A visit from Grassley

About 50 community members came to ask questions and share their concerns at a town hall meeting hosted by Senator Chuck Grassley on Thursday at the ISU Extension office.

Grassley, who said he hosts such meeting events in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, said he holds them to listen to concerns, hear points of view, and respond to questions directly from Iowans. Community members came with a wide variety of concerns, including local job growth, national political scandals and international concerns about Benghazi.

At a Wednesday meeting in Fort Dodge, Mike Shepard, father of missing Dayton teenager Kathlynn Shepard, asked Grassley to work on implementing tougher sentencing for people convicted of sexual assault. Grassley was again asked about his thoughts on those tougher terms at Thursday’s meeting, but not by a Shepard family member.

“Judges and juries are restricted to what the law says, so to get done what you want done, the law says minimum sentences and how long the sentence is going to be by state law,” Grassley said. “It’s a matter of visiting with your state legislator and getting the state laws changed.”

Many community members expressed concerns about recent scandals including the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, the IRS’ exclusion of political groups from tax-exempt status and the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal.

“It sounds like I’m the only one in congress that’s got the courage to investigate these things,” Grassley said. “People are sick of the crime and corruption that’s in the bureaucracy.”

However, Grassley did name several other legislators who he said have been working to delve deeper into those scandals, including Senator Lindsey Graham with the Benghazi scandal. Grassley said these scandals are under continuing investigation, and more hearings about the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012 have been held in just the past few weeks.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was also discussed at length at the meeting. The Republican controlled House has voted numerous times to repeal the legislation. However, Grassley said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, won’t let a vote to repeal Obamacare reach the Senate floor. It did reach the Senate floor once, but the Democrat majority in the Senate meant the vote was in favor of Obamacare.

Grassley noted that several other challenges to Obamacare, including the 2012 Presidential campaign of Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare, were both unsuccessful.

“As long as this President is President, it’s the law of the land, and the only way I see anything being changed is it folds by it’s own weight,” Grassley said. “And it could fall by it’s own weight at this standpoint.”

Grassley said the exchanges, which are supposed to be ready by October, have largely not been set up. He said only a minority of states have set up their own exchanges and all that don’t will have a federal exchange. He said he didn’t know if the federal government has the capability to set up those exchanges in such a short timeframe.

After the meeting, Grassley said that about half of the questions asked at the meeting had come up at other town meetings, including Obamacare, the federal debt, and the farm bill. He said legislators will likely be getting to the farm bill next week, with a vote coming next Thursday or Friday. After that, Grassley said legislators will be working on immigration reform, and later, the defense authorization bill that usually comes to the floor in July.