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Sen. Grassley shows tenacity in Medicare modernization

Anyone who thinks Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley will grow tired of wrestling with payment limits and move on to other issues should read his May 10 newspaper column. The article dealt with Medicare, but his opening sentence showed the tenacity Grassley brings to legislation he considers important.

“If at first you don't succeed, try and try again,” he said. “This sage bit of wisdom certainly rings true in the nation's capital. Trust me. I've been around the block enough times in Washington to know not to give up on what's right.”

Grassley noted his efforts to modernize Medicare, which culminated in the reform bill that Congress passed last November, took years to deliver. “Once I sink my teeth into an issue, I'm in it for the long haul. Just ask the Pentagon, the IRS or the FBI. Federal agencies know by now that I take my congressional oversight responsibilities seriously. The same goes for lawmaking.”

He didn't mention southern farmers who cringe when they read about another attempt by the senator to attach his payment limit amendment to another “must-pass” piece of legislation.

Grassley suffered a reversal in his latest bid to impose stricter payment limits when the House passed its 2005 budget resolution 216-213 May 19. In a press release, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, said he persuaded House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle to remove Grassley's payment limit language from the budget plan.

“I am especially pleased Mr. Nussle agreed with me, and removed the amendment,” said Neugebauer. “That amendment would have allowed Sen. Grassley another avenue to push the payment limits change that goes against the commitment made to producers in the 2002 farm bill.”

Unfortunately, Grassley will consider the setback to be only temporary and will find another measure to attach the payment limit amendment to.

“Sometimes the pace in Congress reminds me of the turtle and the hare,” he wrote in the May 10 article. “Although I'd prefer to cross the finish line sooner rather than later, I take comfort knowing the right policy will prevail in due time.”

Grassley has done good things, including getting the Senate to pass the “Family Opportunity Act” he discussed in this column. But he needs to discuss his payment limit legislation with cotton and rice farmers to see the impact it could have when prices go flat again.

This column won't be popular with those who think big farmers use those payments to gobble up more land. My grandfather's farm had a 13.3-acre cotton base back in the 1950s so I know what a small farm is.

But I don't understand the fairness of denying payments to larger farmers just because economics led them to larger operations to cut costs and increase efficiency. Maybe some of us are a lot like Sen. Grassley in clinging to our beliefs. But I think we would at least be willing to listen to the other side.

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