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Iowa Senator Charles Grassley’s view of the non-stimulus bill’s prospects in the Senate

Thursday, February 5, 2009
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HH: Joined now by Senator Charles Grassley of the great state of Iowa. Senator, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

CG: Well, I’m delighted to be with you, and I don’t know whether this is the first time I’ve been on your show or not, but I’m surely glad to be on it.

HH: Well, thank you for coming in, and I just talked to Senator McCain, and I’m going to talk to Lindsey Graham next hour, and I’m trying to talk to all the senior Republicans to get a temperature take here of what do you think’s going to happen to the Porkapalooza bill? Is this stimulus thing going to pass?

CG: Well, I suppose so, because we only have 41 Republican Senators, and we’re getting run over with all the amendments that we’re trying to do to bring the bill within what the administration says they want. If you look at Larry Summers, their director of the National Economic Council, he says it ought to be timely, targeted and temporary. And I think it’s failing on all these areas. It’s not timely, because 50% of the appropriations will be spent outside of the next two years. And so you want it to be quickly and done right now in the next two years. It’s not targeted, because almost $100 billion of it slices funds for the states with no guarantee that they won’t raise their own taxes. And it’s not temporary, because $140 billion of new spending is labeled as temporary, but it’s, well, you know how Congress works. It’s going to become permanent. In other words, it’s going to be there for the next fifty years.

HH: It’s on the baseline then. Well in terms of all that, when, can you slow it down long enough for the public opinion polls, which are already moving decisively against it to catch up with it, Senator Grassley?

CG: Well, we’re doing that, because we’re going to have debate on this into the weekend if necessary. And I would hope that enough Republicans would stick with us so we get all of our amendments up, and hopefully get some adopted. We would even, quite frankly, if we could get this thing targeted and timely and temporary, we wouldn’t object to some stimulus, and particularly on tax incentives. But this is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill.

HH: Is there a priority list that you have, Senator Grassley, that you’ve got to see in any final package for you to support it?

CG: Well, when you figure that we had a credit crunch, and then a recession because of housing, and we don’t know where housing’s going to bottom out, we Republicans think we ought to have emphasis upon housing. And we have a complete substitute that would bring about 4% interest on refinancing of housing, and that could be people that are foreclosed or people that aren’t foreclosed, so it would help everybody. And we could put a bottom to housing, and hopefully get us over the hump that we have to get over, and maybe all the Republicans could support it. Or if there was more emphasis upon incentives for investment, which means tax policies that will bring about investment, because investment creates jobs long term, not temporary like a stimulus bill’s supposed to do.

HH: Now after all these serial defeat of amendments, with occasionally one getting through like the defunding of the Hollywood giveaway, do you expect the Democrats to come to you and the leader, and Senator Kyl and say let’s sit down and fashion a compromise? Is that’s really what’s going to happen here?

CG: It won’t happen unless 41 Republicans stick together. Then it is apt to happen. But right now, you find, and I won’t name the Senators, but you’ll find three or four Senators being invited down to the White House one on one, meaning Republican Senators, to see what maybe they could get that they wouldn’t otherwise get, and then get their vote in the process. And then they want to call it a bipartisan bill. But that’s not a bipartisan bill. I’ve worked bipartisan bills. And in the Senate, the way you get bipartisan bills, you start out at the ground level sitting across the table, one from another with our staffs, and you write a bill from the bottom up. And then it’s a Grassley-Baucus bill, or a Baucus-Grassley bill, and you fight together to maintain it from the extremes of your two parties. But in this particular interest, both the House and the Senate wrote the bill in the Democratic caucus, and then it was almost a take it or leave it. That’s not, even if they get one or two Republicans to vote for it, that doesn’t make it a bipartisan bill from my standpoint.

HH: No, it doesn’t, and in terms of the one or two Republicans that are on shaky ground right now, is the caucus working them pretty hard, Senator Grassley?

CG: We’re trying to tell them that all we’re trying to do is accomplish what President Obama himself told the Democrat leaders on Monday night, Republicans have good ideas, we ought to try to work towards a bipartisan bill. And in the process, you know, either that could be a gain, but also if it’s not a gain, then it means that the Democrats in the Congress are not following the leader of their own party, their president, and my president.

HH: Senator Grassley, I look forward to checking back with you, keep fighting the good fight. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us tonight. Keep those amendments coming.

End of interview.

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