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At Contentious Grassley Town Hall, Iowans Split Over Supreme Court Nominee

grassley town hall
Katarina Sostaric/IPR
Sen. Chuck Grassley takes questions from Iowans in Osceola on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

Sen. Chuck Grassley finished his annual 99-county tour Monday with a contentious town hall-style meeting in Osceola. Some Iowans pressed Grassley to justify his handling of the Supreme Court confirmation process, while others thanked him for his work during last week’s hearings.

A man from Martensdale asked if Grassley would slow down the confirmation process until allegations that nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury are resolved.

Grassley said that’s a “prosecution issue,” and if Kavanaugh is guilty, it could play out like some convictions in the Mueller investigation.

“He would have to suffer the same consequences…” Grassley began.

“But why would you push him through to the Supreme Court if there’s even a question?” a woman interrupted, to a chorus of agreement and shouts of “perjury.”

“So we will proceed as we have,” Grassley said.

Some also asked Grassley why he’s helping to get Kavanaugh confirmed shortly before an election when he previously declined to consider an Obama Supreme Court pick months before the 2016 election. Grassley reiterated it’s because this year is not a presidential election like 2016.

Another woman, who identified herself as a member of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, thanked Grassley for leading the Supreme Court confirmation process and said protests in Washington D.C. last week were “embarrassing.”

“I appreciated the way the hearings went, and I thought you did a wonderful job even in the theatrics that were going on in the hearing room,” she said.

There were some activists in the crowded room from NARAL Pro-Choice America with signs that read “Protect safe, legal abortion.” Members of the libertarian and conservative group Americans for Prosperity also attended and asked questions about criminal justice reform and extending the new federal tax law beyond its current expiration date.

There were some outbursts between people for and against abortion rights, and shouts of “answer the question” and “let him talk” when Grassley was defending his actions as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After the meeting, Grassley was asked if the anger over Kavanaugh’s likely confirmation will hurt Republicans in the mid-term elections, or if the opposition is a vocal minority.

“They may be a minority and a vocal minority, but what difference does it make? Trump supporters are a vocal minority too,” Grassley said. “It’s what you have in between that makes a difference. How are they going to fall? I can’t predict that for ya.”

Grassley said the Senate Majority Leader wants Kavanaugh to be confirmed by the full Senate by the end of September, but Grassley said he’s not sure it will happen that fast. The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to vote on the nominee.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter