By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
The Daily Iowegian was scheduled to talk to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley Thursday for his weekly 10 minute Q&A but on Friday while in Cedar Rapids Grassley answered our three questions.
Question one dealt with Fast and Furious. In case you're not aware, Fast and Furious is a gun walking operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to have Phoenix, Ariz. gun dealers sell firearms to stray buyers in the belief the weapons would be traced and subsequently arrests would be made.
In December of 2010 Brian Terry, a Customs and Border Patrol agent, was killed in a firefight with illegal aliens and two weapons suspected to be part of Fast and Furious were recovered at the scene.
As many as 2,500 weapons illegally purchased could have found its way into Mexico and other parts of the United States.
Sen. Grassley and Darrell Issa, chairman of committee on Oversight and Government Reform, started looking into Fast and Furious as early as January of 2011
Q. 1) "Where does your and Rep. Darrell Issa's Fast and Furious investigation stand as of today?"
Grassley said it's still an ongoing investigation by his and Issa's staff but they are being stymied by "stonewalling" by the Obama administration's claim of executive privilege over documents.
"There's probably not as much going on there as there ought to be because of the stonewalling," Grassley said. "Where the stonewalling is, is the president declaring executive privilege over these papers we want."
Grassley said the House of Representatives has filed a contempt citation in front of a judge arguing President Barack Obama doesn't have the authority to declare executive privilege. The judge can review the requested documents not forthcoming and decide if Obama has a legitimate stand.
"I hope that the judge will find that it isn't because there's no way the president of the United States could have been involved with 70,000 some pages of documents or what's contained in those documents with Fast and Furious," Grassley said. "Or, if he is, then the president knew about this."
President Obama's executive privilege declaration over requested documents, Sen. Grassley said, may be more about stonewalling the investigation rather than implicating the president with knowledge about Fast and Furious.
"And I still don't think he has anything to do with it," Grassley said. "I just think that's another way of stonewalling."
Yet, Grassley agreed, the claim of executive privilege by the president over requested documents looks suspicious. Grassley said he doesn't have any proof President Obama was involved in Fast and Furious.
Recent Fast and Furious events, Grassley said, include an Inspector General's report and several Department of Justice employees being fired with the prospect of more to come.
"So there might be something going on within Justice that we're hearing reports about that maybe is a followup that proves what we've been saying for 18 months, now almost two years," Grassley said, "that it was just a botched deal."
Q. 2) "How satisfied are you with the answers you're hearing from the Obama administration concerning the 9/11 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi?”
Grassley said he doubts the country will not get any answers about the 9/11 attack on the American embassy in Benghazi that killed four Americans until the new Congress takes over in January and more hearings are held.
Susan Rice and her appointment to succeed Hilary Clinton as secretary of state is just a "side show" Grassley said. The real question the Obama administration faces with the Benghazi attack is did the United States have a chance to save the lives of the four Americans who died that day?
"And that's going to be the subject of a lot of hearings next year, I think," Grassley said.
Q.3) "If the Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a deal with the so called "fiscal cliff," what will that mean for Iowans in general?"
Medicare in particular, Grassley said, with a 2 percent reduction that will make access to healthcare more difficult for Iowan seniors, particularly in rural areas.
Another area the country will suffer is in national defense, Grassley said, because the Obama administration is looking at substantial cuts in defense spending.
"We're going to have a hollow military and that's the reason we've got to reach some agreement on the 'fiscal cliff,'" Grassley said.
If a deal is not reached the 2000 year Bush era tax cuts will expire, which will trigger higher tax rates for all Americans and amount to the biggest tax increase in this county's history, Grassley said.
Republicans are trying to reach a compromise with the president, Grassley said, including giving him the higher income tax increases on upper income earners but preserve the middle class tax cuts from 2000.
"And we've been saying that for three weeks after the election," Grassley said. "The president ought to declare victory and move on and deal with the deficit."
Tax the rich? What does it mean?
The tax increase on the higher income earners proposed by President Obama will only amount to to a 10 percent reduction in the national deficit, Grassley said.
"What about the other 90 percent?" he asked. "The reality is the country has a spending problem and not a taxing problem."
Grassley said moving forward the president will have to compromise and agree to spending cuts.