Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley made his annual stop in Estherville Wednesday to address constituent concerns ranging from government to immigration to American involvement in Ukraine and Iraq.
Marilyn Bose asked Grassley if there was any way to force Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid to bring up bills brought over from the House.
"Not in an effective way," said Grassley, noting that Reid has the first right of recognition in the Senate. He said members could make speeches or motions to bring up legislation on other bills. However, the Senate is tilted toward the Democrats 55-45, Grassley said.
"Very rarely does anyone try to bring anything else up," said Grassley.
""He's abused the privilege of his position more than most Republicans and Democratic leaders before him," Grassley said of Reid.
Russia and Ukraine
Addressing a question as to whether the Russians were truly bringing humanitarian aid - and not weapons - to war-torn eastern Ukraine, Grassley said the International Red Cross count help ensure that it was aid only going into the country.
Another party asked about America's role in the Ukraine.
Grassley pointed to the 1994-95 Budapest Agreement signed by Russia, England and the US which all agreed that if Ukraine denuclearized it would be defended - something clearly violated when Russia attacked Ukraine. "I don't think this President is going to give military materiel to them (Ukraine)," Grassley said.
Another question was reinstating allowed donations from IRAs, something that ended last December.
Grassley said that was one of 53 tax provisions that expired last Dec. 31 and which would have to be reenacted.
Truth in packaging
One ag producer shared frustration in being unable to determine the exact variety of seed he was buying. He said there could be five or six companies selling the same variety under different names and that he had to buy seed corn first to find out which variety it was.
Grassley said part of the reason for the labeling was that it was protected by intellectual property laws. He said he would refer the matter to his agricultural research assistant.
Coal-fired power plants
Paul Peterson asked about coal generation of electricity, saying added costs would be passed on to customers.
Grassley said the courts could be one way to stop restrictions on coal-fired plants.
"There is basically a war with coal with this administration," Grassley said. "There is some question whether they have the legitimate authority to do it."
He said coal-producing states want to try for a congressional veto. Unfortunately, that has been attempted four times in this administration and he said the most votes that could be mustered in the Senate were 45-48. He said another avenue might be through an appropriations bill.
In an environmental-related side issue, Grassley said the EPA was trying to legislate navigable waters through private property.
Another question dealt with American involvement in Iraq.
Grassley said a mistake was made when status of forces was not part of the US withdrawal agreement.
"We do not have the capability of troops on the ground," Grassley said. He said if the US could help with advisors and humanitarian aid that would be legitimate. He said ISIS militants were able to seize equipment US forces left then they withdrew an that we should use air power to destroy that and limit ISIS mobility. He noted that ISIS headquarters are in Syria, not Iraq.
Bose said money intended to help Syrian rebels had gone to ISIS.
Grassley said there are actually three groups going after the president of Syria and the US has favored the most moderate. He said most of the help the US gave was for training rebels in Jordan and giving military materiel to moderates.
He said that stipulations are not too explicit on defense appropriations bills, giving the President as commander-in-chief more leeway than he has domestically. He said that under the 1973 War Powers Act the President had authority to react to an immediate threat to the country or to our national security interests provided he gives congressional leadership 48 hours notice.
"I think if there's anything you can take back to Washington, senator, it's that we don't want another war," said Don Brown.
Grassley agreed that besides not having the ability of putting boots on the ground that the American people don't have the will for another war. He said the President is empowered as commander-in-chief through the Constitution.
Grassley also drew a parallel between World War II and Iraq, with people opposed to American intervention.
"Maybe we've got to wait until ISIS gets in here and drops a bomb on Washington or New York and then we'll wake up," Grassley said.
Grassley said the House would probably be passing a bill with amnesty for undocumented aliens if Republicans wanted amnesty. He said the immediate concern was children.
As for further securing the border, Grassley said he thought nothing would be done beyond what is in the present bill.
Another constituent said while it was the federal government's job to secure the border the government was not doing it and not allowing states to do it either.
Grassley said some political leaders want open borders for political reasons and businesses want cheaper labor.
As for where the money's going, he said some is going for humanitarian aid and some for 100 immigration judges.