Grassley tackles partisanship, other issues
Sen. Charles Grassley addressed partisanship and other issues when he spoke to Estherville Rotarians Thursday.
“There is too much partisanship,” Grassley acknowledged. “There is more partisanship now than there was when I went to the Senate.”
However, Grassley said the media does not cover the success stories of how both parties cooperate, such as how he and Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, have worked together.
“We decided what we could do together,” Grassley said.
However, cooperation is not always easy, he said.
“Is it easy for us to come to an agreement,” Grassley said. “No. It’s called compromise.”
As a larger body, Grassley said the House is by nature more partisan than the Senate. And, while the House is designed to get things done quickly, the Senate required 60 percent supermajority requires more deliberation on legislation.
In a question-and-answer session that comprised most of his visit, Grassley addressed a question from Emmet County Veterans Affairs Director Larry Sundall on people unable to pay their utility bills.
Grassley said there should be a supplemental appropriation for energy assistance and possibly a second economic stimulus package.
Regarding a question on the subprime mortgage debacle, Grassley noted that speculators were responsible for 20 percent of foreclosures. For the future, Grassley suggested that lenders should also hold part of the responsibility for bad loans.
“Having bankers that have a little skin in the game” would be one way to help ensure another spate of defaults does not happen in the near future.
Grassley compared the current mortgage default crisis to the savings and loan crisis of 20 years ago and that recessions were also a natural part of the nation’s economic cycle.
“Some of this is due to loose money policies on the part of Greenspan,” Grassley said of former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan.
Iowa Lakes Community College President Harold Prior asked about energy efficiency grants and loans for institutions.
Grassley said those should remain in the authorization bill.
Neal Rauhauser of the Stranded Wind Initiative, associated with Freedom Fertilizer which wants to built a wind-powered ammonia fertilizer plant east of Graettinger, asked about sustaining the production tax credit on wind energy.
Grassley, noting that he had invented the wind energy tax credit of 1992, pledged his support for the continued tax credit.
“It’s my intention to get that done,” Grassley said. “What governs it is offsets,” he added, noting tax credits deplete money coming in.
Grassley addressed a question from Ed Funston of KILR about the new farm bill. The senator said the present law was extended to April 18 and if new legislation was not in place by then, the existing farm bill would have to be extended one year.
Rotary President John Wittneben asked what Iowans could do to get more of the real facts behind what is going on in Washington.
Grassley said most working people don’t have time to keep up with the legislative process. He urged Rotarians to get their information from more than one source and to let their congressman and senators know what their feelings are.
Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative Director of Operations Rick Olesen asked about the status of transmission lines for wind energy. “Until transmission is decided, that’s always going to affect how we grow these renewables,” Olesen said.
Grassley contrasted the desire in the Midwest for windpower with eastern states where there are lawsuits over building wind towers for aesthetic reasons.
After the general meeting, Grassley answered a number of individual questions. They included:
n Suggesting the Iowa insurance pool as a source of employee health insurance benefits.
n Favoring banning packer livestock ownership.
n Favoring presidential candidate John McCain’s crusade against earmarks which Grassley estimated would save $15-$20 billion annually. As to McCain’s ability to serve as commander-in-chief, Grassley said the former Navy pilot would be “better than President Bush” because McCain has more “tenacity”.