Town hall meeting – Grassley speaks to packed room at Iowa Lakes
Sixty-five people turned out for Senator Chuck Grassley’s town hall meeting at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville on Thursday.
The senator annually schedules stops in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Thursday’s stops also included Emmetsburg, Spirit Lake and West Bend.
The informal gatherings give constituents the opportunity to ask the senator about current issues facing the United States. Topics ranged from healthcare legislation passed in 2010 to the budget, ethanol and Mexican truckers.
The one-year anniversary of the passage of the healthcare legislation, called Obamacare by many, came last week.
Dr. Richard Bose told Grassley the Heritage Foundation came to many troubling conclusions. While there’s no immediate way to repeal the legislation, Bose said it needs to be fixed.
Grassley said Bose accurately stated his position. While the House voted for the repeal of the legislation and Grassley voted for its repeal in the Senate, the repeal didn’t pass the Senate.
Grassley said there are some things in the bill that all could agree on and he wrote parts of that bill. However, there were other items that should not be in the bill.
While the full extent of the legislation doesn’t take effect until 2014, the courts could still declare it unconstitutional.
Among the sweeping social legislation passed over the past century, Grassley noted most had bipartisan support. He cited Social Security, civil rights and Medicare as examples. Grassley said the healthcare legislation was a partisan bill.
Grassley said if Obama is re-elected in 2012, the president would view that as vindication for pushing the bill through.
If a Republican wins, Grassley expects change to occur with the legislation.
Another constituent asked about the senator’s support of ethanol and biodiesel and taking advantage of energy resources in the U.S.
Grassley said the short answer was that he agreed with the person.
“Right now, we’re spending $730 million a day for gas and oil in countries where terrorists are,” he said.
The constituent cited a story that said the U.S. is paying Brazil to develop an offshore oil setup and asked why the U.S. is developing its own resources.
In a discussion about ethanol, Grassley noted many in Congress are ignorant about the corn-based fuel.
One constituent concurred and offered several facts about ethanol and the byproduct of making the fuel is dried distiller grain or DDG. The DDG can be used for cattle feed and costs less than corn. When Grassley was offered several other positive statistics, he asked for them so that he could use them in Washington.
When asked about entitlements and the budget, Grassley said a bipartisan committee has been created to promote deficit reduction. While the committee has come up with several ideas on its own, members also want the president’s input before making final recommendations.
Grassley said if everyone isn’t at the table, it’s not likely to go anywhere.
When asked for clarification later in the meeting, Grassley said Obama sought this advice and hasn’t said whether he’s agreed with it or not.
On a question on creating a power grid to transport wind energy, Grassley said the obstacle comes from eastern states whose officials don’t believe they should pay for the infrastructure if they can develop their own wind energy.
Mexican Trucking Agreement
Grassley was asked about the cross border trucker program with Mexico. The person asking the question was concerned about losing jobs to Mexico.
Grassley said the agreement being worked on will focus on leveling the playing field.
“If we want to go to Mexico we’ve got to let them in,” he said. “But then they have to abide by our laws.”
Grassley said right now, truckers take goods to the border where they have to pay to unload them and then pay to put on Mexican trucks and vice versa.
Grassley was questioned about the 800 or so military bases worldwide that the U.S. has and whether we need them all.
Grassley said twice a base-closing commission has been set up which has conducted a study and then Congress has voted on it.
“We’ve closed a lot of bases,” he said, adding it may be time to go through the process again.