Grassley Weighs In On Stimulus Package

The $825 billion economic stimulus package passed the House of Representatives Wednesday without a single GOP vote. It now goes to the Senate where the finance committee adopted a suggestion from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to include an additional $70 billion in tax cuts. Grassley offers his insight.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a Republican, in fact, he is the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and he joins us from the Capitol Hill. Welcome to the program once, again, senator.

Senator CHUCK GRASSLEY (Republican, Iowa): Yeah, I'm glad to be with you, of course.

SIEGEL: No House Republicans, as we've just been hearing from Mara, voted for the stimulus bill. Is it legislation that you as a Republican senator can imagine voting for without some major revisions?

Senator GRASSLEY: No, and there will be major revisions. I think, the president lending a hand in our direction, coming to our caucuses, helped. I think I'm an expert on building a bipartisan bill, six years of chairman and then working with Chairman Baucus for two years until now. You build a bill by meeting across the table for days and hours to work out, and you put down what we call a bipartisan mark, like it could be Grassley-Baucus sometimes, other times Baucus-Grassley.

And you fight together, shoulder to shoulder, through the whole legislative process, and on this issue the reason why it tends to be partisan is because it is started out partisan. The Democrats put together a bill and said, here it is, you know, there was not the negotiations that normally go on.

SIEGEL: We should say you're referring to Senator Max Baucus, the chairman?

Senator GRASSLEY: Yes.

SIEGEL: Montana Democrat, chairman of the appropriations...

Senator GRASSLEY: And a friend of mine.

SIEGEL: Which is of the Finance Committee. Well, tell me something, just give us an example of something - one thing that has to change about this bill that you'd expect will change for it to win a few Republican votes.

Senator GRASSLEY: I think separating the appropriations part of it from stuff on money that is really stimulus and will be spent in the two years and it's not intended - continuous spending. So much in this bill is expenditures that are not going stop at the end of two years. They are increasing the level of expenditure forever. That's not stimulus, that's using stimulus as a subterfuge for the normal appropriation process.

SIEGEL: We've been hearing that the bill was getting vigor as it was heading for the senate. Is it actually getting much smaller in that case? Do you think it has to be a $500 billion bill...

Senator GRASSLEY: I think we, in our party, and even some Democrats, are not so worried about the size as we're worried about making sure it does what it's supposed to do and that is stimulate and create jobs, in the case of spending money. In the case of taxes, that it encourages investment because on the investment side, encouraging private investment is where you really create wealth.

You know, government consumes wealth. It doesn't produce wealth. So, you got to have the private sector, people like you working to produce wealth that create the real progress in standard of living that we have always had in this country.

SIEGEL: By the way, senator, we always just assume that anything in the Senate requires 60 votes because there'll be a filibuster threat. Is that right? Does this bill need 60 votes to pass?

Senator GRASSLEY: Yes.

SIEGEL: It does.

Senator GRASSLEY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Why? Why? Why couldn't do something ever pass without a threat of a filibuster in the senate?

Senator GRASSLEY: Well, listen, not every bill that comes up has a threat of a filibuster. It's always a possibility. But most legislation go through without the worry about 60 votes or not. It usually comes down to people working things out. That's what unique about the Senate. It forces bipartisanship when you have to have 60 votes.

SIEGEL: Well, short answer question because we're running out of time. What are the chances from zero to 100 percent that there will be some economic stimulus bill that passes the Senate and that President Obama gets to sign?

Senator GRASSLEY: Well, there's going to be a bill for the president to sign, and whether or not it's broadly supported in a bipartisan way is going it go back to those things that I said. If everything in the bill is stimulus and not just an excuse for increase spending that's unrelated to stimuli, then it will get a broad bipartisan vote...

SIEGEL: Senator Grassley...

Senator GRASSLEY: Short of that, it won't.

SIEGEL: Senator Grassley, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Senator GRASSLEY: OK. Goodbye.

SIEGEL: Chuck Grassley, Republican senator of Iowa.

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