Transcription of Senator Grassley's Capitol Hill Report
The following is an unrehearsed interview with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, speaking to you live from Washington. Participating in today's public affairs program are Eric McKay with KHBT Radio in Humboldt.
Eric, your first question please.
MCKAY: OK. Thank you for joining me, Senator. Obviously you voted no on the healthcare reform bill. You indicated in a conference call earlier this week that you see yourself voting no on a reconciled bill as well. Is there a version of healthcare reform that exists that you would vote yes to?
GRASSLEY: Yes. Let me tell you some parts of the bill the president signed and then some things that aren't in that bill that ought to be in it. And some things that are in it that ought to not be in it.
But the emphasis on preventive medicine in there is very good. Accountable care organizations where you have teams of healthcare people zero in on the chronic diseases, the five diseases that eat up 75 percent of our healthcare dollars. The ban on discrimination of not getting health insurance because of preexisting conditions.
Something that's in there that ought to come out is what's called the individual mandate where for the first time the federal government, unlike state governments, can require you to buy car insurance. The Constitution doesn't give the federal government authority to tell you to buy anything, let alone very costly health insurance.
Things that aren't in it that ought to be in it. It's just a few, but there's many more and I'll just give you the most important ones. Selling insurance across state lines. The effort to make sure that where you have issues like - I can't - sorry I can't think of the words that I'm trying to think of. Where you have selling of insurance across state lines.
Now it's come to me. We've got to have medical malpractice reform. I shouldn't even had to think about that. That's number one for most of us because the lawsuits and defensive medicine. And things of that nature that aren't included that ought to be included.
One other one would be pools - association health plans where small business can join in national pools to provide health insurance for their workers because small business has small pools and very costly big pools would make it more competitive, and not drive up the cost or make them abandon it just because they've had somebody get cancer say for instance.
MCCKAY: This week President Obama announced that he himself would be enrolling in a healthcare plan. I know that's something that you've been championing for everyone in Congress and elsewhere to do. What are - if you can give me your reaction to that, just some thoughts on his decision this week.
GRASSLEY: Well, you know he didn't do that until I introduced an amendment saying that if Congress is going to be covered the White House and cabinet people ought to be under the same exchange. And so he says, well he would do that.
Well, the exchanges really don't begin until 2014 so he'd have to be reelected. So but he's doing it voluntarily he said. Well, that's nice. I'm glad he is. But the next president who comes along and thinks he's got to have something special.
Well, I've been a crusader for a long period of time that Congress ought to be covered by the same laws that affect everybody else. In fact, 1995 I got a law passed that requires that, requires that we in our offices live under the same - the same thing that other - the rest of the country lives under. And there were 12 laws that we exempted ourselves from. Well, I was going to make sure we don't exempt ourselves from the healthcare program. So I got that passed for Congress.
Now I offered this amendment. It lost last night, but I'm still going to pursue that. If it's good enough for the rest of the country it ought to be good enough for the president. And I'm glad the president says that. But it shouldn't be the president individually making that choice. He ought to follow the same law we do.
MCKAY: The president of course in Iowa actually speaking as we are right now. You know your constituents in Iowa very well. What sort of reception do you think the president's going to get in the state today?
GRASSLEY: Well, listen. Any time a president, a Republican or Democrat, comes to Iowa he's going to get a good reception because Iowans are civil people and I don't need to tell Iowans that they ought to.
There's going to be a lot of people that disagree with the president that are probably at his speech. But they're going to accept him cordially. And I would if I were there. He is our president and you got to honor the office of the presidency even if you disagree with the policies. And so he'll get a good reception.
But I can tell you this. He's coming to Iowa City because there in May of the 2007 he announced his healthcare reform program. And he's going - wants to go back to the place where he says this all started. But this bill's quite a bit different.
He was never for doing it all in one shot. He always wanted to do it incrementally. He was never for an individual mandate having the federal government require you to buy health insurance.
In fact he belittled Senator Clinton when she had that in her program for healthcare. And he said he never wanted to nationalize healthcare. But he - he didn't really fight the public option when it was brought up.
So he's going with a bill that's completely different - I shouldn't say completely. But on very key points very different from what he campaigned on.
MCKAY: Moving away from healthcare, the activities considering the child nutrition bill this week, what sort of updates and details can you give us on how that bill's going?
GRASSLEY: It's not very controversial. It spends a little more money, but I think it's a respectful increase. Not anywhere as near what a lot of lobbyists were lobbying for. And it's going to have in it a lot of things other than nutrition.
It's going to have programs to battle obesity in young people. It's going to encourage healthful living, and it's going to encourage farmed to the table (ph) marketing, more direct marketing and making use of our local products. And so I think it's a pretty good piece of legislation. It got out of committee yesterday on an unanimous vote.
MCKAY: Well, thank you for joining me, Senator. I appreciate the time.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Eric, for participating in today's public affairs program. This has been Senator Chuck Grassley reporting to the people of Iowa.
GRASSLEY: Thank you all very much. Goodbye.