Grassley hears concerns of constituents in local meetings

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley picks a question at his town hall meeting in Parkersburg on Friday, Feb. 24.

With the tense political climate and heavy criticism falling onto Republicans and President Donald Trump, many Republican legislators aren’t meeting with their constituents; however, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is.

Every year, he makes a point to meet with voters in all 99 counties of Iowa, and he took some time during this past week of congressional recess to hold five town hall meetings across the state. Friday morning, he was in Parkersburg, along with camera crews from not only local TV stations, but from NBC and C-SPAN as well. There were many frustrated Democrats at the event, which is unsurprising for this region of the state.

The tone was set early on in the event during Butler County Sheriff Jason Johnson’s welcome speech. After welcoming all visitors to the city of Parkersburg, he began a sentence, “Whether you’re paid to be here or you’re here voluntarily …” He was interrupted by boos from the largely liberal crowd, tired of being accused of being paid protestors.

Once Grassley got in front of the people, he opened the floor up for statements. The first to speak was Black Hawk County Supervisor Chris Schwartz. Schwartz spoke on the importance of keeping Medicaid reimbursements for the Black Hawk County-run nursing home, one of two county-run nursing homes in the nation. He also spoke on his desire for Grassley to speak in front of public crowds in Black Hawk County, rather than just meeting with private groups there during his 99-county tour.

Other statements included concerns about Social Security, demands for an independent investigation about President Trump’s ties to Russia, desire for a replacement for the Affordable Care Act and a call to hold Trump accountable. Grassley then opened the floor up for questions and got them on a wide variety of topics like immigration reform, Trump’s missteps, the appointment of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the disparity between the average worker’s pay and the pay of a CEO, Trump calling the media the enemy of the people, Dodd Frank, refugees, climate change, moral/ethical standards and Steve Bannon.

To most questions, Grassley gave the standard Republican line. On some, he danced around the question, and on others, he didn’t offer an answer at all. He had a few notable answers, however.

On the media: “The press is not the enemy of the people. The press is the policeman of the legislative system. We count on them to keep us accountable.”

On refugees: “We’ve been a welcoming nation for refugees since World War II, and we will continue to be a welcoming nation.”

On Trump’s boisterous behavior: “The best thing a public official can do is set a good example.”

Overall, the event was filled with many passionate Democrats who wanted Grassley to represent their views in Congress. Grassley said, “The biggest takeaway is the concern of what’s going to happen as a result of repealing the Affordable Care Act. The other one is immigration, as well as a general dislike of Trump’s policies to this point.”

The event seemed to be a real contentious affair, but Grassley was unshaken. “These are relatively quiet town halls,” he said, comparing them to meetings in 2009 and 2013.

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