Grassley against shutdown, for new bill
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley in the past has said government shutdowns cost money, reopening government costs money and he is opposed to such shutdowns. The federal government shutdown last month for approximately three days, and the senator stood by his comments during a phone interview with regional news agencies Monday, Jan. 29.
"The government is in business for service to the American people and the protection of the American people and they should not be inhibited," Grassley said.
A major facet of the shutdown was centered around disagreements in Congress regarding immigration policies and the extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy — or DACA — which Democrats generally support.
"I think every shutdown that we've ever had, somehow, whether we were responsible or not, Republicans always got blamed for it," Grassley said. "I think journalism of all kinds seems to indicate that this was a bad gamble for the Democrats, that they're responsible for the shutdown and they didn't get much out of shutting down the government."
With DACA on the chopping block, program recipients — often called Dreamers — were uncertain of their future. Without the extension of DACA, Dreamers would potentially be deported, some having known only a life in the United States. Since the initial shutdown, however, a bill has been introduced which would provide a potential path to legal citizenship for Dreamers, but would also fund border security and restructure immigration policies. Grassley said, while there are aspects of the proposal he is opposed to, he is supportive of the overall bill.
"I like it," he said. "It goes a little bit further on legalization than I would like, but all legislation is compromise. So, for people on the conservative side that think there should be no legalization, I would invite them to consider that kids coming here, being dragged along by their parents — willingly or unwillingly — the parents entered the country illegally. I'm not sure I want to put that on the kids and, for humanitarian reasons, they ought to have some certainty."
Grassley also commented on aspects of the bill with which Republicans will likely be pleased.
"If they didn't have this issue coming up, we wouldn't have the opportunity to have $25 billion for a wall and other border securities. We wouldn't be able to end chain migration. We wouldn't be able to do away with the diversity visa lottery. So, we gain a lot of control over immigration that we haven't had before, and we ought to take advantage of it."
The senator indicated simply providing a path to citizenship without the other aspects of the bill would only serve to kick the proverbial can down the road for five to 20 years or so before needing to readdress the issue.
President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address a little over a week after an agreement to reopen the government was reached. Grassley had hoped the president would highlight the importance of the agricultural industry during his speech.
"I hope he uses the word 'farmer' at least once, so that the 2 percent of the people that feed the other 98 percent — and probably every farmer feeds 35 or 40 people outside the United States — get some recognition," Grassley said.
Grassley went on to say he had also hoped President Trump would vow to make trade deals which would not harm farmers. The senator pointed specifically to the renegotiation of NAFTA, saying the topic is causing fear among Iowans. Grassley said producers are particularly afraid of what renegotiations might do to the Mexican market for Iowa corn, since Mexico is the top importer of the state's grain.
Though the president's address did not mention farmers or NAFTA by name, he did touch on trade, saying, "the era of economic surrender is over." The president said trade deals are expected to be both fair and reciprocal moving forward.
"We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones," Trump said. "And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of trade rules."
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue was generally supportive of the president's approach to trade.
"The president's emphasis on fair trade gives me confidence that he will strike deals that benefit all parts of the American economy," Purdue said in a statement following the address.
Purdue said the president's plan to bolster infrastructure will be beneficial to rural Americans and the administration's plans to cut regulations will remove obstacles to productivity for agricultural producers. He also said tax cuts passed under the current administration will allow producers to invest in their own operations and families.
"This is a president who has rural America and agriculture close to his heart, as his words and deeds clearly demonstrate,” Purdue said.