IOWA FALLS — A raucous town hall meeting frequently interrupted by shouted questions, insults and “do your job” chants was a great example of “making the process of representative government work,” U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Tuesday.
“What you’ve just seen is the best way to do it,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said about communicating with constituents.
His early morning meeting at a volunteer fire department station in the north central Iowa town of Iowa Falls drew a couple of hundred people. Judging from the comments and questions during the hour-long forum, most did not support his re-election last fall to a seventh term.
It’s just part of the job, Grassley said about his visits to all 99 counties every year for the past 36 years.
“We have a responsibility to have dialogue with our constituents,” Grassley told reporters later. “What I just did is the best way to do it.”
Over the course of an hour, Grassley fielded about 15 questions, many hostile toward him, President Donald Trump and Republicans, in general. Unlike his more typical town hall meetings, the questions — speeches, often — were longer, Grassley’s answers shorter, and there was less discussion. That, he said, was unfortunate but an accommodation he was willing to make.
“I don’t think people had a chance to hear me as much as they normally would because there were long speeches and some applause and some interference, so they didn’t get my point of view,” Grassley said. “But if they want me to listen to them, I’m willing to listen to them.”
What he heard told him “we’ve got issues that people feel very strongly about.”
He appreciated the input on the Affordable Care Act, which congressional Republicans and the president say they will repeal and replace. He hasn’t had many opportunities to discuss that at town hall meetings, so “I think that was a good thing to hear from people.”
As confrontational as the meeting was, Grassley said it was nowhere near as intense as meetings on President Barack Obama’s proposed health care overhaul in the summer of 2009.
“It’s nothing compared to 2009,” he said. “I went through this in 2009. If you get through it in 2009, this is not a problem.”
In that spirit, Clear Lake farmer and Democratic activist Chris Peterson offered Grassley a gift.
“I got a present for you, if you want them," he said before giving Grassley an earful on family farms, the EPA, health care and more. “They’re called Tums, and you’re going to need them in the next few years.”
Grassley appreciated the offer but told reporters it wasn’t necessary.
“The only time I need Tums is when I have chocolate ice cream before I go to bed,” Grassley said.