Our world is more connected than ever. In an instant, I can send a tweet from my office in Washington, D.C., or post a photo to Instagram from my farm in New Hartford. These are just a couple ways I keep my constituents informed about how I’m working for them. Yet, despite the ability to be constantly connected online, there’s often still a feeling of disconnect. Liking a tweet is not the same as shaking a hand.
Too often, politicians are elected to Congress and quickly forget about the people who put them there until they’re up for reelection. That’s not an effective way to govern. As one of Iowa’s U.S. senators, my job is to represent Iowans. That’s why I made a commitment to the people of Iowa to hold at least one question-and-answer session in each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year.
Recently, in Northwest Iowa, in Spencer, I honored my commitment to Iowans for the 39th consecutive year.
I meet Iowans in a variety of settings, from businesses to farms, manufacturing facilities to classrooms. I also hold open town meetings. It’s an effective way for me to hear not only from Iowans and answer their questions directly, but also to get a glimpse of their lives, understand where they’re coming from and learn how I can better serve them as their U.S. senator.
Representative government is a two-way street. I could not do my job without hearing from the people of Iowa about the issues they’re passionate about and the concerns they have. The legislative and investigative work I pursue in the Senate is often borne from conversations I have at my county meetings.
For example, the yearslong investigation I led into the sky-high price of EpiPens began with Iowans who contacted me with concerns they wouldn’t be able to afford the medication for their kids as they went back to school. My decadeslong fight to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard is one that is directly on behalf of the thousands of Iowa farm families and businesses who feel the pain every time the oil interests in Washington undermine the law. My continuing efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act that I recently introduced with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), started with Iowans who told me they were being squeezed by outrageously expensive prices at the pharmacy counter.
The wide range of legislative work I tackle in the Senate is a testament to the diversity of issues raised by Iowans. My annual county meetings are always an open-topic question-and-answer format. No matter the setting, Iowans set the agenda. It’s no coincidence that prescription drug pricing and trade are two of my top priorities. They are two issues Iowans want to discuss at nearly every one of my county meetings.
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Open lines of communications are essential for a successful representative government. While that certainly includes all the new and developing digital avenues of communication, nothing compares to direct, face-to-face conversations. The people of Iowa welcome me into their communities so we can have honest and open discussions about the issues impacting their lives. I want to thank them for that and for the opportunity to represent them in the United States Senate.
Chuck Grassley is a Republican U.S. senator from Iowa.