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U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley visited Diagonal last week to tour the facilities at Excel Engineering and to meet and answer questions from the company staff.
Excel founder Doug Sobotka led the tour and explained the history of his company. Grassley took the opportunity to stop at several testing stations and interact with several technicians overseeing the work in progress.
Following the tour, Excel employees were invited to a question-and-answer session with Grassley in the company’s conference room.
“I like when I come to Ringgold County,” Grassley told the group. “Most of the time, I’ve been to the county courthouse for an open town meeting. But I never get people like you that work and pay taxes. … So there’s two things that I accomplished. Number one, how in the heck would I ever know what you can do here if I didn’t come here. And I’m kind of surprised in Diagonal. That’s just a little bit bigger than Hartford [Grassley’s hometown]. … And number two, I never get to interact with people like you because you can’t come to my town meeting.”
Sobotka had earlier asked his employees to submit questions for Grassley.
One of the first questions dealt with the national debt. Grassley defended his recent vote supporting continuing appropriations despite adding to the national debt. He said he was faced with a choice between the continuing appropriations or shutting down the government. To avoid facing another such choice, Grassley said he strongly supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget as do 46 of the 50 state governments, including Iowa.
Another question dealt with the trade war with China.
Grassley said the Trump administration has made progress in negotiating trade deals with Canada, Mexico, Korea, Japan, Argentina and Europe, but China has a long history not negotiating in good faith, stealing intellectual property and manipulating their currency to gain a trade advantage.
“I’m a free trader, I don’t like tariffs,” Grassley said. “But on the other hand, I have to admit we wouldn’t have China at the negotiating table if we hadn’t been forceful the way we are.”
Grassley added fair trade between China and the US would benefit the entire world.
“As I tried to tell the president one time,” he said, “free trade has made a big difference. Just look at the poverty after World War II. Fifty percent of the world was in poverty. Today less than 10%, I think is 8%, of the world is in poverty. And capitalism and free trade has been a big part of the reason people are out of poverty.”
Healthcare, specifically the Affordable Care Act, was another topic for discussion.
“It’s not working,” Grassley said in reference to the ACA. “A recent statistic I heard it’s a million and a half to 2 million people that don’t get the government subsidy under the exchange, or full amount, but they can’t afford it.”
Grassley said he supports the sale of insurance across state lines, association-based insurance and strengthened health savings accounts as means to achieve better health care coverage.
In light of the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Grassley was asked his views on gun control.
“My guess is it would probably fall into the areas of beefing up the data system,” Grassley said. “It goes by the acronym NICS [National Criminal Instant Background Check System], beef up the NICS system. And maybe red flag laws where we’re under proper due process, If somebody who had a gun legally, but they’re a threat to themselves or a threat to somebody else, then you can go before a judge. And as long as his constitutional rights are protected, and he was a threat, then he would not be able to have his gun. So those are only two that I’ve heard much talk about. There is some talk about the AR 15. We had 10 years that AR 15s were outlawed from 94 to 2004, [but] because of sunset it wasn’t reenacted. But it didn’t seem to stop the mass killings – Columbine was an example. So I don’t think the chances of that happening are real… A common problem among at least school shootings that we’ve had in the last 10 years have been the mental health issues of the people involved. And we’ve got to find some way of getting those names into the database.”
A final question dealt with climate change.
“The most irritating thing when I talked to people about global warming is this: ‘Well, don’t ask don’t raise any questions about global warming. The science is fixed. There’s no debate.’ Well, as far as I’m concerned, what I learned about science, and I’m not a physical scientist, but I still studied science when I was in college. And the one thing about sciences is nothing’s sure. And so for people to say you shouldn’t raise any questions about global warming, The science is so sound you don’t have to worry about. But the basis of science is you have peer review all the time. … I think that anybody that tells me you don’t have any discussion about global warming? …They’re seeing it as a religion. And I see it as a science. I got nothing against religion, but I’m not going to accept global warming is religion.”