Senator Grassley Listens To Resident’s Concerns
With Congress taking a brief recess, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley traveled around Northwest Iowa this past week to hold Town Meetings with constituents. Grassley visited to Emmetsburg Thursday morning to hear what Palo Alto County residents were thinking and wondering about.
“I want to assure you that I’m not playing hooky,” Grassley quipped to open the session at the Palo Alto County Election Center. “When Congress takes these breaks, I use them to make the process of representative government work by coming out to listen to you and your concerns.”
One of the first questions addressed by Grassley had to do with federal funding for educational programs, such as Perkins Grants and TRIO programs, a pair of programs used extensively by Iowa Lakes Community College. Brian Campbell, a post-secondary instructor at Iowa Lakes, pointed out that the Perkins Grants and TRIO programs were vitally important to the community college’s mission of education, as well as high school students pursuing post-secondary education.
“The House did eliminate some funding for federal programs, but not in the area of education,” Grassley noted. “It would be my hope that the Senate would not do so, either. But, there is a feeling in circles in Washington that there are six, seven or eight different work re-training programs being funded federally, and that perhaps they should be merged into one program. Even if that were to happen, I would think the community college system would still have a large role in the process.”
World affairs were a topic as well, when the senator was asked why more nations don’t step up to help during times of international turmoil, such as the current situation in Libya, and why the United States always seems to have to take the lead role in such situations. Grassley noted that the United Nations is leading efforts in Africa due to political and social climates. “Right now, Germany and Turkey are objecting to NATO being involved in the Libya situation,” Grassley said, “But they’re not against individual countries being a part of the situation.”
Grassley went on to explain that the U.S. does have certain obligations by treaty, such as in South Korea, to maintain military forces at bases in foreign countries. “That represents a long-standing philosophy of forward deployment of forces to be able to react to situations should the need arise,” the senator explained. “That philosophy includes having forces that would be ready to fight two battles in two different parts of the world, just like in World War II. However, Secretary Gates is trying to change the military to be more mobile and quicker to respond where need be as part of the ongoing war on terror.”
But, Grassley noted, that thinking creates some internal strife. “That would seem to favor the Army and the Marines, rather than the Air Force and Navy, since battles are usually fought on the ground.”
Along those lines, Grassley was asked why the United States didn’t shift emphasis from being the “Policeman of the World” and shifting more towards the humanitarian role.
“Our policy has been not to let any country be a safe haven for anyone who wants to kill Americans,” Grassley said.
The conversation turned towards the ongoing domestic arguments about the value of Ethanol. “There are people out there who think it takes a whole bushel of corn to make a gallon of ethanol and what’s not used gets thrown away,” noted Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard. “I can’t understand why people are so opposed to something that will benefit us by cutting down the need for foreign oil.”
“You’re right,” Grassley agreed. “It’s very frustrating. The Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15, but the House approved a Bill that rescinded that authorization. Hopefully, the Senate won’t do that.”
According to Grassley, the reason Ethanol is embattled can be traced to two reasons.
“There is total ignorance and intellectual dishonesty in Washington about Ethanol, what it can do and what it takes to produce,” Grassley said. “There are people out there who say, ‘if it is so good, then don’t subsidize it.’ To them, I reply, OK, then, don’t subsidize oil, either. Right now, usage of 10 percent Ethanol fuel is equal to the amount of oil our nation imports from Venezuela, Canada and Saudi Arabia. There are those who, no matter what, will swear Ethanol is no good and will fight against it. I’m sorry to say Ethanol faces the biggest fight in its’ 30-year history.”
The ongoing question of healthcare surfaced, with Grassley noting that if the Supreme Court rules that the Healthcare Reform Legislation championed by President Obama is ruled unconstitutional, the process will have to start all over. “The House passed a repeal of Health Care last year, but the Senate was four votes short of passing the repeal. There are so many parts of the legislation that weren’t defined, to me, it just shows Congress really didn’t know what it was doing when it approved Health Care.”
Grassley continued, “I personally think the individual mandate to buy insurance is unconstitutional. But, I know that the whole concept of Health Care reform is going to be debated for the next 18 months.”
A question about the future of Critical Access Care as it pertains to smaller health care facilities, was also discussed by the senator. “I don’t see a lot happening on the issue for now through 2016, when it is supposed to go into effect. There is a Federal Review Committee that is looking into the Critical Access Care situation, to make sure there is truly cost-effective health care in these facilities. The attitude of health care advisors in Washington is that there are too many hospitals. My concern is that the committee might eventually cut down on the quality of health care with that kind of thinking.”
The national budget also drew observations from the lawmaker, including the ongoing budget impasse that has resulted in continued interim funding action since the start of the year.
“Appropriations have to be set by September of the year, according to law, but because last year was an election year, a stopgap deal was worked out to hold off on setting the appropriations until December,” Grassley said. “After the election, the voters indicated they wanted some changes made, so it was decided to let the newly elected lawmakers have a hand in the process, so it was extended until March 6, but that really wasn’t enough time for new lawmakers to learn and understand the budget, so it was extended again to March 18, but that was extended to April 6. Now, Harry Reed and Mitch McConnell say ‘no more extensions, we have to come to a formal agreement.”
“Expenditures by the federal government increased 22 percent in 2009-2010, and we just can’t continue to do that as a government,” Grassley pointed out. “We’re looking to make cuts to save $61 billion this year against a deficit of a Trillion and a half. We’ve got a long way to go to do that.”
In conclusion, Grassley urged people to write or e-mail him with their concerns.