MAPLETON, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday that President Donald Trump and majority Republicans in Congress have had a harder time delivering on key campaign promises than he anticipated.
Speaking to about 100 people in a town hall meeting in Mapleton as the monthlong congressional recess neared the end, Grassley said he thought Republican priorities would move more quickly. Grassley said Republicans for seven years had vowed to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act put in place by President Barack Obama and majority Democrats.
He had thought a Republican replacement health care plan would have been set by Easter and said he figured tax reform, as a big second piece, would “be done by now.”
Rather, he said, when lawmakers reconvene in September, “we are going to pivot to tax reform. That doesn’t mean we won’t do anything on health care.”
The Republican senator also addressed the Republican health care bill collapse in the Senate in July, saying, “I am not proud of that. I am embarrassed by that.”
Grassley, 83, took questions from 17 people over the hourlong event in the Mapleton Community Center. The top topic was health care. Other notable topics were crop insurance in upcoming Farm bill deliberations and propping up Social Security.
Evelyn Thies, of Mapleton, said she was worried about Trump’s tax reform plan negatively impacting farmers.
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“If it wasn’t for the deductions we could take, we wouldn’t be farming for 50 years. ... Farming, it is a survival every year,” she said.
Nonetheless, Thies encouraged all federal Republicans to be more outwardly supportive of Trump policies. If that doesn’t happen, she cautioned, Democrats are poised to win back the U.S. House and Senate in 2018.
If Republicans lose control, Thies said, “the Muslims are going to take over this country. I am worried about Muslims, not Mexicans or anyone else. It is the Muslims who will kill us.”
People in the crowd wore T-shirts that said “Health Care Voter” and blue shirts with the “Grassley Works” slogan that was used in his last re-election campaign.
Tammy Mohr, of Ute, urged Grassley to help efforts to build a wall at the Mexican border to halt illegal immigration. Mohr said she previously told Grassley in a call 20 years ago that illegal immigration highly concerned her.
“We are footing the bill for them to live the American dream,” Mohr said.
“If the money is appropriated,” the wall will be built, Grassley responded, sitting down in an empty front row chair as he spoke with Mohr.
Trump has threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress does not include funding for the border wall in an omnibus budget bill funding for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Grassley also described the federal response to Hurricane Harvey, which has blasted Houston with more than 50 inches of rain in and around the nation’s fourth-largest city, causing massive flooding. Trump will visit Houston on Saturday for the second time this week.
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“It has been a long time since we’ve had that kind of a disaster,” the senator said.
Grassley said federal aid, on top of the available Federal Emergency Management Agency money, will be forthcoming. He said it is not necessary to know definitively now if the ultimate costs will be $10 billion or $100 billion.
“The government has taken the position of being an insurer of the last resort on disasters,” Grassley said.
One light moment came when Alice Masters, of Mapleton, said, “We have voted for you every year and we appreciate you, but...”
Many in the crowd laughed, and Grassley said, “The other shoe is going to drop.”
A few seconds later Masters said Grassley should tread lightly in doing bipartisan work with Democrats.
On Thursday morning, Grassley also appeared at the Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City. As part of his annual tour of all 99 Iowa counties, he also stopped this week in the northwest Iowa cities of Sibley and Primghar.