Grassley says his longevity makes him a ‘powerful force’ for Iowa

By: - April 20, 2022 6:41 pm

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks to a crowd of about 100 in Denison on April 20, 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

DENISON, Ia. — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would have the most seniority of any sitting member of the Senate if his reelection bid is successful this year, and he said that is a primary reason he is seeking another term.

“I think it puts me in a good place to be a powerful force for helping Iowans,” Grassley, 88, told reporters after a meeting Wednesday with constituents in Denison.

The current longest-serving member, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, is not seeking reelection. Grassley said that puts him at the front of the line to assume the informal title of Dean of the Senate and — if Republicans retake the chamber in the next election — president pro tem, the second-highest ranking member of the Senate.

Grassley was also optimistic that he would reclaim his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which he led when the committee refused to consider President Barack Obama’s third U.S. Supreme Court nominee during the final year of his presidency in 2016. That enabled President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy after he won election.

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Grassley’s tenure in the Senate began about four decades ago, and he will be 95 at the end of his next term if he is reelected.

Discussion of his age was punctuated by an exchange Wednesday with a constituent in Denison at Stables at Copper Ridge. The cavernous event venue echoed the voices inside and the raindrops falling on its roof throughout the discussion, making it difficult to hear. The question came from someone who was not using a microphone.

Questioner: Can you talk about your work to bring over-the-counter hearing aids to the market?

Pause.

Questioner: Over-the-counter hearing aids.

Grassley: Say that again.

Questioner: Over-the-counter hearing aids, and your work to bring it to the market.

Grassley: Oh. yeah.

The exchange drew uproarious laughter from the crowd of nearly 100 people in the Republican-leaning county. They peppered Grassley with questions about topics that ranged from the “political prisoners” of the U.S. Capitol riot last year to Social Security to the availability of rural broadband access.

Grassley pushes for more domestic oil production to address inflation

He told reporters that inflation and border security are the most-frequent topics that arise during his question-and-answer meetings, which he holds in every county each year.

On border security, he told the crowd: “We have a president that doesn’t want to enforce the immigration laws.”

On inflation, he said soaring fuel prices are a main driver and that President Joe Biden should boost domestic oil production rather than trying to shift to electric vehicles.

“If you want to get gas prices back down, reverse everything you did last year,” Grassley said, specifically mentioning the revoked permit of the Keystone XL pipeline, reduced drilling for oil and increased regulations on fracking.

Grassley also talked at length about his ongoing efforts to support the state’s cattle producers. He said producers are negotiating at a disadvantage with the four large meat packing companies that account for about 85% of the cattle market.

He said the packers’ contracts with large-scale cattle operations obscure the true price of cattle at any given time. His legislation would make those prices available and would expedite the sales of cattle for the smaller operations, he said.

Grassley: Affordable Care Act repeal not ‘realistic’

Grassley told reporters after the forum that repealing the Affordable Care Act — often known as Obamacare — will not be a campaign issue for him, but that more should be done to lower the prices of prescription drugs.

“I don’t think it’s realistic after 10 or 12 years that it would be repealed,” Grassley said. “It could be improved some or it could be changed some, but repealing — I think that ended when we tried to do it the last time in 2017 and we came up one vote short.”

Grassley said many of the issues he discussed Wednesday would qualify as “unfinished business” that he will need another six-year term to address.

“There’s always unfinished business,” he said. “Even if it’s not on my plate, I’m going to be part of a lot of unfinished business.”

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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