STAFF: The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to you live from Cedar Rapids.
Participating in today's public affairs program are Rhonda Gritton with KVIK Radio in Decorah and Gabe Licht with the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer. The first question will be from Rhonda Gritton.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Senator.
GRASSLEY: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Gas has gone up 21 cents over the last eight or 10 days. And we just kind of seem to be going back and forth on this, with nothing being accomplished.
Do you see any kind of a solution? This is killing the farm economy.
GRASSLEY: Well, here's what you want to look at: Every day, you want to look at the price of a barrel of oil. And it -- it -- over a course of a year -- in the last year, it's varied from below $50 up to $85. Yesterday, it was $80. Two or three weeks ago, it was $70.
And since the price of oil is 55 percent the cost of gasoline, you've got a rough idea that when the raw product goes up or down, the prices are going to go up or down.
Now, for me, when I gas up, two weeks ago, I paid $2.32. Today, I think I'd have to pay $2.51 and in some places $2.57.
So look at the -- look at the price of oil.
Now, one thing I can tell you, though, is that we -- you don't just depend upon oil for energy in the United States. We've got to have a three-part energy program. You got to have dependence upon fossil fuel for a while, and in some cases maybe quite a while.
With the new discoveries of natural gas in America, we can in a few years, if we harvest it the way we should, we would have Saudi Arabia on the run, instead of them having us on the run now.
And I think there's -- there's a wisdom in the United States to do that.
But natural gas is still a fossil fuel. So then you move to alternative energy. You know, that's why I'm the father of the wind energy tax credit, because it's an effort to broaden the base. I'm also a supporter of biofuels. And you can name all of a lot of alternative energy.
And you got to throw nuclear in there, although it's not strictly a renewable fuel, but it's something that's very good for the environment.
You need a three-part program: Maximum use of petroleum -- drill here and drill now; alternative energy; and conservation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
GRASSLEY: Go ahead, Spencer?
QUESTION: Yes, I'm just wondering a little bit about the health care summit yesterday. What's your biggest concern after that all happened?
GRASSLEY: The same concern going in, that not much would come out of it. I was hopeful that it would. But I'll tell you, what kind of dictated to me in being cynical about much coming out of it was that over the weekend -- or on Monday, I guess it was, the president put up a program that was pretty much like the bill that passed the Senate.
And when he put up a bill like that, you kind of wonder, well, what's the point of negotiating, you know?
Maybe sprinkle in a couple Republican ideas, and you've got a bipartisan bill? Well, I don't think so.
But -- and the other one was that they were talking about reconciliation, which means don't have the Senate function like it normally sits as a deliberate -- deliberating body, just push something through. Instead of with 60 votes, make sure you got at least 51, and you can do things in a partisan way.
And I think the end result is to move ahead in a partisan way, which is probably the same thing that Reid and Pelosi were talking about, you know, before the meeting ever started.
But I thought it was a very worthwhile six and a half hours of discussion.
Although the president talked -- president and Democrats talked four hours and Republicans only got an opportunity to talk two hours, it was still a healthy exchange of views and understanding.
And it's a very complicated issue. So the more you talk about it, the better off the country is, but it's what policy comes out.
And most of us have looked at the -- the program that passed the Senate, and if you were visiting with a group of people about health care reform with the emphasis upon reform and I told you this bill raised taxes, raised premiums, didn't do anything about health care inflation, took half a trillion dollars out of Medicare that's already broke, you'd probably say to me, "Well, that's doesn't sound much like reform."
And that's the way the American people have seen this product, and that's why on a -- on a poll of about 37 for and 55 against it, it's why I'm taking the position that we need to start over with a clean sheet of paper and do things a little more incrementally.
STAFF: Back to Rhonda.
QUESTION: Senator, I appreciate the letter that you sent to Wellmark (ph) on Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to their response. But I guess I, too, was going to ask you how are you seeing Obama's plan evolving. It doesn't really seem to -- we're all going to have to be on the government's health insurance because we're not going to be able to afford the premiums that the insurance companies are charging.
GRASSLEY: Listen, those premiums are very, very high, and part of it is directly related to unemployment. When there's high unemployment people that don't think they're going to get sick probably will quit paying their health insurance first. So the pool is smaller.
And so one of the things that'll help turn that around is when we get people employed and get the -- get out of the recession.
STAFF: Back to Gabe.
I heard you speak in Sibley (ph) at a town hall meeting this summer, and I believe you said bipartisan is at an all-time high or close to that.
GRASSLEY: Well, at that time it was, but it's sure not that way now.
QUESTION: So you think...
GRASSLEY: And another thing I probably would have said along that line is that there's -- there's -- there's less bipartisanship now than there was when I first went to the Senate, but there's probably not as much as what people see because, you know, you're in the news business, you know controversy sells news.
GRASSLEY: And when you read about Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley, Republican and Democratic, controlling and getting things out of the Finance Committee on a bipartisan basis, except for maybe four or five bills over the last 10 years, you don't hear about that because there's not a lot of controversy. But if he and I were fighting all the time you'd probably see it on television.
STAFF: Back to Rhonda.
QUESTION: OK. To change the topic a little bit here, can you tell me why those terrorists that are at Guantanamo need to come inside the main 48 states of the United States?
GRASSLEY: Yes. Well, I'll give you the answer to your question, but it's not my answer. The answer is because the president of the United States, commander in chief, and under the Constitution he has the power to do it. But he can't do it without funding. And if I get a chance to vote no on funding to bring them here, I'm going to vote against it. If we -- and if they ask for additional funding to protect the city wherever they're going to be tried, I'm not going to vote for that.
And, you know, there's about $500 million, half a -- half a billion dollars in the president's budget scattered around three or four different departments to pay for bringing those terrorists to the United States.
So my view is, they should stay right where they are. It's ridiculous to try them in civilian court.
Because if you try them in civilian court, they will have more constitutional rights than our own men and women in uniform have in a court-martial. And it's just not right.
And so, they were enemies of the United States, and they ought to be treated like enemies. And this administration wants to treat them like common criminals. Well, there's a difference between a bank robber or a murderer in the United States and a group of people that want to kill almost anybody that lives in Europe or North America.
QUESTION: Thank you.
STAFF: Back to Gabe.
QUESTION: Yes. I'd like -- I'd like you to talk a little bit about the jobs bill that you're working on. Is that an extension of what already passed? Or is that a bipartisan attempt to get -- to get more Republicans...
QUESTION: ... on board? Or what exactly are you doing with that jobs bill?
GRASSLEY: Well, and at this point, I'm not going to claim ownership of it, as I did the first one, prior to Reid going partisan on it, and then, of course, it wasn't a Baucus-Grassley bill at that point, it was just a Democrat bill, because that's what they wanted to do.
And they did it in a way so no amendments could be offered by Republicans, which, you know, really compromises the purpose of the Senate, if you can't have alternative point of views.
But the next bill coming up is going to include some things that were in that original bill. And one of those would be the extension of the biodiesel tax credit. Because in 44 states, we've got biodiesel plants closed down -- 15 in Iowa, 20 some in Texas. I don't know all 48 -- 44 states, but there's about 29,000 people unemployed since the tax credit was discontinued January the 1st.
And, you know, these are not controversial extensions of existing tax policy. In fact, they ought to be made permanent. But the reason they aren't made permanent is because you always have to have some sort of forced review of government policy, or it never gets reviewed.
But we would re-enact those provisions, back 'til January the 1st.
STAFF: Thank you, Rhonda and Gabe, for participating in today's public affairs program.
GRASSLEY: Thanks, both of you.
STAFF: This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.
GRASSLEY: Thank you both for participating. Appreciate it very much.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.
GRASSLEY: You bet. Good-bye.