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 Chris Johnson with KGRN Radio in Grinnell and Joe Benedict with the Fort Madison Daily Democrat in Fort Madison. The first question will be from Chris Johnson.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you. Senator, as part of your Ambassador's Tour you're bringing foreign diplomats to TPI Composites in Newton, which is just down the road from Grinnell, where I am. Could you give out a few details of what might happen during that particular visit?
GRASSLEY: Well, it's be better for me to, instead of that particular visit, let me give you the overview, and I think it answers your question. And then, if it doesn't, you can follow up with a more specific question.
But 24 years ago I started Ambassador's Tour, which has happened every other year. So I think this is the 12th one. And the purpose of it was, starting out during the agriculture recession we were, and population moving out of Iowa, and we were becoming depopulated, what could I do to help.
And I thought in terms of Iowa exporting so much of our manufacture and agriculture products, that the extent to which I could get embassies in Washington, D.C., knowing more about Iowa, then we'd have a chance to expand our agricultural and manufacturing exports -- understanding, of course, as I tell all these ambassadors, while they're in Iowa, that trade is a two-way street.
GRASSLEY: So what we tend to do is to get them acquainted with Iowa generally, you know, by going to the state fair, by going to our universities, seeing our cultural thing. But most of it is visiting businesses that have involvement in export.
The idea being that if a business person from country X comes to the embassy of country X, wants to do business in America, and these people know about Iowa, then they're going to have a chance of -- of business and also chambers of commerce and individual businesses and the economic development, should these people come to their communities and learn about Iowa.
And we have found it that Iowa has very much enhanced its reputation and knowledge about it among the embassies of Washington, D.C., as a result of it.
So we're going to go to the place in Newton, to show them what -- what we do, what we have to offer, and to be more -- become acquainted.
And so, this is one example. There will be other examples, like, let's say, John Deere in Ankeny or Lennox in Marshalltown.
We are going to visit about 18 communities and are also going to consider -- it's going to involve a family farm, as well.
So, you see, the overall goal is probably more important than just simply why we're visiting Newton.
But, you know, before, visiting Newton was always visiting Maytag. But now, Maytag's not there. So let's acquaint them with other very front-end industries, within Newton and as a representative of the state of Iowa.
QUESTION: Senator, what's the latest from the Finance Committee on health care?
QUESTION: I know you're meeting with them this morning. What's the timetable on that now?
GRASSLEY: Well, you know what? That's one of the things we were talking about today, timetable. Those of us that are Republicans are feeling pressure from the Democrats to -- to have a certain timetable. We are talking about an issue of health that is a life or death issue to people. We're talking about restructuring one-sixth of our economy.
We think that we need to do it right and artificial timetables are wrong. And so we are pleading to complete our work that I think we're on the edge of getting something.
Now, when I say "on the edge," that could be within a week. It could be within two weeks, or it might not be until we get back after Labor Day, because we're taking a month off, you know, for summer break.
But the point is this is the most sweeping piece of legislation affecting every American, and affecting one-sixth of the economy, that we've ever worked on. And so consequently, we need to do it right and we're making great progress. Some days it's by inches. Some days it's by foot. And some days it might be by half-a-mile. But we've still got a ways to go, but in the last month we have made tremendous progress.
And let me tell you, if I could further, why I think it's so important to do it right, because there are bills out of another committee in the Senate. There are three committees in the House that are working on it. And none of them have cut down on the inflation in health care.
Our intention is to be able to have the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office say that our bill is cutting down on inflation in health care because the inflation in health care is two times what it is in the rest of the economy, and it doesn't need to be. We're wasting a lot of money on health care, yet we have the best health care in the world, but we can still get more for our money and that's our intention.
Our intention is to help people that don't have insurance. Our intention is to make insurance more affordable. Our intention is to have a patient-centered system and legislation that reflects that; and results-oriented piece of legislation; and to make sure that doctors that do quality work are, like in Iowa, are and hospitals in Iowa are rewarded for it and they aren't rewarded for it today. And it's just a meticulous process we're going through, and we shouldn't be up against any artificial deadlines.
QUESTION: The Department of Energy is making available $36 billion, I understand, in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and modernizing the electricity grid. In view of Iowa being the number two state for wind energy and number one in ethanol, what impact do you see all this having on the state of Iowa?
GRASSLEY: Well, if we can get transmission lines that go beyond Iowa's borders to other parts of the country, we can do a lot more on wind energy than we are right now. We can be an exporter of a lot of electricity. And I hope that we use a good share of that for transmissions.
It's kind of a stonewall that Iowa and wind energy, not only in Iowa, but in Texas as another state, it's a stonewall you're up against, and getting over that stonewall, which can be done through transmissions, is going to really boost the wind energy industry and the manufacturing in Iowa that goes with it. It's going to boost the -- the trend towards renewable energy to a great extent when we have more efficient use of Iowa's product.
The only better thing that we could do would be the extent to which we were able to store electricity, and we're working on that as well, produced from wind energy, so you aren't turning the -- the instruments on and off all the time based upon the need of energy, so that they can go 24 hours a day generating electricity.
QUESTION: I'd like to follow up on that. So would some of that $36 billion be able to be used to help get those transmission lines?
GRASSLEY: Yes. And I think that what we're -- what I need to offer to Iowans if they make grant applications, I won't know about it. And if there's any Iowa industries or any nonprofit organizations or even local communities make application and seek a grant, let me know because I'd be glad to write a letter of support for it, and I won't know that unless they tell me.
STAFF: Thank you, Chris and Joe, for participating in today's public affairs program. This has been Senator Chuck Grassley, reporting to the people of Iowa.
GRASSLEY: Yes, thank you all very much. Bye.