A week from Friday, sequester is set to take effect.
As United States Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, made his way around southwest Iowa Tuesday, fear of federal budget cuts loomed at a town hall meeting held at Afton Community Center.
Questions from the crowd, which included everything from social services to military spending, expressed the same concern: how is this going to affect me?
Creston Head Start Teacher Donna Ramsey said 500 children and more than 100 staff could lose their job this year as a result of the federal spending cuts that go into effect March 1, known as the sequester.
“Here’s where we are,” said Grassley. “We are $16 trillion in debt. We are spending more than the economy grows. To bring in more, we’ve raised taxes $612 billion dollars. So some place, there’s got to be less spending.”
Grassley said, by taking a little out of everything is the only way to get the job done.
Medicaid and Medicare
Monte Neitzel, Greater Regional Medical Center CEO, said every 2 percent cut costs GRMC $400,000.
“I understand that’s our fair share to pay for that and our responsibility,” said Neitzel.
Grassley said there is a real feeling among Republicans and Democrats the sequester is going to leave the U.S. with a hollow military.
“It takes 50 percent out of defense,” said Grassley. “ Defense is only 18 percent of the budget. Something does need to be done”
Dale Davenport of Lorimor is in favor of continuing Social Security and against privatization.
Grassley said there have been talks of offering means-tested Social Security. Means testing would reduce benefits based on the full range of current income. Who would be affected and by how much depends on how the income thresholds are defined.
“The last time we did anything on Social Security was 1983,” said Grassley. “Back then it was busted. You don’t want to wait until it gets in the same situation again.”
Dave Savage of Lamoni offered a solution to put the risk back on farmers.
Savage said crop insurance is a good program, but the problem lies in people buying land on higher, subsidized levels.
“Stop subsidizing and put the risk back on us,” said Savage.
Violence against women
At town hall meetings in both Mount Ayr and Afton Tuesday, Grassley was confronted by Mount Ayr resident Tracee Knapp and Rural Iowa Crisis Center Director Vickie Hodge, respectively, as to why he voted in opposition of the renewal of the Violence Against Women’s Act, when, historically, he voted in favor.
According to Grassley, he continues to support 98 percent of the bill.
“This bill, has this provision in it which I think is unconstitutional,” said Grassley.
According to Grassley, when a non-Native American enters an Indian reservation and violates a woman, the perpetrator is not prosecuted in federal court.
“They are opening up the tribal courts to non-Native Americans to be tried there,” said Grassley. “We have a requirement that the jury pool has to be reflective of the community. What kind of a deal are you going to get from a jury that is all Native American?”
Grassley calls this double-jeopardy.
“In the case of being tried in the tribal courts, you can still be tried in the U.S. courts,” said Grassley. “And I think that is unconstitutional and (should) be thrown out.”
Hodge said most of these types of crimes are committed by men either living on a reservation or spending a great deal of time there.
“We know, in three-fourths of sexual assaults, the perpetrator is known to the victim,” said Hodge. “It’s not that we have hoards of white men coming over to rape the Indian women. These people are already within the Indian community, by choice.”
Grassley said he offered an amendment to correct the problem and was defeated in the Senate.
“I put up $25 million from other places in the justice department where I think it was being wasted and put it toward more prosecutors and magistrates so these people will be prosecuted,” said Grassley. “I think the House of Representatives will bring it back, and I can vote on it then.”
You can send comments and questions to Grassley via Facebook, Twitter (@chuckgrassley) or through his website, senate.grassley.gov.