Grassley: Secure border first priority
in immigration reform
Senator also discusses IRS, health care, future of agriculture, at Jefferson event
May 30, 2013
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks to members of the Kiwanis Club of Jefferson at the Uptown Cafe Wednesday morning.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says he's been bitten once by immigration legislation.
He pledges not to let it happen again.
In remarks to the Jefferson Kiwanis Club Wednesday morning, Grassley said any immigration-reform package should require a review after six months of its implementation to ensure the borders are secure before other elements go into effect
"We ought to make sure the border is closed," Grassley said to the morning crowd of about 50 people. "It's got something to do with national security. If a country can't secure its border, it's not really a sovereign nation."
In 1986 Grassley voted for a Ronald Reagan-signed immigration-reform bill that the Iowa senator now believes allowed too many people to enter the nation without papers. The legislation legalized people who had been here illegally since before 1982, and provided provisions for agricultural and other workers.
"I voted for it, and we screwed up," Grassley said.
Responding to a question on the American public's low opinion of Congress, Grassley said it stems from a largely politically divided nation, the proliferation of ideological media and gerrymandered districts. Grassley said 90 percent of U.S. House districts are "safe" for incumbents because of built-in partisan advantages, meaning most members have no incentive to work across the aisle and are rewarded for dismissing constituents who belong to different parties.
"The country as a whole is divided at the grassroots," Grassley said.
Grassley also said President Barack Obama deserves blame as well for not, in Grassley's view, reaching out enough to Republicans in Congress.
"He's tended not to have dialogue," Grassley said.
Grassley fielded several questions on the Internal Revenue Service, now embroiled in controversy for its handling of certain applications for not-for-profit status for conservative organizations.
Grassley said he would support a flat tax as one route to eliminating the massive tax code - and the resulting IRS power.
"It's thicker than the Bible, and there's no good news in it," Grassley said of federal tax regulations.
The senator suggested IRS and administration officials should be fired in the wake of the IRS problems. NBC News has reported that officials high in the IRS chain requested extra-scrutiny of conservative organizations seeking to qualify as tax exempt.
"If heads don't roll in Washington, D.C., nothing happens," Grassley said.
Grassley, who served on an IRS restructuring committee several years ago, did say that the IRS does not appear to be targeting small businesses for audits in the way he says it once did.
"I don't hear as much about IRS and small business as I used to," Grassley said.
On agriculture and energy, Grassley said he expects to be leading battles to protect the wind-energy tax credit, which he authored, and the Renewable Fuels Standard, which buoys Iowa agriculture in the form of ethanol support. In order to extend the wind credits, they may have to sunset after four years, requiring the wind-energy business to compete as a fully mature power generator.
Grassley also expressed support for nuclear power and the development of a pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. If the United States doesn't refine the oil from Canada's oil sands, China will, effectively nullifying one major argument from environmentalists. Grassley said.
He described the Affordable Care Act - widely known as "Obamacare" - as a "fact of life." Grassley opposed the sweeping health-care reform but said legislative and political opposition strategies have been exhausted. The reform could fail on its own, based on the weight of its regulations, Grassley said.
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