STAFF: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley speaking to you live from Washington. Participating in today's public affairs program are Nikki Thunder with KCHE Radio in Cherokee and Rusty Ebert with the Keosauqua Van Buren County Register in Keosauqua.
The first question will be from Nikki Thunder.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator, for taking the time for us today.
GRASSLEY: Thank you for participating.
QUESTION: Absolutely. Well, there's a lot of talk here in Iowa regarding the same-sex marriage, and many believing that it's good for the state with couples from surrounding states coming to Iowa to tie the knot.
Do you see another gay marriage ban in the future? And what are your thoughts on the same-sex marriage?
GRASSLEY: Well, my thoughts can best be expressed by votes that I've cast here in Congress. Now, this would be at the federal level, not at the state level, but 10 years ago, President Clinton signed a bill called Defense of Marriage Act and I voted for it.
And then about two years ago, there was an attempt to amend the federal Constitution for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I voted for that, but it did not get the votes that are necessary to get out to the states for being a part of the federal Constitution.
So I'm pretty much on record as, obviously, disagreeing with the Iowa Supreme Court decision even though what I voted on isn't exactly their decision, but their decision would, in effect, be opposite of the Defense of Marriage Act here at the federal level.
QUESTION: Senator, you've been working with Senator Baucus on the health care issue. If you had your way, what kinds of things would you want to see in a bill that would eventually go to President Obama?
GRASSLEY: Well, first of all, a lot of the same things that Senator Baucus would want but you also want it remember that it's (inaudible) wouldn't be Grassley-Baucus. It would be a wide array of bipartisan agreement on a lot of things that we need to -- to do. But there won't be broad bipartisan agreement on everything that's out there that's a subset of health care.
But yesterday, just as an example, we had a -- what we call a "walk-through" on suggestions and one part of health care reform called the delivery. And some things that there seems to be no total agreement on but almost total agreement on is that we ought to have a great deal of emphasis upon preventive medicine. There's a perverse incentive today to over utilize the system or to have doctors, you know, do things that may be don't need to be done because they get paid on quantity.
We need to be paid for -- move to pay for performance. We need to encourage doing things right the first time, and it's always cheaper than way. And we're talking about not just being cheaper but the quality of care is much better.
You know, what we would call organizations that would work together as teams of doctors and health care professionals of nurses, pediatric nurses, things of that nature that would work together and with emphasis upon the five chronic diseases that are the cost of 80 percent of the health care in America, zeroing in on them in kind of a delivery system where they're observed and treated and, hopefully, kept out of the hospital more often than they do now.
So it's kind of changing the incentive system within medicine. It's changing the practice of medicine. Doing it slowly and deliberately because a lot of these things will have to be phased in over the years, but it's to get more for our dollar and, hopefully, even save some dollars.
And we talk about health care reform, but don't forget health care is 16 percent of our gross national product. So you're talking about affecting a great deal of the economy with any changes that are made. And we've got to consider the family and the individual as well because health care affects almost every family, and health insurance is a problem for almost every family.
STAFF: Back to you, Nikki.
QUESTION: Coming up on the one year anniversary of the immigration raid in Postville next month, are there any changes in the immigration laws? If not, do you see any new laws coming?
GRASSLEY: Well, I think it's kind of a ticklish issue right now when you're in recession. And so I think it's not going to be handled right away. But the president has recently told advocates for immigration reform that he's going to be pushing it, but I don't see an immediate push.
But anyway, things along the lines that I stand for and what I don't stand for would be -- and mostly what I stand for. And in those areas, there's some bipartisan agreement, not completely. And then the one where I disagree has kind of been a hang up for not getting a bill in the past.
You know, continue to increase the numbers of border patrol; continue to increase and build fence, real as well as virtual; having every employee, including Chuck Grassley if I apply for a job to get cleared by Social Security that I've got a legal number and I'm legally in the country; comparing that with tax data, for example, so you know that people steal Social Security numbers, you're going to know that they're not two Chuck Grassleys, one in New York and one in San Francisco and fix the payroll tax records to prove that; and then -- then improving some areas of legal immigration like for seasonal workers, as an example; reforming the H-1B program so -- to take the fraud out of it.
Then maybe that's pretty much an array of things that are pretty easy to get compromise on. And I'm for those depending on the compromise. But I think most compromises I could go along with.
But there's one area that's very difficult to compromise, and I'm pretty much a purist in this area. I'm not for giving amnesty to those that came here illegally because I don't know where, if you start saying it's all right to avoid the law in this case, don't you have problems with the enforcement the law generally and then, in effect, respect for law and respect for law is the basis for our society.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Senator, in the swine flu thing that we're going through now, Vice President Biden has sounded pretty alarming messages on, you know, don't ride airplanes and the subways and, of course, that -- the mayors of some of the bigger cities are taking exception to him.
I was curious if you had an opinion on how well the Obama administration is handling this epidemic that we're going through right now.
GRASSLEY: I think the Obama administration is handling it as best they can. If there's new initiatives, it's probably to spend more money to get Tamiflu, more for research to get a vaccine for humans like we have a vaccine for animals, to stress, as I hope they're doing, that swine flu is not the right name because it's a mutated flu between bird and pig. And it's H1N1 now is the best title for it because it hurts the agriculture community. People are buying less pork.
For instance, I had a pork -- a couple pork chops this week. So, you know, I take seriously that there's no harm from eating. But take those precautions. And the president has done or is doing most of the things that I've said, so I think he's handling it about the best he can.
STAFF: Nikki, back to you.
QUESTION: It does seem like gas prices are slowing climbing once again, and I was wondering if you can tell us your thoughts on the prices? If you feel they may climb, drop, or just remain the same.
GRASSLEY: I think they're going to be pretty steady. I suppose up or down $0.30, $0.40 over the summer. And I don't mean just up but some variation from where they are now of $0.30 to $0.40. I don't see them getting to $4 again.
And maybe there's going to be enough of a change of driving habit that they may never get up there again. But when it comes to what we do about it, individuals can be a little more cautious how they drive, where they drive, how much they drive. That's going to help, and that's already being done. But continue that.
But as a matter of public policy, what we need is a three-pronged approach to energy. One is drill wherever we can in the United States so we aren't so dependent on foreign sources, and I'm for that. Alternative energy, wind, biofuels, biomass, solar, all of the above, we need to promote for of that. I'm the father of the wind energy tax credit. So we're developing wind energy since I got that done 15 years ago.
We are doing more on solar and, obviously, a lot on biofuels. Continue that. And then the last one is incentives for conservation as well as individual conservation. It takes a -- that three-pronged approach to solve the energy crisis and to keep gas prices down.
STAFF: Thank you, Nikki and Rusty, for participating in today's public affairs program. Thank you. This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.