Grassley in Osage

Osage resident Keith Ham (right) attended the Grassley Town Hall last week to ask about alleged insider trading by Congress. (Press-News photo by Jim Cross)

During U.S. Senator Charles Grassley's recent town hall meeting in the lobby of the Cedar River Complex last Wednesday, it was apparent that many of his constituents were unhappy with the path the United States was being led down by the current administration.

Topics ranged from global warming, congressional accountability, recess appointments and the budget to campaign financing and the upcoming child labor bill vote.

Garnering a lot of discussion was campaign financing.

"Why are we no longer allowed to deduct campaign contributions?" asked Mary Jo Hartogh.

Grassley explained with the law, an individual can spend as much as they want on their own campaign.

However, if a candidate starts taking those tax-deductible donations, they would have to decrease the amount of money they could spend.

With campaign finance, corporations are now allowed to make large contributions just as much as unions.

"Democrats have become known for being supported by the unions," said Grassley. "It's believed that Republicans are always supported by large corporations, but that's not always the case. Corporations tend to support us about 55 percent of the time."

Concern was raised about the proposed Department of Labor's intent to greatly limit child labor on family farms.

"This farm bill will greatly affect our FFA and 4-H programs," said Grassley. "Kids won't be able to help on farms not owned by their parents.

"It's interesting that this child labor bill goes against Michelle Obama's anti-obesity initiative," said Grassley. "How can kids be active if they are limited by this law?"

Edgar Dorow, retired extension director, raised the question regarding whether humans have had a direct impact on global warming.

"I believe there are still many questions to be answered," said Sen. Grassley. "There are a few scientists who are proponents of manmade global warming as opposed to natural global warming.

"Until we get an international agreement to make changes, nothing is going to happen."

"If something doesn't happen, global warming is going to be the cause of the loss of human life," said Dorow.

In regards to the environment, more specifically, Grassley did remind the crowd he was an advocate for conservation and alternative energy sources including wind energy, more biofuels and clean burning nuclear energy.

"We need to be less dependent on fossil fuels," he said.

The conversation soon turned to the current congress and, more specifically, President Obama.

"Why doesn't Congress apply the laws that we have to abide by to themselves?" asked Osage resident Keith Ham.

"Well, they're supposed to," said Grassley. "That's why the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act was passed. It contains 12 laws that Congress must obey."

"What about insider trading?" asked Ham.

"I have no idea what's going on with that because no one has ever offered me any information," said Grassley.

"Why not have term limits?" asked Neil Wubben.

"We looked at limiting everyone to 12 years," said Grassley. "It was part of the Contract for America but it didn't pass.

"For it to be brought up again, it will take a grassroots effort from the people. Believe it or not, Congress does respond to grassroots efforts."

A member of the crowd took accountability a step further by questioning whether it was legal for President Obama to make an appointment while the Congress was in recess.

"The President is required to abide by the laws," said Grassley. "Yes, the constitution says he can make the appointments, but that was when the congress only met half the year. Today, we meet almost the entire year.

"I hope the appointment goes to court to be challenged. I also hope his bombing of Libya will not set a precedent."

When questioned about the future with North Korea and Iran, Grassley stated he didn't think anything would happen with North Korea, except trying to get the country to stop building bombs.

"I don't believe anything will happen with Iran," he said. "I don't believe military involvement will be necessary. We are putting the 'economic squeeze' on them right now."

A member of the audience continued to express his dissatisfaction with the current administration's "promise of transparency."

"This administration has not been transparent," said Grassley.

Discussion on balancing the federal budget and reducing the national deficit quickly led to Grassley expressing "Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, won't let his people answer the tough questions regarding the budget."

There are approximately 24 Democratic senators up for re-election and only 10 Republicans.

"They don't want to lose the senate by having to make tough decisions regarding the budget," said Grassley. "That's the difference between a Democratic senate and a Republican senate."

Grassley reminded the audience that a budget was a discipline, not the law.

"We haven't been able to develop a budget for three years even though the constitution says we have to have one done by March," he said. "We can still talk about reducing the budget deficit without a budget."

Grassley believes approximately $4 trillion needs to be taken out of the projected budget for the next ten years.

"We have targeted about $2.1 trillion but that leaves almost another $2 trillion," he said. "It has almost become unmanageable. We have taken some small steps but not enough big steps."



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