Kalani Steinmetz | Staff Writer
“I just want all of you to know, I didn’t come to just give a speech and run,” quipped Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as he opened a Q and A session Thursday, May 31, hosted by the Rock Rapids Kiwanis Club at the local Pizza Ranch, “I expect you folks to set the agenda.” Members of the Kiwanis Club posed questions, to which Grassley answered:
Q. What is the commitment for the funding levels for the Rural Development portion of the Ag Bill?
A. Every year, the appropriations committee (of which he is not a member) decides the level of funding. “It’s going to be funded,” he added, “But at what level? I don’t know. But if you’re worried about the program being done away with, no.”
Q. Are you still the only farmer in the country that is still a senator?
A. A senator from Mississippi resigned and a cattle farmer took his place as senator.
Q. Why didn’t the Farm Bill pass? Will it come up again?
A. The Republicans wanted to push some immigration legislation through instead. “They wanted settlement.” Republican Sen. and Majority Leader, Mitchell McConnell of Kentucky, intends to bring up the Farm Bill on the senate floor some time this summer.
Q. Are there going to be any vacancies in the Supreme Court?
A. “I don’t know. If they’re going to happen, they’d probably happen in June. Unless somebody dies, that’s traditionally when vacancies happen.”
Q. Is the flood insurance going to be extended past its expiration?
A. The extension needs unanimous consent and the length of the extension is up to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (of which he is not a member). “If I get a chance to vote on a five-year bill, I will. But if it isn’t done, then it’s going to be extended for 12 months at a time, like it has been.”
Q. Do you still hold the record in the Senate for not missing a single vote?
A. Senator Grassley has not missed a vote since 1993 (about 8,300 votes). He surpassed the previous record two and a half years ago. “You know, everybody thinks that we don’t pay attention to our jobs. This is one way of telling my constituents I take the job seriously.”
Q. Is there something that can be done to expedite the process of confirming judges?
A. Yes, and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma is working on this.
Q. Do you see anything happening with the Infrastructure Bill?
A. Congress might be doing something with it in the next year.
Q. Do you disagree with any of the President’s decisions?
A. Grassley stated that it makes him nervous when Trump starts interfering with Free Trade Agreements by adding tariffs. “When you put tariffs on and there’s retaliation, agriculture is the first thing hurt.” He said he is also uncomfortable with Trump’s negotiation strategies, as well as his frequent “tweeting” and swearing.
Q. What’s your prognosis on future deficits and revenue expenses?
A. He thinks the prognosis will be a lot better than assumed, but something needs to be done about Medicare and Medicaid.
Q. Do you think government funding should be withheld from Sanctuary Cities?
A. “Definitely. We oughta have cooperation by our people in enforcing our laws.”
Q. What’s your gut feeling on the mid-term?
A. Republicans have a chance of gaining a couple of seats in the Senate as long as the economy stays good and Trump’s popularity increases, even slightly.
Q. Do you see any major criminal justice reform changes coming out of federal legislation?
A. A bill on prison reform passed last week. Grassley stated there was opposition in regards to lessening mandatory sentencing because some people think it would appear as though the justice system wasn’t being tough on crime.