Seeking answers

ROCKWELL CITY – U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley visited Rockwell City Community Center early Tuesday to take questions from constituents on both state and national issues.

Deb Zemke, of Knierim, voiced her concern that, regardless of which political party holds power in Washington, D.C., little will actually change. Grassley, a Republican, explained that the legislative process plays a significant role in affecting change.

“If we would control the Senate and we would pass legislation through the House (of Representatives) and the Senate, and it went to the president, and the president didn’t like it and he vetoed it, and we didn’t have two-thirds vote, which would take a bipartisan majority to override his veto in both houses, then everything would stay the same, even though we expressed the people’s will to make changes,” Grassley said. “It’s pretty much up to the president.”

Grassley then expressed his views on the part that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has played in this process.

“There’s 350 bills that have passed the House of Representatives that haven’t passed the Senate because Reid won’t bring them on,” he said. “Those bills would have a much better chance of getting through the United States Senate. Would the president like them or not? If he liked them, they would become law and there would be change. If he did not like them, then things would stay the same.”

Nancy Wheeler, of Lake City, asked Grassley, “What is being done to secure our borders?

“I understand ISIS and al-Qaida are in Mexico and heading this way,” Wheeler said. “Why can’t they put National Guard members along the borders?”

Grassley responded by saying the country is not doing enough to address the issue of border security.

“I would have voted for the immigration bill that passed the House with three or four changes. One of them would be maintaining a secure border,” he said.

Mike Sexton, a former state senator and Republican candidate this year for the Iowa House of Representatives, asked Grassley a question, he said, on behalf of a veteran.

“Why doesn’t Congress change (Veterans Affairs) health care to be run more like Medicare, and consolidate the two programs? That would get the U.S. government out of veterans hospitals, and allow vets to have a larger selection of health care providers and locations,” Sexton said.

According to Grassley, action is already being taken in Congress to address such concerns about the VA.

“We have passed some temporary legislation that would take care of backlog and stuff like that,” he said. “Will that be up before the end of the year, or will that carry over to next year? I don’t know yet, at this point. I’m not on that committee.”

Grassley answered the question, “Why not eliminate the VA?” by explaining its history.

“There was a feeling that veterans, whether they were well-off or not well-off, that served their country, ought to have something special. That’s why it was set up in the first place,” he said. “In other words if you were indigent, you shouldn’t have to go on Medicaid. You should be entitled to something.”

Tim Kraayenbrink, a Republican candidate for the Iowa Senate, sitting with Sexton in the audience, asked Grassley what he planned to do about the nation’s “$20 trillion debt.” The current national debt, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website, is only $17.7 trillion.

“What are your guys’ plans to not allow this country to go bankrupt?” Kraayenbrink asked. “If it was our checkbook, we’re probably going to have to make a decision here.”

Grassley described his approach to federal debt and program spending, and offered some insight into congressional actions on the issue.

“What I have found is not necessarily the best way of doing that is freezing across the board. It would be better if you took programs and made adjustments,” he said. “We made a decision before Christmas last year that for (2014) and ’15 we wouldn’t spend any more money than we spent in ’13.”