In a November 14 editorial on funding shortfalls in the Low-Income Heat Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), The New York Times' editorial board wrote: "We want adequate heating subsidies for the poor and we believe that Mr. [Sen. Charles] Grassley [R-IA] does, too." In making that assertion, for which the paper offered no evidence, the Times apparently ignored the fact that, in October 2005, Grassley voted three times against additional funding for LIHEAP.
Remarking on Grassley's plea to oil companies to donate profits for the poor, the editorial argued that "heating assistance is indeed a duty of government" and criticized "various Republican lawmakers" because they "have blocked attempts to provide the funds" And yet, while Grassley has voted against additional funding, the Times pointedly still voiced confidence in his support for "adequate heading subsidies for the poor."
From the November 14 New York Times editorial titled "Mr. Grassley Goes Begging":
If it's in the public interest to help poor Americans keep the heat on in the winter -- as Mr. Grassley's official attention to the matter attests -- and if Mr. Grassley is correct that oil companies have a responsibility to help out, then Congress has both the obligation and the power to tax them for that purpose. And yet the gist of Mr. Grassley's fund-raising plea is that home heating aid should primarily be a matter of private charity.
The real problem for Mr. Grassley is that heating assistance is indeed a duty of government, albeit one the government is currently shirking. It would take $3 billion more to meet the need this winter. President Bush did not ask for the money in his latest emergency spending request to Congress. And various Republican lawmakers have blocked attempts to provide the funds -- even as they press for tens of billions of dollars in additional tax cuts for wealthy investors over the next five years.
We want adequate heating subsidies for the poor and we believe that Mr. Grassley does, too. We also want more public investment in mass transit, alternative fuels and retooling Detroit, so that all Americans will be less dependent on oil and less vulnerable to oil price shocks. All of that requires money, which Congress could legitimately raise from a windfall profit tax on the oil companies, from an increased federal gas tax and -- even more heretical for the current Congressional majority -- from a more progressive income tax.
The Iowa senator has, in fact, recently voted against three separate amendments that would have increased LIHEAP appropriations for fiscal year 2006 to roughly $3 billion from the currently proposed $1.88 billion (see page 51):
- October 5 (SA 2033, $3.1 billion)
- October 20 (SA 2077, $3.1 billion)
- October 26 (SA 2194, $2.9 billion)
On October 27, the Senate approved a fiscal year 2006 Health and Human Services appropriations bill that appropriates $1.88 billion (see page 51) for LIHEAP. That bill is now in a conference committee.