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Transcript of 02-03-10 conference call with Iowa newspapers

Interview

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Senator Chuck Grassley, Holds A News Teleconference

GRASSLEY: Are you guys at the other end?

(UNKNOWN): Yes, Senator.

GRASSLEY: Now, we've got the red light on. Can you believe that?

I wanted to make just a comment. I've got a script here, but I think I'll just say it my way. And that is that I think an example of representative government working and people being heard at the grassroots of America -- although in this particular case it's probably coming from the mayor of New York, which isn't necessarily a grassroots person, because he is mayor.

But he must be representing views of people there, but I think it also represents the views of people nationwide that we should not be trying terrorists in the United States. We should not be giving them more constitutional rights than our own men and women in uniform get in court martial.

That these folks should not be brought to the United States for trial even though others may be tried in military commission, they shouldn't be brought here. If I get a chance to vote on legislation, appropriating money to not bring them here, or get the chance to vote on legislation, that these folks not be tried in civilian courts, but be tried in military commission.

I'm very inclined to support that legislation. And I recently introduced -- or I should say, co-sponsored a bill with Senator Lindsey Graham along some of these same lines. So that's where I'm coming from because I think it risks releasing valuable intelligence information.

In fact, we have the '93 bombing in New York and subsequent trial where, as a result of that trial, bin Laden found out that he was on -- that he was being followed and that he was on a list that we were concerned about. So he moves out of Africa, I suppose to Afghanistan, and we've been trying to hunt him down ever since.

So why give valuable intelligence information to our enemy? Why have increased security risk here in the United States, particularly close to where the trial is being held? Why do this at a time that we have big budget deficits and they want to appropriate $200 million more just for security that we're already handling in a secure way where these people are already at?

And, of course, it's going to be a propaganda microphone for the terrorist message. I'm ready for questions on any subject and I'll start with Joe Morton.

OK. Then we'll go to Bret Hayworth.

BRET HAYWORTH, SIOUX CITY JOURNAL: Good morning, Senator.

Excuse me. Last week, Governor Culver came to Sioux City on -- in the wake of the John Morrell closing -- or announced closing for April and said there was one thing that he wanted the federal lawmakers to do. And he addressed how, at the end of February, the 13 weeks of federal unemployment insurance, that measure will run out.

And he asked that all three -- or the entire Iowa congressional delegation stand behind that and re-up that.

Have you -- do you have a position on that?

GRASSLEY: Yes, I do, I believe. But let me ask you a question. I hope he was talking about the fact that just before Christmas we extended, for two months, unemployment compensation, or maybe we did it for three months. But some time here shortly it's going to run out.

HAYWORTH: Right.

GRASSLEY: And if your question to me is, do I support extending it further? The answer is yes, and that's going to be in a bill that -- it isn't final, so I can't tell you the contents of the bill, because we've got to run it by other members of the committee. But Senator Baucus and I were working on a bill that not only included that, but included things like incentives for small business and -- I won't go into details.

But -- well, also it dealt with the bio-diesel thing, you know, that we're trying to deal with. So the answer is, yes, I do.

HAYWORTH: Why is that a defensible thing to do?

GRASSLEY: Recession, high unemployment, and the safety net that unemployment compensation is.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

GRASSLEY: Yes.

I -- Mike Glover?

OK, then. Jim Boyd?

JIM BOYD: I'm good today, Senator. Thank you.

GRASSLEY: OK. Christinia Crippes?

CHRISTINIA CRIPPES, BURLINGTON HAWKEYE: Hi, Senator. I was just wondering what you make of Ben Bernanke getting confirmed again.

GRASSLEY: Well, you know that I voted against him and he is in. So...

CRIPPES: Yes.

GRASSLEY: ... my position was not a majority. I hope that he listened to the reasons why I voted against him. That I'm fearful of hyperinflation and stagflation like we had in '79 and '80. And it's very -- it's not very -- it's -- I can't think of the word.

Here is where I am. We need to be ahead of the curve. And I hope he took into consideration that the reason I voted against him was his fear of hyperinflation. It's not enough -- I think this is where I was when I stopped. It's not enough to just say, yes, we're concerned about it.

But every meeting they have, you never get any indication from whatever they're doing that they're willing to mop up a lot of this money they printed. That's going to be the cause of inflation. And I'm not talking about the legitimacy of doing it in the first place, when you and I as consumers weren't spending, there is a vacuum for the government to fill.

But it's a very precarious position for the government to put the economy in. And so if they're cautious about inflation, then it seems to me, and he wants us to believe he is, it seems to me that we ought to see some indication of when or under what circumstances they're going to start -- I use the term mopping up the money.

But you know, bringing it back out of the economy into the Federal Reserve, so it's not too much money chasing too few goods, which is the definition of inflation. Did I make myself clear, Christinia?

CRIPPES: Yes. I think so. I think I got it. Thank you.

GRASSLEY: OK.

Tim Rohwer?

TIM ROHWER, COUNCIL BLUFFS NONPAREIL: Yes, Senator. First of all, on this -- the extension of those unemployment, first of all, do you know when that could come up for a vote?

GRASSLEY: Yes, if it's on a track that we want it to be on, and by we, I mean, Senator Baucus and me, it would be through the Senate. I don't know whether it'd be on the president's desk necessarily, but through the Senate before we go home for the presidents holiday. So look at the Monday that's the presidents holiday and the Friday before that.

ROHWER: And how long would those extensions cover? Are we talking like six months or...

GRASSLEY: Well, shorter than that. And the reason why is because we -- we're going to take it step-by-step to monitor whether the economy improves. So these are going to be short-term extensions.

ROHWER: And also on that legislation on the -- that -- concerning the moving -- or prohibiting the use of federal funds for civilian trials for terrorists, when is that going to come up for a vote?

GRASSLEY: Well, I don't know that it's scheduled. I can tell you some possibilities of it coming up. For instance, the Lindsey Graham bill that I referred to, which isn't necessarily the appropriation approach, he says he's going to try to put it on any vehicle he can get it on. So it could come up tomorrow. I don't know when he'll move in that direction.

Secondly, we generally have a supplemental appropriation bill sometimes during March or April. And I would think it would come up then. And then if they're going to still decide to try these people in the United States, and I believe that they probably are still intent upon doing it, if they can find a city that will take them.

So obviously it's not going to be New York City. That would probably come up in the regular appropriation bills which come up during the summer or the fall. And don't forget, there is 200 million and maybe 250 million, I'm not sure the exact number, in the president's budget for that specific purpose.

And that specific purpose is not for the trial itself, but for a maintenance of security at the trial, and to help cities that have to provide that.

ROHWER: OK.

GRASSLEY: OK. That was Tim Rohwer.

Ed Tibbetts?

ED TIBBETTS, QUAD-CITY TIMES: Hi, Senator. There are a couple of things I wanted to ask you about.

I wanted to get your reaction to a TV advertisement that will begin running in the state this week. It criticizes your opposition to the energy bill. And basically the ad said that this bill will lessen America's dependence on foreign oil as well as the influence of countries with ties to terrorism.

And basically it ties campaign donations you've taken from oil companies and says that the bottom line is that the energy bill supports the troops. I wanted to get your reaction.

GRASSLEY: Who is paying for it?

TIBBETTS: It's an ad that is sponsored by an organization called Vote Vets.

GRASSLEY: Oh, OK.

Well, they can't be talking about the 2005 energy bill, can they?

TIBBETTS: No. They're talking about the one -- the climate bill that's up now.

GRASSLEY: Oh, cap and trade?

TIBBETTS: Yes.

GRASSLEY: Oh...

TIBBETTS: They refer to it as an energy and climate bill and basically...

GRASSLEY: Oh...

TIBBETTS: ... that's what they're talking about.

GRASSLEY: Well, you know why? Because cap and trade is -- they know that it's seen by the public as negative, very little support for cap and trade.

I'm glad to have them run that, if it's an intellectually honest ad, because I want everybody to know that I'm opposed to the House bill, I'm opposed to the Senate bill, which is yet worse. But these folks can't say I'm against anything, because I haven't had a chance to debate it or vote on it. So they're a little bit ahead of their time.

I don't know how you can come out and have an ad against Chuck Grassley for opposing something when I haven't -- when I've only had a chance to say, you know, as those things go, specifically I would not vote for that one or that one. But who knows what might come out in debate in the United States Senate, and I could vote for it.

But what these people are really lobbying for, if they want that bill, is they want to move all of the manufacturing jobs in the United States to China. And how do I protect the environment and protect manufacturing jobs at the same time in the United States? I'm for a worldwide agreement that has China meeting the same pollution reductions as the United States does so that we have a level playing field with China, and preserve manufacturing jobs in the United States.

And the cap and trade bill that they want me to vote for would increase somewhere between $1,800 and $3,000. And I can't -- those are figures that I've read. They've got a basis for them, but I'm not sure that I can give you the citation. But somewhere between $1,800 and $3,000 increased cost of energy.

So this organization, both -- whatever it's called...

TIBBETTS: Yes, Vote Vets.

GRASSLEY: Vote Vets, these surely are not veterans who think we ought to lose our manufacturing jobs overseas. These are surely not veterans who think that Iowa and the Midwest and the Southeast of the United States ought to be paying for -- I guess, how do you say it, the benefit that the bill gives to California and New York.

I'm representing Iowans. I am for energy independence. I'm for all of the renewable energies. I'm the father of the wind energy tax credit. I'm getting a bill worked on right now to get the bio-diesel tax credit re-instituted. I'm for tax credits for conservation. I'm for drill here and drill now.

So my entire record is directed towards energy independence, having an environmental program that keeps manufacturing jobs in the United States, make sure that the United States has a level playing field with China, because China pollutes more then the United States does in this regard. And also when it comes to veterans, if -- just in case veterans are involved in this, I want everybody to know that the veterans bill passed the Senate last year unanimously and I voted for it.

Kathie Obradovich?

(CROSSTALK)

TIBBETTS: If I may, Senator...

GRASSLEY: Yes, sure, go ahead.

TIBBETTS: There is one other -- sorry, there is one other area that I wanted to ask you about.

GRASSLEY: Yes, go ahead.

TIBBETTS: And basically it's about Thomson prison in Illinois. The administration put 237 million in their budget for 2011 to buy Thomson prison and operate it. And basically what they told me the other day is that they would operate Thomson regardless of where Guantanamo Bay prisoners are there.

And I guess my question to you is this, is there a way to separate the two, to go ahead and approve the money for buying Thomson while the -- even while the administration still says it's pursuing the option of sending Guantanamo Bay prisoners there? I mean, is that something that you could vote for with that option still out there?

GRASSLEY: I could vote for -- if it's -- well, first of all, I would have to be demonstrated a need of more prison space in the United States. I have not looked at that. I have had nobody in the prison bureaus of federal government come to me and say we need more space.

I've been on the Judiciary Committee my entire years in the United States Senate. It's not something that I'm aware that has ever been discussed that we need more prisons. If they have been built and added to recently, they've been relatively non-controversial.

So under those circumstances, if there is a need, I want to demonstrate it. Then I could say yes to your question if I also knew that it wasn't subterfuge to get the terrorists here. If it was any related to any of that subterfuge, I could not vote for it, even if it was a demonstrated need.

Now I've all -- but you did hear me say other times on these same teleconferences that more federal space needed is an issue by itself. And if Thomson solves that problem, OK. But I don't want it to be seen connected in any way with terrorists, because I'm for -- not for bringing terrorists here in the first place, so that obviates the necessity of me saying, well, am I for or against Thomson?

TIBBETTS: Right. Would they have to take the Guantanamo piece off the table first before you could ever vote for any money for purchasing Thomson?

GRASSLEY: You know, I deal with colleagues in the Congress. And I think I can figure out people's motivations. And I'm going to wait until that piece of -- you know, that issue comes up and make that determination at that time.

TIBBETTS: Fair enough. Thanks for the time.

GRASSLEY: Now, Kathie Obradovich?

KATHIE OBRADOVICH, DES MOINES REGISTER: Nothing today, Senator.

GRASSLEY: OK.

Now I've gone through the entire list, anybody else want to jump in? OK. Thank you all very much.

OBRADOVICH: Thank you.


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