Sen. Chuck Grassley Friday said it still remains to be seen whether the Highway Bill stalled in Congress will be approved at a level that would ensure extending Highway 20 as a four-lane from Fort Dodge to Sioux City.
Grassley made his comments during a 10-minute, unrehearsed interview with Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal and Shelly Roma of WHO Radio in Des Moines. The interview was made available VIA Grassley's voice mail system.
At the heart of the issue is a difference between Senate House and Senate versions of the bill, with the Senate compromising from $318 billion down to $301 million and the House up from $275 billion to $283 billion.
"I've been long active in the Highway 20 movement," Grassley said during the interview. If a highway is approved, Grassley said "there will be at least some money for the improvement of Highway 20 to Sioux City."
The $318 billion the Senate had originally sought would have funded highway improvements for six years and meant a 43 percent increase for Iowa, Grassley said.
"The situation's kind of muddy right now whether or not we'll have a Highway Bill," Grassley said. He said there was a "lost opportunity" the last time the bill was discussed in joint conference committee July 20.
"There's still a wide difference" between what the Senate wants and the House compromise to $283 billion, Grassley said. "I want to assure people that we have a highway program that will continue. It just won't be adequately funded. But I'm still going to be working to get the massive amount of money so that there's enough money to help on Highway 20."
Grassley said it won't be until after Sept. 7 that the joint committee meets again on the bill. A Highway 20 summit will be held this Thursday at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake.
Among other topics, Grassley said the Republican National Convention will likely be "untypically quiet". He said Iowa would have 25 delegates and 25 alternates to the convention which he previews as "a big-time party where we have our opportunity to get our message out."
Grassley criticized Democrat-ic nominee John Kerry for "spending a lot of time talking about the past, particularly the war on terrorism, rather than the future."
Grassley blamed Democrats for holding up President Bush's goals, saying, "The President's program has been held up in the Senate and buried in a Daschle graveyard."
Grassley said issues that President Bush needs to deal with include reducing troop levels in the Mideast, addressing what had not happened with the 911 commission, dealing with lack of health insurance coverage for many Americans, considering opening American borders to imported drugs, agricultural trade issues, and education reform.
Grassley said President Bush's popularity rating is at its current level in the high-40s despite his accomplishments domestically with the economy "because it's been clouded by what's happening in Iraq."
Grassley said delegates to the Republican National Conven-tion would be naive if they did not believe there could be a threat of terrorism during the convention.