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Iowa Politics Roundup: Overflow Crowds Pack Town-Hall Meetings PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 14 August 2009 13:49

Senator Chuck GrassleyU.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) heard an earful in four town-hall meetings held this week across the central part of the state, with a majority of the large crowds telling him to put the brakes on Democratic plans for health-care reform.

At congressional town-hall gatherings across the country, opponents of the Democrats' health-care-reform proposals have been loud, angry, and in some cases involved in physical altercations with those who are supportive of President Barack Obama and Democrats. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) experienced some of that shouting and booing during his meetings in Des Moines and eastern Iowa.

The largely conservative and Republican audience that attended Grassley's town-hall meetings in Adel, Afton, Panora, and Winterset were forceful in their condemnation of Obama and in some cases said they would vote against Grassley in 2010 if he does not stop his efforts to fashion a bipartisan health-care compromise. They occasionally mocked the few dissenting Democratic and liberal attendees who implored Grassley to embrace a government-run insurance option as a part of health-care reform.

But for the most part, the events were civil and respectful - and full. The meetings in Adel and Winterset were moved out of the public library and into a park after it became clear the large crowds would overwhelm those venues. (About 300 showed up for a morning event in Winterset; nearly 1,000 braved the heat in Adel.) The meetings in Afton and Panora were indoors and featured standing-room-only crowds of around 300 and almost 500, respectively.

"I don't want a government-run plan," Grassley said in Afton to enthusiastic applause, using a line he repeated throughout the day, each time to loud cheers.

The events attracted national media attention, with Grassley's town hall in Winterset carried live on CNN. The New York Times, Fox News, and Roll Call were all there too, along with representatives from AARP, Divided We Fail, Iowans for Tax Relief, and the American Future Fund, and people who participated in anti-tax "tea parties."

Grassley quickly drew criticism from Democrats and the national media after he said in Winterset that "you have every right to fear" a health-care bill that has counseling for the end of life, and "we should not have a government program that determines you're gonna pull the plug on grandma."

Bob Krause, one of the Democratic candidates who hopes to challenge Grassley for U.S. Senate, made his cable-TV debut when he was interviewed on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show and called Grassley's comments "outrageous."

U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) accused Grassley of spreading fear among seniors by comments he made about health-care reform as it relates to end-of-life decisions. "I'm shocked that Senator Grassley would reinforce the ridiculous claim that paying doctors to discuss end-of-life care with their patients is somehow 'pulling the plug on grandma,'" Braley said.

Grassley said the Senate Finance Committee is working to avoid unintended consequences and dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration because of the way they could be misinterpreted and incorrectly implemented. "Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can't," he said.

Meanwhile, Grassley, who's been part of the "gang of six" on the Senate Finance Committee working on a bipartisan plan for the past five months, acknowledged at the town-hall meetings that a bipartisan plan for health-care reform might not happen and that he may soon be excluded from negotiations if Obama decides to push forward with a partisan plan.

Third Democrat Enters U.S. Senate Race

Former state Senator Tom Fiegen of Clarence formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate during Friday press conferences in Tipton, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines.

He joins Bob Krause of Fairfield and Sal Mohamed of Sioux City in vying for the right to challenge Grassley, who has held his seat for almost 30 years.

Fiegen is an attorney and economist who represents family farms and small businesses in bankruptcy court. He said he'll make the economic issues of full employment, health care for all who need it, and a ban on financial piracy the centerpieces of his campaign - an economic platform that he calls "Fiegenomics."

"Before we can solve our other problems, we need to create enough new jobs in America that everyone who wants to work can get a job," said Fiegen, who is calling for a renewal of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act.