In his weekly public affairs program, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley took questions from the Daily News and A.J. Taylor, news director at KIOW-FM in Forest City.
During the 10-minute program, Grassley fielded a number of questions about the current U.S. government shutdown. He also addressed the progress on a new Farm Bill and the approaching debt limit deadline.
Taylor opened the program with a question regarding the current impasse between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate on funding the government. Grassley said the House has presented the Senate with four pieces of legislation to fund the government, called continuing resolutions, requesting a conference committee with the fourth piece.
“The Senate has rejected that,” he said. “The Senate just isn’t willing to come to the table to have a productive discussion.”
Asked by the Daily News when it may be possible to see some movement by the Senate on a continuing resolution, Grassley became pessimistic. He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) controls when the Senate convenes and what legislation it takes up for a vote.
“I can’t get inside his head to tell you what he’s thinking,” he said. “So, I’m afraid I can’t answer that question.”
Taylor noted President Obama has been a player in the current funding stalemate, and asked if Grassley knew what issues appeared to be the sticking point for the President. He said the President has calculated his position is stronger than that of Congress, and is “waiting for Congress to fold.”
“I also think Harry Reid has protected the President on this issue,” he said. “By being unwilling to negotiate, and by not taking up any of the House proposals, he’s making it to where the President doesn’t have to take a position.”
Currently, more than 120 members of Congress from both houses and both political parties have announced they are either refusing to accept their pay, or are donating it to various charities. No Iowa member of Congress has made such an announcement.
Grassley said he was “already ahead of the curve,” because he donates regularly to charities and has engaged in tithing, the Christian practice of giving one-tenth of one’s income to the church, for “35 to 40 years.”
He added that the estimates of $1.4 to $2 billion that it will cost to shut down the government is based on an assumption that Congress will vote to back-pay those federal employees who have been furloughed. He said he doesn’t know if that will happen or not.
“When the government is shut down, it ought to mean you’re spending less money, not more,” he said.
Regarding the progress on a new Farm Bill, Grassley said the Senate has appointed conferees to meet with members of the House to iron out a compromise bill. He said he wasn’t sure if the House had voted to enter into negotiations with the Senate yet, or not.
“Once they’re in conference, it won’t be too difficult to work out the differences. They’re really minute,” he said. “The difficulty will be to find compromise on the amount of savings each is willing to accept. The Senate wants to save $4.5 billion and the House wants to save $40 billion. Somebody might say, ‘Just split the difference and make it $20 billion,’ but it’s not that easy.”
Grassley also said the Oct. 17 debt limit deadline could lead to both a new spending limit agreement and an action to fund the government. He said a single piece of legislation could be crafted to do both, as was done in August of 2011.
Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at email@example.com.