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Senator Grassley Listens And Agrees With Constituents In West Bend Visit

By Staff | Apr 8, 2010

Sen. Charles Grassley at West Bend Town Hall Meeting. -- Dan Voigt photo

WEST BEND – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley laid his cards on the table right away in a community meeting Monday at West Bend.

“I come to you in a spirit of responsible government,” Grassley said as he opened his visit with around three-dozen constituents. “The people are wanting more of a voice in government and I’m seeing that through attendance at meetings like this being much higher of late, and the fact that mail has been coming into my office at twice the normal rate lately. We try to answer every letter, so if we seem a little slow about it, there’s twice as much mail to answer these days.”

Grassley admitted to the crowd at the West Bend Country Club that the Republican Party had taken its licks in the 2006 elections and when Democrats assumed majority control of Congress. However, the veteran Republican lawmaker noted that many independent voters are favoring Republican values of late, not because of what the Republicans have done right, but rather because of what the Democrats have done wrong.

“I don’t want to win based just upon Democrats’ mistakes,” Grassley said, referring to his re-election bid for a sixth term in the Senate. “I want to win because you folks feel I’ve represented you like you wanted me to.”

It was to no one’s surprise that one of the many questions Grassley was asked dealt with was the Health Care Reform Act. Jim Harvey of Ayrshire asked the senator if he opposed the act and if Grassley believed it was unconstitutional.

“Yes,” Grassley replied without hesitation. “There are portions of the act that I don’t agree with, such as the mandate to purchase insurance. Never before in 225 years has the federal government told you people to buy health insurance, and now it is, so I think that is unconstitutional.”

 Dick Abels of Emmetsburg offered an opinion that the number of “czars” in the federal government was growing and that the positions were becoming too powerful, without any accountability.

“That’s true,” Grassley said. “They don’t have to answer to Congress and that’s why Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins have drafted a bill that would bring these positions into accountability. The President can have advisors to give him their counsel, but the czars do what they think and don’t have to answer to anyone. With this bill, the czars would have to be approved by the Senate like other appointees, and would have to answer to Congressional hearings.”

A comment on the spiraling national debt questioned how the federal government could ethically continue to saddle more and more debt on future generations of Americans. Grassley agreed, with a sobering observation. “The budget adopted a year ago has put us on target to triple the National Debt. 40 or 50 years ago, the National Debt was 35 to 40 percent of the Gross National Product. Now, we’re heading towards 90 percent of the GNP.”

Grassley paused, “If we would intervene right now, we could work our way back to be 35 to 40 percent. We should be able to keep spending in line with our economic growth, but the more you bring under government control, the less growth you have.”

Kirk Haack of Emmetsburg picked up on that line of thinking. “I have two children and their generation may be the first in over 200 years to not be able to be better off than their parents. I just don’t see much opportunity for children with what we’re going to hand them.”

Grassley agreed, pointing out that the public’s opinion that Republicans had turned their backs on fiscal responsibility was what led to the party’s “comeuppance” during the 2006 election. “Since that time, the Republican part has shown its commitment to opposing massive increases in federal spending, including votes against stimulus funding, the GM federalization, so-called “cap-and-trade” environmental legislation and health care reform.”

Grassley also noted that another major challenge looms ahead, as on Dec. 31, the United States will see the biggest tax increase in history. “On Dec. 31 of this year, tax cuts included within the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 are set to expire unless they are renewed, and that means tax bracket rates will increase to previous levels,” Grassley explained.

According to the senator, the increases are likely only to be put into effect for the higher brackets, with reduced percentages for lower brackets likely to remain unchanged. “But, any tax increases during a recession are economically bad for the country. I’ve been called to the White House to offer my advise to President Obama on the idea of keeping the lower tax rates, but it’s not his inclination to follow my advice.”

That comment drew chuckles from the group.

During the course of the hour-long meeting, Grassley also addressed questions about Long Term Care, the creation of new jobs, Cap and Trade legislation, reduction of Postal Services, Carbon Dioxide emissions and the E15 initiative and the EPA.

“Many of us have been fighting with the EPA for this since 2004,2005,” Grassley said. “And they want to have a good basis of information and evidence before them before they make a decision on increasing the ethanol mandate.”

“But,” Grassley continued, “I do sense a reluctance on their part to move forward on the E15 initiative. The Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture are onboard with the idea, but I could always sense the EPA was finding excuses to postpone a decision, dragging their feet, because they’re worrying about potential lawsuits if they go ahead and approve the move to E15.”