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Transcription of Senator Grassley's Conference Call with Iowa Reporters

Interview

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GRASSLEY: I've written a letter to 10 leading medical schools. These medical schools are recipients of large federal grants for medical research. I've asked these schools to describe their policies on ghostwriting. It's part of my ongoing effort to shed light on financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and medical professionals, especially those involved in federally sponsored medical research.

Last July, I wrote to eight leading medical journals asking the same kinds of questions. And before that, I asked two major drug companies about allegations that they hired people to write articles for journals, and then sought out academics to sign on as the actual authors when they really weren't the actual authors.

This is all about transparency, and academic institutions play a very important role in establishing adequate and meaningful disclosure. Letting the sun shine in and making information public is fundamental to building people's confidence in medical research and practice and protecting the consumer.

Tom Beaumont?

QUESTION: Senator, do you oppose housing Guantanamo Bay detainees at the Thomson prison in Illinois?

GRASSLEY: I oppose them even coming to the United States.

James Lynch?

QUESTION: Good morning, Senator.

The USDA has floated the possibility of lowering the conservation reserve program cap to $24 million in the next farm bill, saying it would save about $2 billion. Is that something you've discussed in the Ag Committee and something that you see as a positive step?

GRASSLEY: Where is the money being saved from? I missed that point you made.

QUESTION: By downsizing the conservation reserve program.

GRASSLEY: The last time it was discussed, as far as I know -- because we haven't had any discussion of it these 12 months -- but last -- a year ago June, in May and April when we were doing the farm bill, there was an assumption that there would be less land put into CRP. Now, I don't think that that was our decision to put less land in CRP, but because the price of corn was going up and because of the demand for ethanol, that there be just less in, and money would be saved.

But now when you're bringing up -- this brings up something so I'm, kind of, asking you a question in return.

You're bringing up the possibility of this saving 2 billions of dollars. Well, I think that if -- if CBO would have looked at our assumptions that -- that we were going to have less money -- or less land in CRP, we're going to save X number of dollars, that would have been taken in consideration of costing out the whole farm bill.

So I don't know if you're asking me the federal government's anticipating yet further savings from CRP, and if you are, I don't know about that. And I haven't been involved in any discussion of that.

QUESTION: OK, I'm just -- what I've been hearing at a couple different meetings I was at, people were talking about plans to reduce the participation in CRP, the number of acres (inaudible).

GRASSLEY: Now, are these policy-makers that were talking this or were they people that were kind of...

QUESTION: No, they're -- I mean, they're people, commodity producers and from commodity organizations.

GRASSLEY: Well, I think you got to go back then to what I described was part of the farm bill. And I don't know anything since then, is all I can answer for you.

QUESTION: All right. Thanks.

GRASSLEY: Mike Glover?

QUESTION: I'm fine, Senator.

GRASSLEY: Thank you, Mike.

Jim Boyd?

Ed Tibbetts?

QUESTION: Senator, do you think that Iowans would be put in danger if these Guantanamo Bay prisoners were moved to Thomson?

GRASSLEY: I think that, from what I've heard from people around Virginia here, you know, where I spend three or four nights a week as a resident here, just like I'm a resident of Iowa Fridays, Saturday and sometimes Sunday, that when there was some talk six months ago about housing them in Virginia, and the people of Virginia were very, very scared. And their congressmen expressed that scare.

Now, I haven't -- unless I've gotten calls in my office in the last 24 hours, and sometimes I'm 24 hours behind on getting calls coming into the office, I haven't heard from Iowans, but I would have -- I think I would have to have my head in the sand if I didn't assume that Iowans would be somewhat fearful.

Then I go back to when it was originally built -- and this is just from recollection of quite a few years ago -- I think there was some concern among Iowans in Clinton at that particular time about the prison across the river, that -- even before they were talking about housing terrorists some concern about having it there. But they didn't have anything to say over it, but there was some -- some fear of that expressed.

QUESTION: The Federal Bureau of Prisons officials have said there's never been an escape from a facility that would be of this type, and there have also -- they've also had no problems with external threats.

Even if Iowans are somewhat fearful, do you think it's well placed? I mean, do they have a reason to be fearful?

GRASSLEY: Well, you know, it's not something I'm going to worry about, because I'm opposed to these people coming here in the first place.

Joe Morton?

QUESTION: Nothing today, Senator. Thanks.

GRASSLEY: Bret Hayworth?

QUESTION: Good morning, Senator.

There was a report yesterday that you may have seen that the obesity rate in America is remaining high, 31 percent, and it is projected to be about the mid-40s about 10 year from now and take an even bigger chunk of health care costs.

As federal health care reform is debated, is there a role that federal -- federal officials should be playing to reduce the obesity epidemic?

GRASSLEY: Well, there are several incentives we can -- well, the answer is yes. And -- but not -- not very directly, because you aren't going to control what people can put in their mouth and whether or not they walk enough and exercise enough, or what they eat that's unhealthy.

But here's things that we can do, through -- a great deal through education, and that's worked very much with smoking, which is another health hazard.

There's another way that you can do it, through premiums of health insurance companies, because, presently, you can't have differentials because people are heavy or, in another case smoke. And -- and I would propose that we have different premiums -- levels for people that are -- don't have a healthy lifestyle.

And then -- and, by the way, a Safeway executive has made several appearances on Capitol Hill, talking about his -- how his company does that through their health insurance program, where they give people money for first-dollar costs on health care, and -- to have within the practice of medicine, encouragement for preventive medicine.

And -- and there may be other ways.

Well, you can do it, also, through the hot lunch program. Because, when the federal government's spending money, they can dictate to schools what they have to give.

Now, that's only, you know, 185 meals out of a year, unless there's breakfasts involved; then, at most, it would be 370 meals out of a year. But that's a significant -- serves two roles: a significant amount of diet that people would have input, and then also with it you get the educational benefits of what people ought to eat or not eat.

QUESTION: But in the -- as I recall from a -- a conference call this summer, you are adamantly opposed to, like, a pop tax and things for supposed fattening foods and the like.

GRASSLEY: Yes, I'm not -- I'm not convinced that would work. And I am very convinced it's a nuisance tax, and -- and kind of discriminatory in a way that -- well, I just think -- I just think -- I better not use the word "discriminatory." I don't think there's a good basis for my starting to say that. But there is a basis for whether or not it works and a good basis for it being a nuisance tax.

QUESTION: Thank you.

It was good to see you at volleyball a week and a half ago.

GRASSLEY: Yes, and I'll be there -- well, maybe I won't be there this weekend.

QUESTION: Final home game.

GRASSLEY: Yeah, I won't be able to be there because we're going to be in session Friday, so I'm going to miss Friday night, and -- and then Saturday night, I'm going to fly in late, so I won't get home in time to do it. And I'm sorry, but at least I saw two of the best games a month ago...

QUESTION: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

GRASSLEY: ... when I saw Missouri State and when I saw Wichita State. And then glad that they beat them down there.

For the benefit of the two people -- I think it was Tom Beaumont and Ed Tibbetts that asked this question -- I just got word that we received 10 calls to the -- to my D.C. office here, and they were all against moving detainees to Thompson.

Now, that's just this morning. I don't know whether I had calls yesterday or not, but I can check that out if you're interested.

Kerry Cathcart?

QUESTION: Thank you.

Senator, you've talked about bringing the terrorists into the country. Would you comment specifically on the attorney general's decision to try them in New York? Would you -- would you rather see them tried in a military court, or what would you do with them?

GRASSLEY: OK. Well, I can't tell you to watch C-SPAN now, because I just got done saying this to the attorney general.

We had an oversight hearing today, and five people asked questions before I did. And in answer to one, somebody, one of the people preceding me, said something like this, "Well, what are you going to do if they don't get convicted?" And the attorney general said, "Well, conviction, or failure to convict is not an option."

I'm not a lawyer and I don't intend to sound like a lawyer, because I told him I'm a farmer. But I said, now -- I wasn't asking him a question. I was making an observation before I was going to ask my question. I said, "It sounds ridiculous to me that when you have a jury deciding people are guilty or not guilty that you can say that conviction is a certainty."

And then I was ready to go on. And then the chairman said, "Well, he wants to respond to it." And I said, "Well, it's OK if he responds as long as it doesn't come out of my seven minutes." So he went on to say, "Well, really what I meant to say is if they -- if they aren't convicted, they aren't going to be turned loose, and so they aren't a danger to society."

OK. Do you know what that -- this is what I told him then. "You know, that takes us -- it's my understanding that if they aren't convicted, that then they're going to go back to the status of not being a criminal in our court of law here, being tried under our U.S. Constitution. They're going to be enemy combatants again, and you're all -- you're back to square one. So why did you move them in the first place?"

QUESTION: And what did he say?

GRASSLEY: At that point, I didn't give him a chance to respond. I went on to my first question.

QUESTION: OK.

GRASSLEY: Because what can he say? I mean, it's ridiculous.

Go ahead, Kerry.

QUESTION: That was all. I just -- I didn't know what you thought. Do you think it would be feasible to try them in a military court?

GRASSLEY: Well, that's where they -- he's taking them out of the military commission, and bringing them to New York. And -- and he says he's still going to use military commissions for lots of them. In fact, he said to us today that when he made a decision to bring one to New York, he made a decision to have another one tried in military commission and another one to New York and another one to a military commission.

So I don't -- and then he tried to tell us, well, he made his decision -- or no. He said something like this, people criticize him; they may not know what he's -- what they have a right to criticize him for because he's got access to information that that person doesn't have.

Well, I guess somewheres down the line here we might have a secured briefing on this, but I don't know what -- they're still enemy combatants any way you look like. And I think that it brings legitimacy to terrorism that they have the constitutional rights of every other criminal in America. They have more constitutional rights as terrorists in our courtroom in New York than our own soldiers putting their life on the line in the battlefield have if they were brought -- if they were court-martialed.

Anybody else have a question?

OK. Thank you all very much.


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