADVOCATE OF OPENNESS IN GOVERNMENT; DO YOU AGREE WITH SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL FROM NEBRASKA THAT THAT STUFF SHOULD BE OPEN IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, LET AMERICANS LOOK AT IT ALL AT ONCE AND GET IT OVER WITH?

Grassley: YOU KNOW, A LOT OF THAT IS CONSENSUAL SEX BETWEEN TWO MILITARY PEOPLE FILMING THEIR OWN SEXUAL ACTS. I DON'T THINK THAT SHOULD BE PUT OUT TO THE PUBLIC. I DON'T THINK THAT'S GOT ANYTHING TO DO, OTHER THAN THE VIOLATION OF RULES OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF PEOPLE IN THE MILITARY. WHAT'S BEEN DONE THAT'S VIOLATED THE GENEVA CONVENTION, I THINK THAT WE KNOW EVERYTHING THAT'S BEEN VIOLATED. I DID NOT GO SEE THOSE. I SEE ENOUGH PORNOGRAPHY COMING FROM HOLLYWOOD. I DON'T NEED TO SEE ANY MORE, AND I DON'T THINK OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO BE DISTRIBUTING PORNOGRAPHY.

Yepsen: SENATOR, LET'S TAKE A BIGGER PICTURE VIEW OF THIS. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE IN IRAQ? SEVERAL QUESTIONS COME OUT OF THAT: DO WE HAVE ENOUGH TROOPS THERE; HOW LONG ARE WE GOING TO BE THERE; WHEN DO WE GET OUT; CAN THE JUNE 30 DATE BE MET? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THOSE ISSUES?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK, FIRST OF ALL, YOU MAY HAVE TO ASK THOSE QUESTIONS AGAIN, BUT FOR THE BROAD PICTURE, I THINK, NUMBER ONE, YES, JUNE 30 NOT ONLY CAN BE MET BUT MUST BE MET. I THINK THAT OUR HOPE OF QUELLING INSURGENCY THERE IS FOR IRAQIS TO BE FIGHTING THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT AND THEIR OWN PEOPLE RATHER THAN THE AMERICAN TROOPS, AND I THINK TURNING OVER ON JUNE 30 IS NECESSARY. OUR GOAL IS SIMPLY VICTORY. OUR SHORT-TERM GOAL IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM IS TO KILL TERRORISTS BEFORE THEY KILL AMERICANS. OUR LONG-TERM GOAL IS TO PERPETUATE AND EXPAND FREEDOM AROUND THE WORLD. AND WHAT WE HAVE NOW JUST WITH THE TEMPORARY LAW THAT'S BEEN PUT IN PLACE BY THE INTERIM GOVERNMENT, THERE IS MORE LIBERTY -- WELL, LET'S PUT IT THIS WAY, IT'S THE MOST LIBERAL DOCUMENT IN THE MUSLIM WORLD: FREEDOM OF RELIGION; FREEDOM OF PRESS; FREEDOM OF ALMOST EVERYTHING THAT WE ENJOY IN AMERICA. AND WE HAVE COME A GREAT WAY IN PERPETUATING AND EXTENDING FREEDOM, I THINK. WE HAVE -- THERE ARE 50 MILLION PEOPLE LIVING IN FREEDOM THAT TWO YEARS AGO WERE NOT.

Yepsen: DO WE HAVE ENOUGH TROOPS IN IRAQ?

Grassley: I DON'T KNOW FOR SURE BUT I KNOW THIS -- LET ME SAY WHAT IS THE JUDGE OF THAT. THE PEOPLE THAT ARE ON THE SCENE ARE THE JUDGE OF THAT, THE COMMANDERS IN THE FIELD. AND I'VE BEEN SATISFIED THAT WHEN THE COMMANDERS SAY THEY NEED MORE TROOPS, THEY'RE GOING TO GET THEM. AND WE HAVE MADE A COMMITMENT BECAUSE WE HAVE TOO LONG OF A COMMITMENT FOR OUR IOWAN AND OTHER NATIONAL GUARDS PEOPLE THAT ARE OVER THERE, THAT WE'RE GOING TO PUT 30 MORE PEOPLE THROUGH ENLISTMENT IN THE FULL-TIME ARMY SO THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO RELY SO MUCH UPON THE PART-TIME MILITARY, THE NATIONAL GUARD.

Yepsen: THIRTY THOUSAND MORE REGULAR ARMY TROOPS?

Grassley: YES, YES.

Yepsen: LAST QUESTION ON IRAQ: WHEN DO OUR PEOPLE GET OUT OF THERE? HOW MUCH LONGER DO AMERICAN SOLDIERS HAVE TO BE THERE?

Grassley: WELL, FOR INSTANCE, IF WE SAID THAT IT WAS GOING TO BE JUNE 30, 2005, YOU WOULD ENCOURAGE INSURGENCY TO GO ON BECAUSE THE BAATHIST PARTY -- THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP UNDER SADDAM HUSSEIN IS LOSING EVERYTHING. AND YOU CAN'T GIVE A DIRECT SIGNAL TO THEM WHEN WE'RE GOING TO GO BUT, OBVIOUSLY, WE ARE GOING TO RAMP DOWN AS THE IRAQI MILITARY RAMPS UP.

Borg: I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG IT'S BEEN SINCE YOU'VE BEEN BACK IN IOWA, BUT IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED, THERE ARE BIG SIGNS NOW BY GAS STATIONS WITH THE GAS PRICE INCHING OVER $2 A GALLON. LET ME BE THE FIRST TO TELL YOU IF YOU HADN'T NOTICED. WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT THAT, IF ANYTHING, AND WHAT CAN BE DONE? AND ONE OF THE MAIN QUESTIONS IS: THERE ARE THOSE WHO ARE CLAMORING FOR TAPPING INTO THE STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE THAT THIS NATION MAINTAINS.

Grassley: JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT OUT OF TOUCH, LAST SATURDAY IN NEW HARTFORD, IOWA, I GASSED UP FOR $1.98. THAT $1.98 I GASSED UP, CONSIDERING INFLATION, IS STILL A LOT LESS THAN THE $1.42 I GASSED UP IN VIRGINIA IN 1979 WHEN WE HAD LONG GAS LINES. STILL, GASOLINE IS TOO HIGH AND IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THAT HIGH, AND THE ANSWER IS THE NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY THAT'S BEING FILIBUSTERED BY THE DEMOCRATS IN THE SENATE. AND WE HAVE 58 VOTES TO PASS IT, BUT WE NEED 2 MORE.

Borg: THAT'S THE LONG -- I WAS GOING TO GET TO THAT. THAT'S A LONG-RANGE SOLUTION, THE ENERGY BILL THAT IS, AS YOU SAY, LANGUISHING IN CONGRESS. BUT FOR A TEMPORARY SOLUTION, WOULD THE TAPPING INTO THE STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE BE A VIABLE OPTION?

Grassley: NO, BASED UPON THE PRACTICE OF THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION DOING THAT IN OCTOBER OF 2000. IT REDUCED THE PRICE OF GAS ONE CENT. THE REASON WE HAVE THE STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE IS TO PROTECT US IN THE CASE OF A NATIONAL EMERGENCY. WHY WOULD WE WANT TO DRAIN THE STRATEGIC PETROLEUM RESERVE AND, ONCE IT'S DRAINED, THEN EVERY TERRORIST IN THE WORLD KNOWS THAT THEY CAN GO AFTER OUR REFINERIES AND OUR STORAGE TANKS BECAUSE WE HAVE NOTHING TO PROTECT US? IT'S THERE TO PROTECT US IN THE CASE OF A NATIONAL EMERGENCY, AND IT SHOULD ONLY BE USED IN CASE OF A NATIONAL EMERGENCY.

Borg: IN THE ENERGY BILL, THEN, AS A LONG-RANGE SOLUTION, IF IT'S PASSED, WHAT IS NECESSARY TO BREAK THE LOGJAM?

Grassley: OKAY, WELL, FOR HALF THE ENERGY BILL THAT THE DEMOCRATS WERE FILIBUSTERING LAST NOVEMBER -- AND WE DIDN'T GET IT PASSED WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN IT PASSED. AND IF WE HAD GOTTEN IT PASSED, WE WOULDN'T HAVE AS BIG OF A PROBLEM AS WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. BUT I GOT HALF OF THAT THROUGH. THE HALF THAT CAME OUT OF MY SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE: TAX CREDITS FOR INCENTIVES FOR FOSSIL FUELS; TAX CREDITS FOR RENEWABLE FUELS; AND TAX CREDITS FOR CONSERVATION. LET ME MENTION A COUPLE OF EACH OF THE LAST TWO. CONSERVATION: FUEL CELL CARS. IN THE CASE OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY: WIND ENERGY, BIODIESEL, ETHANOL, BIOMASS, AS AN EXAMPLE. WE'VE GOT TO DO THINGS FOR THE SHORT TERM, AND THAT IS BASICALLY FOSSIL FUEL. BUT LONG TERM IS ETHANOL, BIODIESEL, WIND ENERGY, AND CONSERVATION.

Yepsen: WELL, SENATOR, THE CRITICS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY -- ONE OF THE OBJECTIONS THEY HAVE IS THE LIMITS IN THAT ENERGY BILL TO LAWSUITS AGAINST OIL COMPANIES WHO HAVE USED MTBEs AND THOSE ARE BELIEVED TO CAUSE CANCER. HOW CAN YOU BE CRITICAL OF DEMOCRATS FOR WANTING TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO RECOVER DAMAGES?

Grassley: I WOULD VOTE FOR THE ENERGY BILL WITH OUR WITHOUT THE LAWSUITS ON MTBE, BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT WE SEE WHAT BEING HELD HOSTAGE TO OPEC HAS BEEN DONE TO US. WE'VE HAD A 30-PERCENT INCREASE IN THE PRICE OF GASOLINE BECAUSE WE'VE HAD A 30-PERCENT INCREASE IN THE PRICE OF CRUDE OIL. AND WHEN YOU IMPORT 60 PERCENT OF YOUR CRUDE OIL, YOU KNOW THAT YOU'RE BEHOLDEN TO OPEC AND TO FOREIGN SOURCES, AND WE SHOULDN'T BE. SO IT SEEMS TO ME THE NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE NATIONAL ECONOMY OUGHT TO OVERRIDE THE INTERESTS OF A FEW PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS THAT THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS IS DANCING THE TUNE OF.

Henderson: SENATOR, SECRETARY ANN VENEMAN IS IN THE HOT SEAT RIGHT NOW -- SHE'S THE AG SECRETARY -- BECAUSE BEEF FROM CANADA WAS ALLOWED INTO THE COUNTRY AT A TIME WHEN SHE SAID IT WOULD NOT BE. DO YOU THINK SHE SHOULD BE SANCTIONED, SHE SHOULD LOSE YOUR JOB? HOW DO YOU THINK THE PRESIDENT SHOULD HANDLE THIS SITUATION?

Grassley: WELL, IF SHE GAVE APPROVAL OF IT, IT'S A VERY, VERY BAD THING FOR HER. IF SOMEBODY LOWER DOWN GAVE APPROVAL OF IT, THAT PERSON SHOULD BE FIRED. I DON'T KNOW HOW HIGH UP THE CHAIN IT GOES, BUT IT'S ABSOLUTELY WRONG NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF AGRICULTURE AND THE PRICES THAT FARMERS ARE SEEING, BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT NOT IMPORTING BEEF ISN'T TO PROTECT THE BEEF PRODUCER, IT'S TO PROTECT THE CONSUMER OF AMERICA. AND WHAT WE HAVE TO MAINTAIN AND USDA'S MAJOR JOB IS TO MAINTAIN THE CONFIDENCE OF THE CONSUMER OF AMERICA ON THE SAFETY OF OUR FOOD. SO THE USDA CANNOT LET DOWN ON THAT. IT'S A COMPLETE SURPRISE TO ME THAT THIS HAS GONE ON. WE'VE GOT TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT, BUT IT JUST WAS EXPOSED YESTERDAY. I'M WRITING TO THE SECRETARY TO GET AS MUCH INFORMATION AS I CAN.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL ISSUES IN AMERICA TODAY IS THE ISSUE OF GAY MARRIAGES.

Grassley: SURE.

Yepsen: PRESIDENT BUSH HAS CALLED FOR A FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO BAN GAY MARRIAGES. WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THAT?

Grassley: OKAY, I THINK THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOW AND WHEN YOU ASKED THAT QUESTION THE LAST TIME I WAS ON THIS PROGRAM WAS THAT THE PRESIDENT HAS COME OUT FOR A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. MY POSITION HAS NOT CHANGED. MY POSITION IS THE SAME AS IT WAS TEN, TWELVE YEARS AGO, BEING IN SUPPORT OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE BUT LETTING STATES MAKE THEIR DECISIONS OF HOW TO DO IT. AND I VOTED FOR THE -- OH, MY GOSH.

Yepsen: THE DEFENSIVE MARRIAGE ACT.

Grassley: THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. DEFENSIVE MARRIAGE ACT, WHICH MEANS THAT WHEN MASSACHUSETTS NOW IS RECOGNIZING GAY MARRIAGES BECAUSE THEIR COURT DECIDED THAT THEY COULD, THEN IOWA DOES NOT HAVE TO RECOGNIZE IT. I BELIEVE THAT THE DEFENSIVE MARRIAGE ACT IS CONSTITUTIONAL. AND AS LONG AS IT'S CONSTITUTIONAL, WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO ACT. NOW, IF THERE IS, THOUGH, AN EFFORT TO ACT ON ONE OF THREE OR FOUR DIFFERENT APPROACHES AND WHICH ONE IT IS -- I WOULD HATE TO SAY WHICH ONE I WOULD VOTE FOR BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW WHAT ONE IS GOING TO BE OUT THERE. BUT IF I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO VOTE FOR ESTABLISHING THE PRINCIPLE THAT MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN, I'M GOING TO HAVE TO VOTE FOR THAT BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I BELIEVE HAS BEEN THE FOUNDATION OF OUR JUDEO CHRISTIAN SOCIETY FOR SIX THOUSAND YEARS, AND I DON'T WANT TO BE SEEN AS DOING ANYTHING THAT ENCOURAGES THE LOOKING BADLY AT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.

Henderson: THIS PAST WEEK MIDWEST EXPRESS, WHICH IS AN AIR CARRIER THAT HAD A ROUTE FROM DES MOINES TO THE NATION'S CAPITAL, A DIRECT ROUTE, ANNOUNCED THAT IT WAS CANCELING THAT ROUTE. IS THIS A PRECURSOR OF PROBLEMS IN THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY? AS CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE, YOU SORT OF HAVE YOUR FINGER ON THE PULSE OF THE NATION'S ECONOMY. DO YOU EXPECT MORE PULLBACKS FROM AIRLINES? IS THIS A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME?

Grassley: WELL, OBVIOUSLY THINGS AREN'T GOOD IN THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY, BUT EXCEPT FOR THE COST OF FUEL, THEY'RE GOING TO BE A LOT BETTER THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR BECAUSE OF THE 12-PERCENT INCREASE MORE IN PASSENGERS GOING. BUT IN THE CASE OF MIDWEST, THEY WERE LOSING ONE MILLION DOLLARS ON THAT DIRECT FLIGHT TO WASHINGTON, D.C. I THINK IT WAS BECAUSE THEY USED THE BIGGER PLANES AND EVERYBODY WAS FLYING, IN A SENSE, KIND OF FIRST CLASS. I THINK THE HOPE IS THAT WE CAN GET A SUCCESSOR IN, THAT WE USE A REGIONAL JET OF ABOUT 55 SEATS AND HAVE THE DIRECT FLIGHTS AND WIN IT BACK. AND WE'RE TAKING STEPS TO GET OTHER AIRLINES INTERESTED. AND I THINK FROM THE STANDPOINT OF MY POSITION ON THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE AND WHAT I'VE DONE ON PENSIONS TO HELP AIRLINES ALONG FOR THE NEXT COUPLE YEARS SO THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY A LOT OF PENSIONS, THEY OWE IOWA A HECK OF A LOT TO GET SOME DIRECT FLIGHTS IN HERE.

Yepsen: SENATOR, AS ALWAYS WHEN YOU ARE OUR GUEST, WE HAVE WAY TOO MANY QUESTIONS AND NOT ENOUGH TIME. ANOTHER ISSUE ON THE MINDS OF A LOT OF IOWANS IS THE CLOSURE OF THE VETERANS HOSPITAL IN KNOXVILLE. WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THAT AND WILL IT BE CLOSED, OR IS THERE SOME ALTERNATIVE?

Grassley: IT'S NOT GOING TO BE CLOSED UNTIL THERE IS ADEQUATE CAPACITY TO TAKE CARE OF THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE HERE IN DES MOINES, BUT IT IS GOING TO BE CLOSED. WE HAVE WORKED OVER THE LAST THREE OR FOUR YEARS IN A VERY BIPARTISAN WAY IN IOWA TO KEEP IT OPEN. AND OBVIOUSLY, WE HAVE FAILED AS SENATORS IN OTHER STATES -- FOUR OR FIVE OTHER STATES. I THINK EVEN IF FOUR OR FIVE STATES BANDED TOGETHER ON AN APPROPRIATION BILL ON THE SENATE FLOOR TO OVERTURN THAT, IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO GET IT OVERTURNED CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT THERE TENDS TO BE MIGRATIONS OF VETERANS AROUND THE COUNTRY AND NEEDS GREATER IN THE SUNBELT AND IN THE FROSTBELT AND THAT SORT OF THING. THERE WILL BE -- WE'RE GOING TO HAVE INCREASED PRESENCE, THOUGH, IN IOWA FOR CLINICS FOR VETERANS SO THAT THEY DON'T HAVE TO GO TO IOWA CITY AND DES MOINES ALWAYS TO GET SOME CLINICAL SERVICE.

Yepsen: AT THE END OF THE DAY, WILL THE SERVICE TO VETERANS BE BETTER OR WORSE IN IOWA BECAUSE THIS HOSPITAL CLOSED?

Grassley: AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED, BETTER. BUT MY EXPERIENCE COMES FROM HAVING A BROTHER WHO WAS TREATED AT KNOXVILLE, GOT VERY GOOD TREATMENT. AND IT'S A LONG WAYS TO GO TO KNOXVILLE. IT'S GOING TO BE LONGER TO GO FOR OTHER PEOPLE. YOU KNOW, IT'S JUST -- IT'S NOT GOOD TO HAVE TO TRAVEL TO SEE LOVED ONES IN A HOSPITAL SUCH A LONG DISTANCE.

Henderson: YOU ARE ONE OF THE ARCHITECTS OF THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION BENEFIT THAT WILL BE ADDED TO MEDICARE FOR SENIORS. IOWA SENIORS, THIS PAST MONTH, HAVE BEEN WADING THROUGH ALL OF THESE VARIOUS PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISCOUNT CARDS THAT ARE NOW AVAILABLE TO THEM. THEY'RE CONFUSED. THEY DON'T KNOW WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE. IS THIS REALLY WORKING OUT THE WAY YOU ENVISIONED?

Grassley: YES. IT'S THIS SIMPLE: PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET CAN USE THE INTERNET; IF THEY DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, CALL 1-800-MEDICARE, A TOLL-FREE NUMBER. GIVE THEM YOUR NAME, YOUR ZIP CODE, WHAT DRUGS YOU'RE TAKING, AND THE PEOPLE AT THE OTHER END OF THE LINE WILL TELL YOU EXACTLY WHICH CARD YOU OUGHT TO PURCHASE. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, IT'S A GOOD THING FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE LOW INCOME. PROBABLY 25 PERCENT OF OUR SENIORS ARE GOING TO GET A $600 SUBSIDY. AND WHEN THAT SUBSIDY RUNS OUT, WE HAVE ABOUT SEVEN OR EIGHT COMPANIES THAT ARE GOING TO CONTINUE THE SUBSIDY ON THEIR OWN. AND THEN REMEMBER THAT THIS IS JUST A TEMPORARY PROGRAM, THAT STARTING NOVEMBER 15 NEXT YEAR, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A PERMANENT INSURANCE PROGRAM FOR PEOPLE.

Henderson: YOU ARE AT ODDS WITH THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IN THAT YOU SUPPORT THE IMPORTATION OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FROM CANADA. IS THERE ANY RESOLUTION TO THIS THAT YOU SEE AHEAD?

Grassley: WELL, THERE WOULD BE A RESOLUTION IF WE GET THE PRESIDENT COMING OUT FOR IT. I VISITED WITH THE PRESIDENT ON THE FLIGHT TO DUBUQUE TWO WEEKS AGO IN WHICH I -- WE TALKED ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS, BUT THE LAST THING I WANTED TO GET IN, I SAID, YOU KNOW, YOU'VE GOT ABOUT TWO MONTHS TO GET AHEAD OF THE CURVE ON THE IMPORTATION OF DRUGS. AND THE ANSWER I GOT IS, "I KNOW IT." I DIDN'T GET AN ANSWER WHETHER OR NOT HE WAS GOING TO COME OUT IN FAVOR OF IT OR NOT, BUT I INTEND TO PUSH ANYWAY. AND WE'LL GET -- THE ISSUE WILL BE ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE BEFORE WE GO HOME FOR THE ELECTION.

Yepsen: SENATOR, IS THERE SOME WAY YOU CAN GUARANTEE THE QUALITY OF DRUGS BEING IMPORTED INTO THE COUNTRY? I MEAN THE CHINESE ARE NOTORIOUS FOR FAKING AMERICAN GOODS AND VIOLATING COPYRIGHTS, AND NOW THERE'S SOME QUESTION ABOUT THE SAFETY OF THESE DRUGS AND THESE KNOCKOFF DRUGS. AS SOMEONE WHO SUPPORTS ALLOWING CANADIAN DRUGS TO BE IMPORTED, WHAT GUARANTEES CAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PUT IN PLACE THAT THOSE DRUGS ARE IN FACT GOOD?

Grassley: WELL, BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT THERE'S TWO THINGS THAT THE FDA HAS GOT TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT FOR DRUGS MADE HERE: NUMBER ONE, THEY'VE GOT TO BE EFFECTIVE; AND NUMBER TWO, THEY'VE GOT TO BE SAFE. SO IMPORTATION OF DRUGS, OUR CONSUMERS OUGHT TO HAVE THE SAME PROTECTION. SO IN MY LEGISLATION, ALTHOUGH I DON'T KNOW WHAT LEGISLATION WILL COME OUT OF THE COMMITTEE BECAUSE MY COMMITTEE DOESN'T DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THIS ISSUE, BUT MY LEGISLATION CALLS FOR FDA CERTIFICATION OF MANUFACTURE AND THE SAFETY OF DRUGS AND THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DRUGS MANUFACTURED IN OTHER COUNTRIES THE SAME AS THEY DO IN THE UNITED STATES. WE DO THE SAME THING FOR MEAT COMING INTO THE UNITED STATES. OUR USDA GOES OVER TO COUNTRY "X" AND LOOKS AT WHERE THEY SLAUGHTER THEIR MEAT AND CERTIFIES THAT IT'S GOING TO BE SAFE FOR OUR CONSUMERS.

Yepsen: SENATOR, ANOTHER SUBJECT OF CONCERN TO A LOT OF IOWANS IS THE CONSERVATION SECURITY PROGRAM. BOTH YOU AND SENATOR HARKIN HAVE OBJECTED TO THE WAY THE USDA IS ADMINISTERING THAT PROGRAM. WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE RESOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM?

Grassley: WHEN WE HAVE THE APPROPRIATION BILLS UP THIS SUMMER, THERE WILL BE COMPLETE RESTORATION OF THAT PROGRAM.

Yepsen: AND YOUR GOAL IS TO DO WHAT?

Grassley: THE GOAL IS TO HAVE THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ADMINISTER THE LAW JUST EXACTLY THE WAY CONGRESS PASSED IT, AND JUST EXACTLY THE WAY CONGRESS PASSED IT WAS THAT ANY FARMER WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM.

Henderson: AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PROGRAM, DEAN MENTIONED THE BROUHAHA OVER THE FEDERAL BUDGET. YOU'VE SHEPHERDED THROUGH TAX CUTS. SOME FOLKS HAVE BEEN CONCERNED THAT THOSE TAX CUTS HAVE EATEN INTO THE FEDERAL BUDGET AND TO THE POINT WHERE THE RED INK IS JUST MOUNTING UP. CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS ARE ALSO EXPRESSING CONCERN ABOUT THE GROWING DEFICIT. AS A PERSON WHO IS CRAFTING TAX POLICY, HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THOSE CONCERNS FROM THE CONSERVATIVES IN YOUR PARTY?

Grassley: IT'S GOING TO BE VERY DIFFICULT TO DO IT WITHOUT A BUDGET. A BUDGET IS A FORERUNNER OF GETTING GOOD TAX POLICY. AND PROBABLY THE BEST THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS YEAR IS WAY SHORT OF WHERE THE PRESIDENT WANTS TO BE AND WAY SHORT OF WHERE I WANT TO BE, BECAUSE I'D LIKE TO MAKE THE PRESENT TAX CUTS PERMANENT LEGISLATION. THAT'S THE BEST TAX POLICY.

Henderson: SO THE HOUSE IS GOING TO PASS -- MAKE THEM PERMANENT, BUT YOU DON'T THINK THE SENATE WILL?

Grassley: NO, THE HOUSE WILL NOT -- I DON'T THINK THE HOUSE CAN GET IT DONE WITH OR WITHOUT A BUDGET RESOLUTION, ALTHOUGH THEY CAN DO IT EASIER THAN WE CAN WITHOUT A BUDGET RESOLUTION. I THINK ALL WE'LL GET DONE THIS YEAR IS MAKING THE MARRIAGE PENALTY RELIEF, THE THOUSAND-DOLLAR CHILD TAX CREDIT, HOLD HARMLESS ON ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX, AND THE 10-PERCENT BRACKET. I BELIEVE THAT'S ALL WE'RE GOING TO GET DONE, BUT THAT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE DO THAT BECAUSE IF WE DON'T -- AND PEOPLE BETTER UNDERSTAND THIS. IF WE DON'T GET AT LEAST THOSE MINIMUM THINGS DONE, STARTING JANUARY 1 PEOPLE WITH CHILDREN ARE GOING TO LOSE $400 CREDIT THAT THEY NOW GET IN THE $1,000, AND POOR PEOPLE -- LOW-INCOME PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE PAYING 10 PERCENT -- OR 15 PERCENT ON THEIR FIRST DOLLAR EARNED AS OPPOSED TO 10 PERCENT.

Yepsen: SPEAKING OF FEDERAL SPENDING, THE HIGHWAY BILL. IOWA HAS GOT A LOT RIDING ON THAT BILL, JUST AS IT DOES WITH THE ENERGY BILL. WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR THAT LEGISLATION? CAN YOU REACH A COMPROMISE WITH THE PRESIDENT WHO WANTS A LOWER LEVEL OF SPENDING THAN CONGRESS HAS BEEN WANTING TO DO?

Grassley: WELL, YOU KNOW, FOR THREE WEEKS WE WERE FIGHTING DEMOCRATS NOT LETTING US GO TO CONFERENCE. AND YOU DON'T GET ANYTHING DONE UNTIL YOU GET TO CONFERENCE TO IRON OUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AGO THEY DID LET US GO TO CONFERENCE. SO NOW WE GO TO CONFERENCE SO I CAN AT LEAST ANSWER YOUR QUESTION NOW. THERE'S A PROCESS IN PLACE TO GET IT DONE. I THINK WE'RE GOING TO END UP WAY MORE THAN WHAT THE PRESIDENT WANTS TO SPEND, NOT TO THE 318 THAT THE SENATE PASSED, BUT A LOT MORE THAN THE 275 THAT THE HOUSE PASSED. AND I THINK THAT WE'RE GOING TO FIND FORMULAS VERY FAVORABLE TO IOWANS.

Yepsen: SUCH AS?

Grassley: WELL, IN OTHER WORDS -- WELL, WITH THE 318 BILLION -- AT THE $318-BILLION FIGURE THE SENATE PASSED, WE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN A 43-PERCENT INCREASE IN MONEY COMING INTO IOWA.

Henderson: SENATOR, IF YOU LOOK AT THE IOWA BALLOT THIS COMING NOVEMBER, YOU'RE SORT AT THE TOP OF THE TICKET IN IOWA BECAUSE THIS SENATE RACE IS THE PREDOMINANT RACE IN IOWA. DO YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY FOR REPUBLICANS ON DOWN THE TICKET TO SHARE THE WEALTH, TO DONATE TO THEM, TO SPEARHEAD VOTER RESTORATION EFFORTS? HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR ROLE IN THIS ELECTION IN DELIVERING IOWA FOR BUSH AND FOR REPUBLICANS ON DOWN THE BALLOT?

Grassley: WELL, IN MOST EVERYTHING EXCEPT RAISING MONEY, I CAN BE A BIG HELP. AND I'D BE A BIG HELP IN RAISING MONEY EXCEPT FOR THE MCCAIN-FEINGOLD BILL NOW DOES NOT ALLOW ME AS A FEDERAL OFFICIAL TO ASK MONEY DIRECTLY FOR OUR STATE LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES AND OTHER STATE CANDIDATES. BUT I'M GOING TO BE CAMPAIGNING FULL TIME, PRIMARILY FOR THE PRESIDENT AND FIRST LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES. AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH I CAN SHARE RESOURCES THAT I HAVE THROUGH WHAT I CALL THE HAWKEYE PAC, I WILL BE CONTRIBUTING TO FEDERAL CANDIDATES. BUT I'M GOING TO BE REALLY HELPING THE PRESIDENT.

Yepsen: YOU'VE GOT MANY YEARS OF COUNTING VOTES IN IOWA AND CAMPAIGNING IN THIS STATE. WHAT KIND OF SHAPE IS PRESIDENT BUSH IN IN IOWA?

Grassley: PROBABLY TWO OR THREE POINTS BELOW WHERE HE IS ON ANY NATIONAL POLL. BUT CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT HE WAS BEAT UP FOR EIGHTEEN MONTHS BY NINE DIFFERENT DEMOCRATS, CANDIDATES COMING IN HERE IN THEIR CAUCUS, I THINK BEING WITHIN TWO OR THREE POINTS OF JOHN KERRY IS A PRETTY GOOD PLACE TO BE AT THIS POINT.

Borg: WHAT DOES HE HAVE TO DO IN ORDER TO COME BACK AND WIN IOWA?

Grassley: I THINK, MOST IMPORTANTLY, TO BE HERE. HE WAS HERE VERY OFTEN HIS FIRST TWO YEARS IN OFFICE. HE WASN'T HERE AT ALL FOR EIGHTEEN MONTHS. HE'S COMING BACK NOW. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT THAT HE'S GOING TO BE BACK SEVERAL TIMES, AND I THINK HIS PERSONAL APPEARANCES ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

Yepsen: WHAT'S GOING TO BE DIFFERENT, THOUGH, SENATOR? REPUBLICANS HAVE NOT CARRIED THIS STATE IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FOR TWENTY YEARS. LAST TIME YOU DID WAS IN 1984. WHY DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT BUSH IS GOING TO BREAK THAT CYCLE?

Grassley: WELL, I THINK YOU'VE GOT A COUPLE OF HIS APPEARANCES HERE, WITH THE FACT THAT REPUBLICANS REALIZE WE'VE BEEN OUTPERFORMED BY DEMOCRATS ON THE STREET WITH THE GRUNT WORK THAT GOES INTO POLITICS. AND I THINK I SENSE A COMMITMENT ON THE PART OF REPUBLICAN WORKERS TO GET MORE OF A GRUNT INTO THIS CAMPAIGN.

Borg: SENATOR GRASSLEY, THANKS VERY MUCH FOR TAKING TIME TO BE WITH US TODAY AND PARTICULARLY JUST GETTING OFF A PLANE AND COMING HERE TO ANSWER OUR QUESTIONS. WE VERY MUCH APPRECIATE THAT. WE'RE GOING TO BE BACK NEXT WEEKEND ON "IOWA PRESS." IT WILL BE 7:30 FRIDAY; SUNDAY AT NOON, AS USUAL. I'M DEAN BORG. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

 

CAPTIONS BY: MIDWEST CAPTIONING DES MOINES, IOWA

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