Grassley won’t say if he’s running in 2022, praises Rush Limbaugh at town hall meeting in Greene County

Sen. Chuck Grassley at the Night of the Rising Stars in Des Moines. April 2, 2011. — Gage Skidmore

Two days after the first candidate announced he is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Chuck Grassley, the senior senator was still telling Iowans he hasn’t made up his mind if he is running for reelection in 2022 yet.

Grassley said a decision would not be made for months, the Carroll Times Herald reported on Monday. The senator made his remarks during a town hall meeting at the Landus Cooperative in Greene County.

Earlier this month, Grassley told reporters his decision regarding running for reelection would be announced in “several weeks.”

As he usually does, the 87-year-old Grassley said his health would play a major part in whether he would run for an eighth term in the U.S. Senate. Grassley has served in the Senate since 1981.

Grassley sometimes cites his jogging schedule as proof of his robust health. Last week, it was his ability to do push-ups.

“I can do 20 right now,” he said,

Grassley was at the Landus Cooperative the same day Rush Limbaugh’s death was announced. The senator praised Limbaugh as an “absolute positive” for American politics and culture.

“He was well-prepared and just well-thought-out, every approach he took,” Grassley said. “He was a voice that kind of united conservative thought.”

Limbaugh, who revolutionized talk radio and made racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic comments a routine part of his broadcasts, will be “greatly missed,” Grassley said.

“I think America owes him a lot from the standpoint of just bringing issues to the forefront,” the senator added.

On Monday last week, state Sen. Jim Carlin, a Republican from Sioux City, declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

State Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City.
— official photo

Carlin has served in the Iowa State Senate, representing part of Woodbury County, since winning a special election in 2017. Carlin is originally from Massachusetts and moved to Sioux City, where he practices law, in 1992. By that time, Grassley had already been a senator for 11 years.

Carlin has sponsored several bills this legislative session that put him to the right of many of his fellow Republicans in the Iowa Senate. Those bills include one to reinstate the death penalty, which Iowa abolished in 1965. Another bill would divert money from public schools to private schools, something Gov. Reynolds called for in her Condition of the State speech.

Carlin is the co-sponsor of a bill that would require schools to get a parent’s written permission before providing instruction to elementary school students that involves discussion of gender identity, which is a common part of anti-bullying efforts. Unless the parent signed a permission form, the student would be able to opt out of any such instruction.

In addition to those bills, Carlin introduced a so-called “bathroom bill” that mandates schools only allow students to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate. And he is the author of a bill that would require the Board of Regents to report on the political party affiliation of everyone employed by Iowa’s three public universities.

Carlin attracted attention last week not for his Senate candidacy, but because of his promotion of a bill favored by the anti-vaccination movement. SF 193, which Carlin is co-sponsoring, would prohibit any employer, including hospitals and other healthcare providers, from requiring an employee be vaccinated. The prohibition would not just apply to the COVID-19 vaccine, it would apply to vaccinations for any disease.

Schools and licensed child care centers would not be able to turn down a child who has not received any vaccinations, if a parent or guardian “stat[ed] that the immunization conflicts with the conscientiously held beliefs of the applicant,” according to the bill.

During a subcommittee hearing on the bill, Carlin brought up the long-ago debunked claim that vaccinations cause autism. He said that when he was young, children only got three or four vaccinations, and there seemed to fewer cases of certain diseases.

“When I was a kid, I don’t think we had any autistic kids in my entire class … The autism numbers have exploded,” he said. “I know that’s a classic argument, and I get that, but I’m bringing it up just to have a conversation.”

After Carlin repeated this point a few times, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati told the subcommittee firmly, “There is absolutely no correlation between vaccination and autism.”

Pedati assured lawmakers, “Vaccines are very important, they’re safe, they’re critical lifesaving tools and I think there’s good data to show that when you increase things like exemptions, people do take advantage of them and it creates pockets of under-vaccinated or unvaccinated populations, which can lead to the spread of infectious diseases like measles.”

The subcommittee approved the bill, with both Republicans — one of whom was Carlin — voting in favor, and the lone Democrat opposing it.

A companion piece of legislation introduced by Carlin has received less attention. SF 125 would require medical examiners filling out reports on the deaths of children up to the age of 3 to include information on the most recent vaccination the child had. Anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists claim without evidence that vaccinations pose a potentially lethal hazard to all children. Carlin didn’t mention this bill during the subcommittee hearing last week, but did raise the possibility that vaccinations have contributed to an increase in sudden infant death syndrome.

When it was her opportunity to speak, Pedati explained there is no link between vaccines and sudden infant death syndrome.

Carlin did not mention Grassley when he declared his candidacy last Monday, and Grassley did not mention Carlin at Landus Cooperative on Wednesday.

If Grassley decides to run and is reelected, he will be 95 at the end of his next term. As the Times Herald pointed out, if he completes another six-year term, Grassley will have been in elective office at either the state or federal level for 70 years. The senator has been in office continually, from Iowa House of Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives to the Senate, since 1959.

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