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Grassley Discusses Turbines, Tariffs and Tweets

August 9, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

by Darren Fraser

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA, entertained audience questions for nearly an hour ranging from wind energy to prescription drug costs to Donald Trump's tweets during a townhall meeting at the Palo County Courthouse Monday morning.

Grassley came to Emmetsburg as part of his 99-county tour of the state. The veteran senator appeared relaxed in slacks and blazer as he canvassed the audience for questions. He prefaced his remarks by noting that face-to-face interactions with constituents is the best way to have dialogs in representative government.

Article Photos

MR. GRASSLEY COMES TO EMMETSBURG - Senator Chuck Grassley spoke at a townhall meeting at the Palo Alto Courthouse Monday. The meeting was part of Grassley’s 99-county tour of the state. The senator entertained audience questions for nearly an hour. Questions pertained to wind energy, tariffs, healthcare and Twitter. -- Darren Fraser photo

Emmetsburg resident Lois Stillman kicked off the Q&A session by voicing her dissatisfaction with wind energy turbines. Reading from a statement, Stillman asked the senator a number of rhetorical questions. "Rather than shut down the government this fall," Stillman read, "will you immediately stop billions in bucks in production tax credit payments to the wind industry as they have proven to not be responsible business partners?" Stillman cataloged the damages caused by turbines, including the deaths of dairy cows, reduction in crop output and hearing disorders. Stillman concluded her remarks by informing the senator of the proposed wind energy farm in Palo Alto County containing upwards of 198 industrial wind turbines each the size of, in Stillman's words, the Washington Monument.

Grassley thanked Stillman for her comments, acknowledging he had not heard about a particular hearing disorder she had mentioned.

A number of audience questions dealt with President Trump. One audience member asked what the senator thought of the president's first 18 months in office. "I'm not in a position to question the individuals who elected him president," responded Grassley. "If I were in a position to do something about it, then we would not have a democracy."

An audience member asked what plans, if any, the senator has to temper the rhetoric coming out of Washington. The member pointed to the president's attacks on the media, his belligerence toward U.S.'s allies and his characterization of asylum seekers and immigrants as vermin infecting the country.

Grassley brought up a quote he gave to the Washington Post regarding Mueller and the president's ongoing Twitter assault on the investigation. "I told the Post, 'Let Mueller finish his work,'" said Grassley. He said Trump's presidency would be a lot stronger if he simply forgot about the investigation.

Another audience member said she feels she is witnessing the rise of fascism and questioned Grassley if he's afraid that the president is taking the country down a dark path. "We tick all the boxes [of the fascist checklist]. I don't want to be a good little Nazi," she said.

Grassley replied he's not afraid so long as there is the Constitution. "As long as the power is divided among the executive, judicial and legislative branches and as long as that [division] is in place, what you fear from any one person in our government can never happen," said Grassley.

Grassley fielded questions regarding Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court and the role of partisan politics. On his website, Grassley posted that he and the judicial committee have requested in excess of one million documents from the National Archives relating to Kavanaugh's career as a jurist. Virginia Kelly from Spirit Lake said that partisanship is exerting undue influence over the nomination process and that the senator and his Republican colleagues failed to even meet with Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Regarding the Mueller investigation, which has been going on for over a year, Kelly reminded the senator that the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton presidency lasted six years and resulted in no indictments. Kelly referenced an earlier comment by Grassley where he said he wished the Mueller investigation would wrap up.

Grassley replied, "I will not dispute what she said except for one thing and that is bipartisanship." The senator invited the audience to visit the Luger Institute at Georgetown University, named after former U.S. Senator Richard Luger. The institute, said Grassley, maintains statistics on senators and how they vote along party lines. "Two years ago, I was fifth among senators in bipartisanship," said Grassley. "I object to anyone saying I am not bipartisan."

Responding to a question regarding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and what the questioner believes is the secretary's attack on public education, Grassley said the situation could be far worse had the Senate not repealed the No Child Left Behind law. "Because if she had that kind of power, you really would have something to be afraid of," he said. He added that the law that replaced No Child is less intrusive and gives states more power over their public schools.

The discussion shifted to tariffs. When asked what he is doing to curtail the president's authority to level tariffs without congressional approval, Grassley said the president invoked laws from 1962 and 1974 that give presidents authority to impose tariffs if they are enacted to safeguard national security. But, he said, "All power on trade rests with the Congress. It is one of the 18 powers of Congress under the Constitution." The caveat, he said, is Congress can't make a day-to-day determination with everything on trade. "It is natural the president have leeway on this [determining national security threats]. In this particular case, [there has been] too much leeway without questioning."

Another audience member pointed out the U.S.'s negative balance of trade and asked Grassley how long this is sustainable. The senator answered, "When consumers in America decide they're going to save more and buy less. Or buy American instead of buying somewhere else." Grassley elaborated by noting the 70-year history of trade arrangements the U.S. has with the rest of the world. "We were the only wealthy nation after World War II, so we kept our tariffs low for the past 70 years to help other countries build up their economies. This president comes along and says, 'We've done that enough.'"

Grassley said he is bothered by tariffs because the first industry affected is agriculture. "The 100 percenters when it comes to Trump get mad at us because we disagree with the president on trade. It isn't so much you disagree with his goals; it's how you go about them," he said.

When the discussion turned to healthcare, Grassley said he favors opening up the prescription drug market to global competition, provided these countries use the same protocols for verifying drug safety as does the Food and Drug Administration. Grassley recalled President Trump tweeting about the high cost of prescription drugs. The president called out Big Pharma for its exorbitant price increases. "Well, a week later," Grassley said, "Pfizer said it wasn't doing it [increasing prices]." The senator did not elaborate on what appears to be a capricious revenue stream for drug companies.

Grassley referenced a bill that recently came out of his committee that reduces the amount of time it takes for manufacturers of generic drugs to purchase the patents for name-brand pharmaceuticals.

Regarding the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt, Grassley said he hopes Pruitt's successor, Andrew Wheeler, returns to the promises Trump made to ethanol producers but that Pruitt undid by granting waivers to oil companies. "A year ago, he [Trump] promised 15 billion gallons from grain ethanol. Now, with the waivers, it's 13 billion. We lost 10 percent because of Pruitt granting waivers."

Lastly, Grassley held firm to his belief a farm does not need multiple managers all receiving subsidies in order to operate. "One farming operating in the South has 36 managers and each one of those 36 managers can qualify for $250,000. How many people do you have to have to manage a farm?" asked Grassley.



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