Grassley defends vote against stimulus bill

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Calling the Administration's stimulus package "intellectual dishonesty," Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said that only a portion of the massive proposal caused him to vote against it last week.

"Let's divide it into three or four parts. The tax provisions, about 35 percent of it, mostly pretty good. I could have made it better, but... I could have voted for it based on it," the senator said in an interview.

"The second part is what you call stimulus. And any spending that's shovel ready that we could get started within a few days this year going into the next years and spend all that money in two years, I wouldn't find too much fault with that approach. There might be parts of it I wouldn't like, but I wouldn't vote against the bill if it was strictly stimulus and strictly the tax provisions," Grassley said.

"But the last part is more than half of the spending, and goes beyond the year 2010, so it's not stimulus."

Grassley said the economy is being used as an excuse to spend money that wouldn't otherwise be able to get through the appropriations process, "subverting" the process - such as a high-speed rail line to be run between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

"I think that's intellectually dishonest. More importantly, when you're handling the taxpayer's money, it ought to be done in a thoughtful process.

And the appropriation process is much more thoughtful than the stimulus process."

The senator said that there are only two sources of money coming into the federal Treasury - "Either it's borrowed or it's taxed." It may be realistic to face the situation that some borrowing is necessary to repair the economy, he feels.

"Now, I wish I could promise you this was going to jumpstart the economy. We sure hope so. I want Mr. Obama to do well because if he does well with his policies, this country is going to do well. But I can't guarantee that. And even you find some hedging by the president," Grassley said.

"Hopefully... it justifies the borrowing that's going to be done."

What he particularly likes in the bill, and wished it contained even more of, is incentives to help create more jobs in the private sector, Grassley said, but he would have liked to see more done to help small business grow, such as eliminating capital gains taxes for longterm investments in small business as he said Obama had promised during his campaign.

Asked about his assessment of Obama's first weeks in office, Grassley said he thinks the president has performed well, but has let his Democrat party-mates "run away with the show."

While Obama himself has shown a conservative side early on in spending, the Democrats in Congress have seized the opportunity to spend as they have wanted to for 30 years, he adds.

Grassley is currently traveling in his 99-county annual tour of the state, and said that the stimulus plan has probably been brought up in every meeting he has held to date.

Other issues on constituents' minds? "Health care reform, very little agricultural issues, very little education issues. But a lot dealing with immigration, transportation, health care -- I'm saying that twice because it does play a prominent role in the discussions."

Grassley is also talking about legislation he recently introduced to help seniors and people with disabilities get care at home. Despite the economic difficulties, Grassley plans to continue pushing for the investment.

"It's a situation where if we can spend a little more money for care at home, keep people in their homes longer than going hospitals or nursing homes, you end up saving a lot of taxpayer's money, particularly on Medicare and Medicare, and quality of life at home. For most people, is much better than being in an institution.

"I've never run into a single constituent who said I'm just dying to get into a nursing home," Grassley said.

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