Friday, March 05, 2010

Senator David Hartsuch announced his intention to seek re-election for Iowa Senate District number 41, representing Davenport, Bettendorf and Riverdale.

Senator Hartsuch said, "I believe that my ongoing leadership is important for the prosperity of our district and state."

Senator Hartsuch is now completing his first term of office.  He was elected in 2006 after defeating Senator Maggie Tinsman in a heated Republican primary.  Senator Hartsuch emerged as only one of two freshman Republican Senators to win in a bad election year for Republicans.

Senator Hartsuch said, "I ran on a platform of limited government, lower taxes, and stronger families.  I have remained true to these promises, and voters have come to depend on that."

Senator Hartsuch brought a conservative voice to the Iowa Senate, but more importantly changed the balance of power within the caucus ushering in the much needed leadership of Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley.

Senator Hartsuch said "When I was elected, it was like being on a football team where the coach and quarterback were cheering for the other team.  Nobody was willing to move the ball forward.  While there aren't enough of us to stop the opposition, at least we all agree on which goal is ours.  I am proud of the Republican minority under the leadership of Paul McKinley, and I am proud to have contributed to this change.  It is refreshing to see the Republican caucus united around a platform directed at growing the economy rather than government, promoting real job growth, and providing true property tax reform by limiting unfunded mandates."

"Today, most Iowans are faced with economic hardships.  The future cost of the Governor's excessive spending will only make matters worse as current debts must be repaid. These next four years are critical to the future of our state as the legislature will be under pressure to raise taxes.  My record indicates that I have the courage resist this pressure.  "

Senator Hartsuch said, "The Democrat majority has overspent and refuses to curtail any of their government expansion programs such as the $890 million I-Jobs program. While many of my constituents cheer for the recent $9.5 million grant check which Governor Chet Culver brought to the city of Davenport, little attention has been given to Scott County's $44 million share of the total debt which was incurred for the program and which will stifle future economic growth."

While Senator Hartsuch is best known for his defense of traditional marriage and pro-life stand, he has shown significant leadership by championing the cause of minority and small businesses.  At the request of local minority business leaders, Senator Hartsuch successfully garnered support for a program called "Ongoing Covenant With Black Iowa" which included a study to examine barriers to minority and small business contracting in Davenport.  The findings of this report have great implications for all small businesses which are the engine of our economy.

In the recent floor debate on the government reorganization bill, Senator Hartsuch said, "Centralized purchasing and the aggregation of government contracts will limit competition since many small businesses will by unable to meet contract requirements.  This will have a stifling effect on disadvantaged business enterprises and targeted small businesses."

As ranking member of the Human Services Committee, Senator Hartsuch has worked to preserve choice and competition rather than promote government run health care.  Said Senator Hartsuch, "The American public clearly prefers patient controlled health care rather than government controlled health care.  We have proposed solutions that empower patients by promoting competition, individual responsibility, and by reducing frivolous lawsuits.  Unfortunately, the majority has ignored all of our proposals."

Senator Hartsuch said, "Past Republican behavior has left many people distrustful of the party.  I will continue to reform the Party and bring integrity to the office.  We will be working to regain the public's trust.  My reelection will encourage all legislators to defend good public policy rather than just what is politically popular."

Senator Hartsuch authored one of the four Republican bills which survived the funnel.  SF 2171 permits some children to have better access to their grand-parents.  Senator Hartsuch has also worked in a bipartisan fashion to get in-state tuition for Military personnel stationed at Rock Island Arsenal, and also to pass a resolution regarding the contributions of disabled Americans.

Senator Hartsuch said, "I am optimistic about the prospects for 2010, but it is important that the Republican Party once again become the party of fiscal restraint that the public expects.  It is clear that the Democrats have extended unsustainable promises during the last two election cycles.  Our state can not afford four more years of Democratic control of both houses and the Governor's mansion.  I will be doing my part to restore common sense to the Legislature."

During today's conference call with Iowa reporters, Senator Chuck Grassley answered questions about the following issues:                       

International Trade, Medicaid Reimbursements to Doctors, Bipartisanship in Health Care, Reconciliation, Senator Bunning, Unemployment Benefits, Pay as You Go Rules, and Post Office Reduced Mail Delivery

Click here to listen to the audio of the conference call or go to http://grassley.senate.gov. Click on News Center and select News Conference Calls.

The transcription of the conference call is below or click here.

SEN. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, R-IOWA, HOLDS A NEWS

TELECONFERENCE

MARCH 3, 2010

SPEAKER:  SEN. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, R-IOWA

GRASSLEY: I went to the Senate floor offering an amendment to make sure that Medicare providers in this (inaudible) bill are fully offset and paid for.  It also would extend physician payment update til the end of the year to bring some uncertainty to doctors -- or to bring certainty to doctors.

All of these provisions are very important to the wellbeing of Medicare beneficiaries.

It's also very important that they be taken care of in a way that's fiscally responsible.  Senator Baucus and I tried to update these provisions before they expired at the end of February, but of course our efforts were rebuffed by the Senate majority leader, Senator Reid.

Senator Baucus and I had a bipartisan bill that was paid for.  Senator Reid pushed it aside and now put a second bill on the floor that's both partisan and fiscally irresponsible.  The Reid bill this week is almost three times the size of the bill Senator Baucus and I put together in February and, again, our bill was fiscally responsible.  My amendment needs to be passed so that the cost of the Medicare provisions isn't added to the federal debt.

In the Finance Committee this morning, I questioned U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk about the trade policy agenda released by the president Monday.  One of my main concerns is the lack of anything specific in that agenda regarding the Panama, Colombia and Korea free trade agreements.  It's been nearly three years since all of them have been modified according to a compromise between congressional Democrats and the then-Bush administration.

The Obama trade agenda says only that the administration will continue to engage, without any timetable for moving ahead.  Continued delay is hurting U.S. credibility around the world, both economically and geopolitically.

These trade agreements are good policies.  And while the United States sits on the sidelines, the world is moving on without us.  South Korea now has a trade agreement with European Union and Colombia has done the same.  When the United States becomes less globally competitive, there are bottom-line consequences for Iowa agriculture, manufacturing and service industries, and employers across the country.

International trade is an opportunity for job creation through new markets and it doesn't make any sense to neglect it when job creation is so very much needed.  In fact, trade is one of the very best ways of moving us out of this recession we're in.

Joe Morton?

Tom Beaumont?

QUESTION: Senator, do you take President Obama's comments yesterday or in the letter about Medicaid being underfunded in the Senate bill as an authentic attempt to win your support?

GRASSLEY: Well, the answer is definitively yes.  I think it's a sincere effort.

That in and of itself doesn't win my support because, you know, he's adding these things to a 2,700-page bill that we have taken the position of 70 percent of Americans that we ought to start over.

But this is a very important issue that isn't only important because I brought it up with the president and he recognizes it, but it's also an issue I brought up when the health care reform bill was before the Senate Finance Committee, and I did it in a way that was paid for.

There's no question that Medicaid won't be able to provide adequate access to these 15 million people that the bill adds to it and -- and pushing both of them into Medicaid.  It's -- as I think I stated it this way to the president, it's kind of a false promise.  I think I may have even used the words it's kind of intellectually dishonest.  But a false promise to the very low-income people in our country.

And something that Speaker Pelosi said to me after the meeting, as we were walking out.  So I hate to report the exact -- well, I don't have the exact language in my mind, but I can give you the gist of it.

I hate to say a one-on-one conversation, but it adds emphasis to what the president said, and I think that it may be because of Pelosi that maybe the president has taken this step.

And that is that she agreed with me it is a problem and we need to do something about it.  And that's, kind of, the gist of what she said to me, because, you know, you're, kind of, surprised when the speaker of the House, who's almost my opposite politically, agrees with me on something.

I take notice that she's agreeing with me, but you're almost stunned, so I don't remember exactly how she put it, but that's the gist of it.

QUESTION: Considering have for a long time been an advocate of a bipartisan bill, how are you going to respond to -- to this, you know, invitation, if you will, to consider an area that was pretty -- a priority for you?

GRASSLEY: Well, I think I've just given you that response that -- that...

QUESTION: I mean, are you going to -- are you going to, you know, White House, you know, in some way on this?

GRASSLEY: I'm always available to talk to the White House, but I'm not anxious to let people -- are very much opposed to this 2,700-page bill to give any indication to them or to even Iowans who object to the 2,700-page bill that I'm compromising on the 2,700-page bill.

QUESTION: Thank you.

GRASSLEY: Ed Tibbetts?

QUESTION: Senator, I'm just wondering if you would -- people talk about reconciliation.  And I think there's some confusion about -- out there about why it's been used and how it's been used.  The other side will say that -- that reconciliation has been used a number of times, many times when the Republicans were in the leadership, including on the Children's Health Insurance Program and on -- and on Medicare Advantage -- on insurance policies.

GRASSLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: And I guess I'm just wondering if -- if you might speak to why -- given that, why you think that this is an inappropriate use of that technique.

GRASSLEY: Yeah, I'd be glad to.

And I think I -- if you go back -- if you can get to the congressional record for what I said today -- is a partial answer to this -- and it was at the end of my speech, which was prepared text for my amendment that I just talk about on Medicare.

But I did give off-the-cuff comments in rebuttal to something that the previous speaker had said in morning business about the health care bill and finding faults with Republicans on this very subject that you're asking me about.

But before I answer your question, if Tom Beaumont's still on, I just thought of one other thing that I ought to say about some consideration about the president going this direction -- because I suggested it on Medicaid -- more funding for Medicaid.  I think that it's legitimate that we know how he's going to pay for it.

Now to your question.  The main difference that I said on the floor a few hours ago -- in answer to your question but also answering your question -- is it that I didn't disagree with anything Senator Durbin was saying about Republican use of filibuster, because he was accurate as far as I know, without going back and checking everything he said.

But right now what's so different is we are restructuring one-sixth of the economy.  And there's no -- there's no reconciliation bill that you can name that restructures the economy, including a $1.1 trillion cut in taxes in 2001, which would have been $1.3 trillion of approximately $10 trillion or $11 trillion economy.  And that was spread out over 10 years; not a complete restructuring of our economy.  So that's the difference, to use reconciliation.

And then just think of the history that you heard me talk about 12 years in negotiating on health care or being involved with health care.  When Senator Baucus and I started out a year ago, we were going to get 75, 80 votes because we were restructuring one part of the economy, and it ought to be done in a consensus basis.

Then -- then another difference for reconciliation in this instance is they want to have the Senate pass a bill to reconcile a policy that isn't even law yet.  And reconciliation is always used to reconcile or to change existing policy; in other words, law of the land.

And what they want to reconcile is some changes in the Senate bill that is now residing in the House.  And that's never been done before.

And then I believe the other thing is -- my answer to -- to the people that say, "Well, you ought to be able to pass it by a majority vote," well, the House of Representatives always does things by a majority vote.  If they want to pass a health care reform bill, just pass the bill that the Senate passed, and it'll be given to the president and then for sure the president's going to sign it.

So they don't have to use reconciliation if they want to get a health care reform bill.  Just go pass the bill that we sent over there.

QUESTION: If I might follow up, with respect to the issue of the size of a piece of legislation, whether reconciliation is appropriate, my understanding is that when welfare was overhauled back in the mid-'90s that reconciliation was used as well.  And while that may not be a sixth of the economy, it did, indeed, affect millions of people. I guess, where do you draw the line, where reconciliation -- where a proposal is too big to -- to use reconciliation on?

GRASSLEY: Well, first of all, welfare reform was passed in a bipartisan way.  And it was vetoed twice by President Clinton.  But finally the message got through that the public wanted it, and so the president eventually signed it, after a third time.

So I think that in that particular case, where we were using something that at the grassroots of America was demanded, and in this particular case, of this 2,700-page bill, the public's saying, "Start over."

WHO Radio?

Tim Rohwer?

QUESTION: Yes, Senator. Did you vote -- I understand the Senate last night voted to extend unemployment benefits.  And -- and what's your thoughts on the action of Senator Jim Bunning yesterday, trying to apparently block those unemployment?  I mean, I guess he had some controversy, even in -- with fellow Republicans.

GRASSLEY: Well, those questions are, kind of, tied together, but I'll answer them separately.

First of all, I did vote for it.  And the reason I voted for it, and still support Senator Bunning, is because Senator Bunning offered an amendment to pay for it.  The Democrats said he could get a vote on his amendment.  Then, quite frankly, they lied to him and raised a point of order so it took 60 votes to override it.  Every Republican voted to override it, but we didn't get the 60 votes to override it, so we never really got a vote on his amendment.

But by voting for overriding the point of order, every Republican, including this Republican, was voting to pay for it, because that was what the -- what the point of order was against.

And so then I felt justified in voting for it, even though that amendment of Bunning's lost.

Now, my comment on Bunning is, Bunning was doing two or three things, and all of them appropriate.

Number one, he was -- wanted to -- he wanted to pay for it.  That's the right thing to do.

His motive for wanting to pay for it wasn't just because he believed that it shouldn't add to the deficit, but he was raising the point with the majority party that they want pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO for short, in other words offsets to pay for it, and in this case they didn't want to do it.  And from his standpoint, it was intellectually dishonest.

So he -- he was only making the point that it ought to be paid for.  He had a pay-for.  The Democrats held it up for two days or over the weekend because they didn't want to pay for it.  They thought of it as an emergency and consequently, then, not -- didn't need a pay-for.  And he disagreed, so they held it up.

And the other thing to remember is the Democrats don't -- aren't intellectually honest when they say that he was holding it up or Republicans were holding it up, because the Baucus-Grassley bill had an extension of unemployment compensation in it.  We negotiated that during the last week of January and the first two weeks of -- of February.  We had a bipartisan agreement.  We thought we had Reid's consent.

And Reid decided to go partisan, which was the bill that we passed last week, and he took out the unemployment compensation.  But if we'd gone with that bipartisan bill, we would have had a bill to the president by February 15th, and -- and they would be collecting their unemployment compensation.  There wouldn't've been a lack of it.

So I don't know how -- I -- I've been asked by the media people on Capitol Hill.  They just swarm you with questions about Bunning holding something up.  Well, why all the attention on one Republican?  Why not the attention on the Democrats, that Reid took it out of the bipartisan bill?  And -- and they didn't let -- for three days, they didn't let Bunning have a vote on his amendment.  What are they -- what are they scared of?

And so, you know, I've got to ask people in the fourth estate, the media of our country, how come you're letting him get away with it?

Mike Glover?

Christinia Crippes?

QUESTION: Nothing today, thank you.

GRASSLEY: Courtney Blanchard?

QUESTION: Senator, it's Courtney.

GRASSLEY: Courtney, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I just wanted to, kind of, jump in on that last question and maybe ask you to repeat a little bit about you did end up voting for the bill.  I'm sorry.  I just didn't get on.

GRASSLEY:  OK.

I voted for the bill because I don't want people's unemployment compensation to lapse.  It's a safety net for unemployed people like the farm program is for farmers, to help people when they're hit with something beyond their own control.

The other thing was that it was very important to me in backing Bunning -- and every other Republican backed Bunning -- that it be paid for.  So we offered an amendment to pay for it; in fact, raise more money than what it took to pay for it.  And I voted -- in a sense voting for that amendment, although we didn't get an up-or-down vote on the amendment because the issue was a point of order, and we voted to override the point of order, but we didn't win.

So since trying to pay for it, didn't get it paid for, couldn't get it paid for, I still didn't think unemployment -- unemployed people ought to be denied their unemployment check.

QUESTION: Thanks.

GRASSLEY:  Kathie Obradovich?

OK, I've gone through the entire list.  Anybody else want to pop in?

QUESTION: Senator, Tim Rohwer again. I was doing a story.  I understand that the post office wants to, among other things, cut back mail delivery from, like, six days to five days to save money, and it has to go through Congress.  That's going to come up some time this year.  Would you support those cost-saving measures like reduction of mail service?

GRASSLEY: Well, let me -- let me tell you something.

I ought to be able to tell you yes or no, because that issue has been on the agenda I'll bet once or twice a year for the last five or six years.  But it's never gotten out of committee.  I don't know whether it's even got to the Congress because we wouldn't be acting on it unless the post office would ask us to.  Now it seems like they're asking us to.

So I have not studied it, but let me give you some points that might tell you how I'm going to approach it without giving you an answer.

First of all, there's a lot of fat to be cut in the post office budget.  Executive pay and relocation expenses that I have been investigating in my oversight capacity has -- has -- in my oversight capacity I've had the Government Accountability Office or my own -- post office inspectors general or my own staff investigating a lot of these things and I've been on television, like, 20 minutes on some of these things as an example.  And I'm talking about things I've been looking into over the past two years.

So I want to make sure that all the fat is out of the budget in the first place before I make a decision to cut services to our country.  But now, what I would take into consideration if I figured that the fat's out and you still had to do something, would Saturday delivery be one of the things to do?  I want to know the impact on the economy.

Now, for the average householder it might not make much difference, but there are a lot of businesses that depend upon the Postal Service to do their business and I want to know what that impact is and I don't have any way of knowing that at this point.

So I can't answer your question definitively.

OK, anybody else want to jump in?  OK.  Thank you all very much.

END

Floor Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley

Delivered Monday, March 1, 2010

Today the Senate starts debate on expiring tax and health provisions. They are known around here as "extenders."  I'd like to make a couple of points on the process before I get into the substance of the substitute.

What I find surprising is that we are taking up a package, that like last week's exercise, absolutely belongs to the Senate Democratic Leadership.  That is to say we are not taking up a bipartisan package that I put together with Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.  To be sure, some of the structure reflects the agreement my friend, the chairman, and I reached.  But this package is almost three times the size of the package we agreed on.  Virtually all of the additional cost is due to proposals that I would not have agreed to in representing the Republican Conference.  I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic Leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken.  Although the Senate Democratic Leadership was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, they arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill that skews toward their liberal wing.

So, my first comment to my colleagues, the media, and the public is, don't let this package be mislabeled as the Baucus-Grassley package.  It is not the package my friend Chairman Baucus and I negotiated.  Again, the package before the Senate dramatically differs in cost, balance, and intent from the Baucus-Grassley deal, announced on February 11.

My second preliminary comment goes to the way in which these expiring tax provisions have been described by many on the other side, including those in the Democratic Leadership.  If you rolled the videotape back a week or so ago, you'd hear a lot of disparaging comments about these routine, bipartisan extenders.  From my perspective, those comments were made in an effort to sully the bipartisan agreement reached by Chairman Baucus and me.

If you take a look at newspaper accounts of a week or so ago, you'd come away with the impression that the tax extenders are partisan pork for Republicans.  A representative sample comes from one report, which describes the bipartisan bill as "an extension of soon-to-expire tax breaks that are highly beneficial to major corporations, known as tax extenders, as well as other corporate giveaways that had been designed to win GOP support."  The Washington Post included this attribution to the Senate Democratic Leadership in an article last week.  " "We're pretty close," {the majority leader} said Friday during a television appearance in Nevada, adding that he thought "fat cats" would have benefitted too much from the larger Baucus-Grassley bill."

The portrait that was painted by certain members of the majority, echoed without critical examination, in some press reports was inaccurate.  For one thing the tax extenders include provisions such as the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and also the deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers.  If you are going to school or if you are a grade school teacher, the Senate Democratic Leadership apparently viewed you as a fat cat.  If your house was destroyed in a recent natural disaster and you still need any of the temporary disaster relief provisions contained in the extenders package, too bad, because helping you would amount to a corporate giveaway in the eyes of some.

The tax extenders have been routinely passed repeatedly because they are bipartisan and very popular.  Democrats have consistently voted in favor of extending these tax provisions.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a very strong statement upon House passage of tax extenders in December of 2009, saying this was "good for businesses, good for homeowners, and good for our communities."  December of 2009 was not very long ago.  In 2006, the then-Democratic Leader released a blistering statement "after Bush Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of critical tax extenders" because "American families and businesses are paying the price because this Do Nothing Republican Congress refuses to extend important tax breaks."

Recent bipartisan votes in the Senate on extending expiring tax provisions have come in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, which originally passed the Senate by voice vote although the conference report only received 92 votes in favor and a whopping 3 against.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, extension of several of these provisions goes back even further, including the Tax Relief Extension Act of 1999, which again passed the Senate by unanimous consent but lost 1 vote on the conference report.

One member on the other side said, "Our side isn't sure that the Republicans are real interested in developing good policy and to move forward together.  Instead, they are more inclined to play rope-a-dope again, my own view is, let's test them."  Another member of this large 59 vote majority exclaimed, "It looks more like a tax bill than a jobs bill to me.  What the Democratic Caucus is going to put on the floor is something that's more focused on job creation than on tax breaks."

Reading those comments I found myself scratching my head.  The only explanation for this behavior is that certain senators decided last week that it serves a deeply partisan goal to slander what have been for several years bipartisan and popular tax provisions benefitting many different people.  The Washington Post article I quoted from earlier includes a statement from a Senate Democratic leadership aide saying that, "No decisions have been made, but anyone expecting us immediately to go back to a bill that includes tax extenders will be sorely disappointed."

You can imagine, that today, a little over a week after these comments, I'm really scratching my head.  We have before us the expiring tax and health provisions that were disparaged just a short time ago.  Have they morphed from corporate tax pork?  Have they suddenly re-acquired their bipartisan character?  Are these time-sensitive items, now expired for more than two months, suddenly jobs-related?

Now, as we begin to debate another, quote, jobs bill, I want to focus on the economy, small businesses, and jobs.

We all agree that our nation is currently facing challenging economic times.  While there have been some signs of improvements such as the recent growth in our gross domestic product, job losses continue to mount and many hardworking Americans are struggling to make ends meet.  According the Bureau of labor Statistics, over 8 million jobs have been lost since our economy officially slipped into a recession in December of 2007.  The unemployment rate is currently at 9.7 percent, which is simply an unacceptable level.

The lack of job creation continues despite aggressive actions taken at the federal level in order to stabilize the economy.  This includes the enactment of TARP and the $800 billion dollar stimulus bill.  However, these bills were all missing a critical ingredient for spurring job creation-substantial tax relief targeted at small business.

In October of 2008, Congress enacted the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion dollar financial bailout bill that we were told had to be enacted immediately  in order to deal with so-called toxic assets to prevent credit from drying up, which would have choked off the lifeblood of the American economy.   What we actually got was direct infusions of cash into the largest Wall Street banks, which was 180 degrees different than what we were told by Treasury.

And later came the bailout of GM and Chrysler using TARP money after the Senate had just voted not to bail GM and Chrysler out.  This inconsistent policy by Treasury created uncertainty in the financial markets and business community.  Moreover, exorbitant bonuses were paid to executives and managers of firms that would have been out of a job if not for Congress, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve intervening.

And how effective was the bailout at improving credit markets?  In October 2009, the Government Accountability Office released a report reviewing TARPs first year performance. The GAO report found credit had improved based on certain market indicators.  However, they were not able to determine how much, if any, was attributed to TARP, as compared to general market forces or other federal actions.

While it is unclear to the extent credit has been freed up as a result of TARP, it is clear who has reaped the benefits of the program.  This past year, many financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and others who received TARP funds posted record or near record profits.

While Wall Street executives have clearly benefited from TARP, small businesses and their employees have not been so fortunate.  Small businesses continue to struggle to obtain credit in order to expand their operations, purchase inventory, or even to make payroll.

The so-called stimulus bill enacted almost solely by an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress last February has not spurred job creation. The massive $800 billion spending bill was hastily rushed to the floor with little time to deliberate its merits.

Lawrence Summers, the Director of President Obama's National Economic Council, said the test for stimulus is whether it is timely, targeted, and temporary.  This stimulus bill hit the tri-fecta; it failed on all three.

Through a report issued in January of 2009 by the current chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, the administration predicted that the stimulus would save or create 3.7 million jobs.

We were told by the Obama Administration that if the bill was not passed quickly we would experience unemployment of 9 percent.  However, we were also told by the Obama Administration that if the stimulus bill passed, unemployment would not go over 8 percent.

Well, Mr. President, the bill was passed but what did we get for the $800 billion in debt, before interest, that was laid at the feet of our children and grandchildren?  The unemployment rate jumped from 7.7% in January--right before the stimulus was enacted--to a high of 10.1% in October.  While unemployment recently dipped slightly to 9.7%, this was not due to job creation, but because millions of individuals have literally given up looking for work.  The Obama Administration also stated that quote "more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector."  In all, 3.3 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus bill was enacted, and 3.2 million of those jobs were private sector jobs.  In summary, the Obama Administration was terribly inaccurate regarding its stimulus jobs projection.

At the time the stimulus bill was passed, I raised concerns that the bill was not targeted enough at small businesses and job creation.  However, my point of view lost out and less than one-half of one percent of the bill included tax relief for small businesses.  The money in the stimulus bill to give tax credits to people who buy electric plug-in golf carts, or to pay for rattlesnake husbandry in Oregon, among numerous other ill-advised provisions, would have been better allocated to small business tax relief.   Since the stimulus, small businesses have been bearing the brunt of job losses in our economy.  However, the words of those on the other side regarding the importance of small business to job creation does not match their actions when looking at the paltry amount of small business tax relief that they have provided.  Again, in the jobs bill or stimulus bill or whatever you want to call it that passed the Senate last week, there was only one provision directed solely to small business tax relief.  That was a provision that I support, increased expensing of equipment purchased by small businesses, but it is a very small provision and it only gave small businesses what they've already been getting for the last couple years.

That provision was only $35 million out of a $62 billion bill?the $15 billion that everyone talks about plus the $47 billion for the highway trust fund that is typically not mentioned.  Last year, I introduced S. 1381, the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009.  My bill would double the amount of equipment that a small business could expense, and it would make those higher levels permanent, instead of just for one year as the Reid bill did.  In my negotiations on a "jobs bill", I sought to include provisions from my small business tax relief bill, but there was no agreement to put small business tax relief provisions from my bill in the bipartisan compromise we reached.  Instead, we were asked to defer those provisions.

According to ADP National Employment data, from February of 2009 through January of 2010 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees saw employment decline by 2.67 million, while large businesses with 500 or more employees saw employment decline by 694,000.

While I am sure many of us disagree about the effectiveness of the financial bailout and stimulus spending in getting our economy back on track, I know we all agree that there has been a lack of job creation and too many people continue to be unemployed.

Because the stimulus bill has so clearly failed what it was supposed to do, which is to create jobs, the Administration and Congressional Democratic Leadership are running away from the word stimulus faster than the triple-crown winning horse, Secratariat. Everything proposed now is called a jobs bill, even if it includes proposals that were always labeled stimulus in the past.  Only 6 percent of Americans believe the stimulus bill created jobs.  That is less than the 7 percent of Americans who believe that Elvis is still alive.

Last week the Senate passed a bill that included a provision designed to increase hiring. This includes a payroll tax holiday for business that hire unemployed workers and a tax credit for the retention of newly hired individuals in 2010.

The payroll tax holiday part of this proposal is likely to spark some modest hiring at businesses at the margins, among those that have seen some improvements in their business, but are on the fence about whether to hire somebody now or wait until later.  However, many businesses continue to struggle and won't hire new employees just because it is the stated policy goal of Congress.  Before a business can hire a new employee, they need to know that that the new employee will generate additional revenue that exceeds the cost of the employee.

The latest survey of Small Business Economic Trends by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that many small businesses may not be in a place that they could afford to hire new employees, even with the payroll tax holiday.

I have here a chart from NFIB with selected components from their Small Business Optimism Index.  While many components of this index improved slightly from December, it is clear that small businesses continue to struggle.

  • A net negative 1 percent of owners plan to create new jobs in the next three months;

  • A net positive of only 1% of businesses owners expect the economy to improve. Only 4% of  business owners said it was a good time to expand

  • A net NEGATIVE 42 percent of owners reported higher earnings

This last component is especially important for businesses when it comes to hiring new employees.  If earnings are declining there is little a payroll holiday will do to spark hiring since the businesses needs to know that the revenue generated from the additional employee will exceed the cost, not just today but in the future as well.

According to the NFIB survey, when businesses are asked what the single most important problem facing their business is, the answer is lack of sales.  But, this is closely followed by taxes and then government regulations and red tape.

I am glad that my colleagues on the other side have recognized that true job creation comes through the private sector and have thus sought hiring incentives through payroll tax relief.

However, this minor tax relief is a drop in the bucket considering the challenges small businesses are facing due to the economy and proposed increased taxes and red tape included in the President's budget -- whether we are speaking about "cap and trade" that will drastically increase their energy costs, health care reform that would mandate small businesses to offer health benefits that will increase the cost of labor, or the call for tax increases on so-called wealthy taxpayers earning over $200,000 that will largely fall on the backs of small business.

If our intention is to increase long-term employment, the last thing we should be doing in this time of economic uncertainty is increase taxes or place additional burdens on those who are  responsible for creating 70% of the jobs in our economy --  namely small businesses.

Providing small businesses a payroll tax holiday while intending to impose increased taxes, regulations and mandates amounts to throwing them a few peanuts while taking away their supper.

In recent months, I have spoken at length about the impact of the tax increases set to kick in 10 months from today.  I've examined the impact of these tax increases on small businesses.  Let's take a close look at this impact.

The President and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have proposed increasing the top two marginal tax rates from 33 and 35 percent to 36 and 39.6 percent, respectively; increasing the tax rates on capital gains and dividends to 20%; fully reinstating the personal exemption phase-out, known as PEP, for those making over $200,000; and fully reinstating the limitation on itemized deductions, which is known as Pease, for those making over $200,000.  With PEP and Pease fully reinstated, individuals in the top two rates could see their marginal tax rate increased over 15 percent or more.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle respond that these proposals will only hit "wealthy" individuals and only a small percentage of small businesses fall into this category.  What my colleagues fail to understand is that the small businesses that fit into this group are not static, but consist of different businesses over time that go in and out of the top two tax brackets depending on the market.  Data from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the nonpartisan official Congressional scorekeeper on tax issues, shows that 44% of the flow-through business income will be hit with the increase in the top two tax rates proposed by the President and Democratic Congressional Leadership.  This hits small businesses particularly hard, since most small businesses are organized as flow-through entities.  It will increase taxes on single small business owners that make more than $200,000 per year, even if they plow all of their income back into their small business to keep paying their workers or hire additional workers.

Increasing taxes on this group punishes their success. It limits their ability reinvest in their company. It prevents them from putting away funds for tough economic times to keep their business afloat.

Government is currently creating a climate of uncertainty where the private sector does not know what we will do next, what taxes will be raised, or what regulatory barriers will be put in their way.

We can start to put some certainty back into the business world by declaring we will not increase taxes on businesses one dime by making the 2001 and 2003 bipartisan tax measures permanent.  But let me be clear, businesses do not want to be certain that the government is going to raise their taxes and make them go through more red tape.  They want to be certain that's not going to happen.  Until then, many will simply sit on the sidelines and not hire more workers.

Moreover, we can directly provide targeted relief to small businesses.  Last June, I proposed legislation to do just that.  I introduced the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009 to lower taxes on job-creating small businesses.

Since the Democratic leadership barred any amendments last week, I'm hopeful we'll debate and vote on an amendment offered by Senator Thune.  Many provisions in my bill are contained in the Thune amendment, which I support.

My bill contains a number of provisions that will leave more money in the hands of small businesses so that they can hire more workers, continue to pay the salaries of their current employees, and make additional investments in their business.   This includes allowing flow-through small businesses such as partnerships, S corporations, LLCs, and sole proprietorships to deduct 20% of their income, effectively reducing their taxes by 20%.  My bill also includes relief for small business owners from the unfair alternative minimum tax.  It takes the general business credits, such as the employer-provided child care credit, out of the alternative minimum tax.  This allows a mom and pop retail store that provides child care for their employees to get the same tax relief that a Fortune 500 company gets when it provides child care for its employees.  My bill would also allow more of the nearly two-million small C corporations to benefit from the lower tax rates for the smallest C corporations.  There are so many small C corporations because they were formed as C corporations before other entities such as LLCs become more widely used.  Among other provisions, my bill would also lower the potential tax burden on small C corporations that convert into S corporations.

The NFIB has written a letter supporting my small business tax relief bill, stating, quote, "To get the small business economy moving again, small businesses need the tools and incentives to expand and grow their business.  S. 1381 provides the kinds of tools and incentives that small businesses need."

I'd now like to talk about an opportunity for true bipartisanship that was killed by the Democratic leadership.  The same day that Chairman Baucus and I released a bipartisan bill that contained significant compromises, behind closed doors Democratic leaders cherry-picked just 4 provisions out of the larger bill that Chairman Baucus and I agreed to.  Those provisions had been agreed to in a meeting of senior members of the other side only while Chairman Baucus and I were negotiating.  I was extremely disappointed to see the Democratic leadership blow up the bipartisan deal that Chairman Baucus and I reached.  To pour a little salt into the wound, the Democratic leadership then prohibited any senator on either side of the aisle from even offering an amendment to improve the bill that he hijacked.

One of the four provisions the Democratic leadership cherry-picked is Build America Bonds.  If it had been just me drafting a bill, I wouldn't have included this provision.  However, in the sake of bipartisanship and compromise in the context of a much larger bill, I reluctantly agreed that putting this provision in the bill would not cause the overall bill to lose my support.  Build America Bonds is a very rich spending program disguised as a tax cut.  Bloomberg reported that large Wall Street investment banks have been charging 37% higher underwriting fees on Build America Bonds deals than on other deals.  Therefore, American taxpayers appear to be funding huge underwriting fees for large Wall Street investment banks as part of the Build America Bonds program.

The Democratic leadership has said the Build America Bonds program is about creating jobs, but I want to know whether it's about lining the pockets of Wall Street executives.  Last week, I asked Goldman Sachs CEO a number of questions about these much larger underwriting fees subsidized by American taxpayers.  I expect to have that discussion shortly.

Turning back to the bill being debated this week, the Thune amendment, which incorporates many of the provisions from my small business tax relief bill, provides substantial small business tax relief and should be adopted.

In this bill, I hope that we can all work together toward improving our economy -- not through more government -- but by letting the engine of job creation-small business-keep more of their own money in the form of substantial small business tax relief.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement after the White House unveiled their health reform proposal.  Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"In his State of the Union address, the President made clear that we cannot walk away from health reform.  Today, the President put this directive into action and he did so with a proposal that builds on what works, fixes what does not and moves the health reform debate ahead. 

"The president's plan seeks to increase affordability and expand access to health care, fill the donut hole so seniors can afford essential medications and ensure fairness across the board with state Medicaid programs.  It also recognizes that states should be seen as innovators for expanding Medicaid coverage to their poorest residents and does not penalize these states in favor of states that have done little or nothing to extend benefits to the uninsured.  Additionally it provides a safeguard against substantial premium rate hikes to protect consumers.

"With a framework in hand and a bipartisan summit on the horizon, the White House has outlined a path forward for enacting comprehensive health reform this year.   I look forward to joining with our president in this effort and hope that it is met with strong support in Congress."

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA - Jan. 28, 2010 - Governor Culver's 2011 budget proposal underscores the need for genuine budget reform, according to Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF).  The proposal, announced yesterday, is a reflection of a broken budget process; one that over-commits in strong economies and struggles to uphold the state's highest priorities in an economic downturn.

The proposal, combined with last year's 10 percent across-the-board budget cuts, will result in increased taxes for property owners.  Property taxes have increased 60 percent in the last ten years, proving that our state's problems precede the current administration and legislative body.  Other priorities, such as higher education, public safety, and soil conservation, will continue to suffer until meaningful reform is implemented.

"Today's budget process shifts state responsibilities to property taxpayers and fails to provide a long-term stable and predictable budget," said IFBF President Craig Lang.  "Until we address the shortcomings of a volatile budget process, decision makers will face tough decisions and property taxpayers will continue to shoulder the burden."

To improve the state's budgeting process, Farm Bureau members are asking Culver and other decision makers to establish an affordable state budget that will: 1) fund Iowa priorities and lessen the potential shifts in property taxes; 2) ensure that the state's emergency funds are at a level sufficient to protect priorities when revenues are declining; 3) create fiscal responsibility by not using one-time resources to fund on-going expenditures; and 4) protect property taxpayers when across-the-board cuts are enacted.

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For Immediate Release                        Contact: Robert Romano

January 14th, 2010 Phone: (703) 383-0880

"It is up to Senators Harkin and Grassley who represent a right-to-work state to stop this tax on non-union

health benefits dead in its tracks. There is too much at stake. 92 percent of workers not

in unions must not be forced to subsidize the other 8 percent who receive union health benefits."

- ALG President Bill Wilson

January 14th, 2010, Fairfax, VA?Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today in a letter urged Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, who represent a "right-to-work" state, to oppose a 40 percent excise tax on non-union health care plans that "will hit your states and districts particularly hard, and is grossly unfair to non-union workers."

"I am calling upon you to publicly denounce this blatant attack upon the citizens of your state. They will, I am certain, be eagerly awaiting your response," Wilson declared in his letter, calling the tax on non-union health insurance plans "contemptible."

"This is absolutely deplorable to American workers, 92 percent of whom do not belong to unions," wrote Wilson his letter. "In essence, non-union employers and employees will be forced to subsidize the cost of exempting union workers from the tax, which will cost families in your states and districts thousands of dollars a year in additional charges."

According to the Associated Press, "Officials say the White House and labor leaders have reached a tentative agreement on how to tax high-value health insurance plans to help pay for a revamped medical system...The proposed tax has been a major sticking point because labor leaders fear union members, with some of the more lucrative benefit plans, would be hurt. President Barack Obama supports it as a way to hold down costs by nudging workers into less pricey coverage."

The tax, as passed in the Senate bill, would charge insurance companies a 40 percent excise tax on coverage above $8,500 for an individual and $23,000 for a family. Within three years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers. Within six years, it would reach a fifth of all households earning as little as $50,000 annually.

"Only now," Wilson said in a statement, "the unions are exempted in a deal hand-crafted by Barack Obama."

According to Wilson's letter, "Immediately, [the tax] will have three impacts: 1) Health benefits will be cut as many insurers and employers stop providing such plans that were once affordable; 2) Of those plans not cancelled, the costs will be passed on to the insured, raising premiums; and 3) This new Health Care Penalty Tax will be used in Right-to-Work states as a backdoor method to forcing workers to join unions, since union dues would be less than the tax."

This is a tax aimed at non-union workers and non-unionized businesses, in particularly, small businesses that provide good health coverage to their employees," Wilson wrote, adding, "Moreover, this tax will disproportionately impact Baby Boomers, women, and the infirmed ? in short, anyone that pays higher premiums because of medical need ? none of whom have a seat at the closed-door negotiations hastily taking place now."


"Meanwhile, union bosses of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU have been well-represented, as is indicated by this contemptible union exemption from the 40 percent excise tax," Wilson wrote.

Previously, Wilson has called for negotiations on what he called a "government takeover of the nation's health system" to be opened to the public. In a statement, he said this latest exemption for unions "illustrates with clarity why transparency is so important."

"The American people have no seat at the table right now, as Congressional leaders make deals with union bosses resulting in kickbacks that non-union workers will have to foot the bill for," Wilson said.

"It is up to Senators Harkin and Grassley who represent a right-to-work state to stop this tax on non-union health benefits dead in its tracks," Wilson said, concluding, "There is too much at stake. 92 percent of workers not in unions must not be forced to subsidize the other 8 percent who receive union health benefits."

###

 

Americans for Limited Government is a non- partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms,private property rights and core American liberties. For more information on ALG please call us at 703-383-0880 or visit our website at www.GetLiberty.org.

The Rock Island County Candidates Forum will be held on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rock Island High School Little Theater, 1500 block of 23rd Avenue (Entrance on the North side of R.I. High School).

Candidates for Rock Island County Sheriff, Clerk, Treasurer and District 15 of the County Board are expected to attend.

Moderator: Steve Trainor, CCC; former TV & Radio news reporter

Written questions will be taken from the audience. Candidates will have opening & closing statements and opportunities for rebuttal.

Individuals with Primary opposition, running for Judge, have also been invited to make a short statement and take questions if there are any.

This forum is jointly sponsored by the Community Caring Conference, a neighborhood action agency, and the Rock Island Township.

County Clerk - Karen Kinney, Larry Toppert, "Nick" Leibovitz

County Sheriff - Jeff Boyd, Mike Huff, Dick Fisher

County Treasurer - Louisa Ewert, John Thodos

District 15 - Jim Davies (D), Nick Camlin (D), David Kimbell (R), and Wm. Long (R)

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today said that that he will be holding meetings in 21 counties from January 11 - 15.  The visits are part of Grassley's annual meetings in each of Iowa's 99 counties. The Senate will not be in session for a scheduled congressional recess.

"I've met with Iowans in every county, every year I've represented Iowa in the United States Senate.  It's this exchange of ideas that gives me greater insight directly from Iowans," Grassley said.  "Holding a meeting in each of our 99 counties gives me the opportunity to have an open and honest dialogue with the people I serve in the U.S. Senate."

Grassley's meetings will take him to the counties of Benton, Cedar, Clinton, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Keokuk, Lee, Linn, Louisa, Muscatine, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Van Buren and Washington.

Grassley will hold town hall meetings in Anamosa, Belle Plaine, Bloomfield, Columbus Junction, De Witt, Fort Madison, Kalona, Maquoketa, Mount Pleasant, Muscatine, Sigourney, Traer and Williamsburg.

He will tour businesses and meet with employees at Greystone Logistics Manufacturing Facility in Bettendorf and GE Consumer & Industrial in West Burlington.He will also meet with students at North Cedar Middle School in Clarence.

In addition, he will speak with the Cedar Rapids Rotary in Cedar Rapids, the Grinnell Rotary in Grinnell, the Davenport Kiwanis and the Fairfield Rotary in Fairfield.

He will tour the Reach Out and Read site and speak with doctors and hospital staff at the Van Buren County Hospital in Keosauqua.

Here is detailed information about Grassley's upcoming county visits.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Noon - 1 p.m.:  Speak with Cedar Rapids Rotary, The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ballroom, 350 1st Avenue NE, Cedar Rapids

2:15 - 3:15 p.m.:  Jones County Town Hall Meeting, Lawrence Community Center, 600 East Main Street, Anamosa

4:45 - 5:45 p.m.:  Jackson County Town Hall Meeting, Hurstville Interpretive Center, Community Room, 18670 63rd Street, Maquoketa

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m.:  Clinton County Town Hall Meeting, De Witt Community Center, 512 10th Street, De Witt

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.:  Speak with students and tour new gym and commons at North Cedar Middle School, 400 Ball Street, Clarence

1:45 - 2:45 p.m.:  Iowa County Town Hall Meeting, Williamsburg Community Recreation Center, Large Meeting Room, 939 South Highland Street, Williamsburg

6 - 7 p.m.:  Speak with Grinnell Rotary, West Side Family Restaurant, 229 6th Avenue West, Grinnell

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

7 - 8 a.m.:  Tama County Town Hall Meeting, Traer Public Library, Kupka Cultural Center, 531 2nd Street, Traer

9:15 - 10:15 a.m.:  Benton County Town Hall Meeting, Belle Plaine Community Center, 1309 5th Avene, Belle Plaine

Noon - 1 p.m.:  Speak with Iowa City Optimist Club, Masonic Lodge, 312 East College Street, Iowa City

2:30 - 3:30 p.m.:  Keokuk County Town Hall Meeting, Keokuk County Health Center, Doug Adam Classroom, 23019 Highway 149, Sigourney

5 - 6 p.m.:  Washington County Town Hall Meeting, Kalona Chamber of Commerce, Meeting Room, 514 B Avenue, Kalona

Thursday, January 14, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m.:  Muscatine County Town Hall Meeting, Muscatine Community College, Strahan Hall, Little Theatre, 152 Colorado Street, Muscatine

10:15 - 11:15 a.m.:  Meet with employees and tour Greystone Logistics Manufacturing Facility, 2601 Shoreline Drive, Bettendorf

Noon - 1 p.m.:  Speak with Davenport Kiwanis, Outing Club, 2109 North Brady Street, Davenport

3 - 4 p.m.:  Louisa County Town Hall Meeting, Columbus Junction City Hall, ICN Room, 232 2nd Street, Columbus Junction

5:30 - 6:30 p.m.:  Henry County Town Hall Meeting, Mount Pleasant Civic Center, Meeting Room, 2nd Floor, 307 East Monroe Street, Mount Pleasant

Friday, January 15, 2010

7 - 8 a.m.:  Meet with employees and tour GE Consumer and Industrial, 510 East Agency Road, West Burlington

9 - 10 a.m.:  Lee County Town Hall Meeting, Fort Madison City Hall, Council Chambers, 811 Avenue E, Fort Madison

Noon - 1 p.m.:  Speak with Fairfield Rotary, Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, 200 North Main Street, Fairfield

2 - 3 p.m.:  Tour Reach Out and Read site and visit with doctors and hospital staff, Van Buren County Hospital, 304 Franklin Street, Keosauqua

4:15 - 5:15 p.m.:  Davis County Town Hall Meeting, Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative, Touchstone Energy Training Center, 22458 Highway 2, Bloomfield


www.GiveMeLiberty.org/CC2009
www.CC2009.us/archives
www.CC2009.us/schedule
Today's Highlights:
* Presentation on North American Union & American Sovereignty
* Presentation on Private Property & the Kelo Case
* Debate on Tax Clause Violation & Vote on Remedial Instructions & Civic Action

Harkin served as chair of original caucus

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) welcomed Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to the Populist Caucus' meeting this morning. Harkin, a co-founder of the original Populist Caucus, discussed the history of the group, and the role of Populist values in today's economy.

"Senator Harkin did an outstanding job of addressing and motivating the caucus this morning," Braley said. "His words were a great reminder that the principles we fight for today are the same middle-class values the original Populist Caucus platform was founded upon. I'm very thankful to the Senator for taking time to visit us this morning, and for continuing to promote Populist ideals in his work."

"Populists throughout history have stood up for the struggling middle class and against deeply entrenched economic interests who use their power to impede progress.  That's why, on the cusp of meaningful health care reform, it is so important to have a strong populist voice in Congress," Harkin said. "I am proud that Congressman Braley has revitalized this movement, because Americans deserve someone in Washington who will fight for working people and their right to earn a fair wage, for health care as a right and not a privilege and for quality public schools for all of our children."

Senator Harkin served as co-chair of the first Populist Caucus in 1983. It consisted of 14 Midwest Democrats fighting specifically for fairer taxes, lower interest rates and cheaper energy.

Braley founded a new Populist Caucus in 2009 with the same underlying motivations. The caucus now has 29 members, united from varying backgrounds to fight for the same agenda of strengthening the middle class.

More information on the Populist Caucus, including their Health Care Principles can be found on Braley's website: http://www.braley.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=294&Itemid

Photos from this morning's meeting can be downloaded here: http://drop.io/uzxj5du

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