Iowans have always been known to have a quiet dignity about them, but Sen. Chuck Grassley said he’d like to see them act with a little more bravado when it comes to their success.
“Iowans don’t brag enough,” Grassley said while visiting XL Specialized Trailers in Manchester April 23.
Following his extensive tour of the factory floor with management personnel, Grassley was amazed to hear XL Trailers was near the top of its industry. He said the only way to make that more common knowledge is to be more vocal about its accomplishments.
“Here you are, second in the industry and trying to be first someday, and you don’t brag about it. I don’t know you exist until I come here,” he said. “I think that’s true of Iowa in general — we have to sell ourselves more to the rest of the world.”
With 230 employees running two shifts, XL Trailers is able to manufacture 95% of the materials used in the construction of its trailers.
“It’s nice to know they’re top in their industry,” Grassley told the Manchester Press. “They make so many different products and can sell you a trailer for almost anything you want to haul.”
XL Trailers makes a trailer that hauls many of the enormous components vital to wind energy operations, something near and dear to Grassley’s heart.
Grassley said he’s the father of the wind energy tax credit and when he fought for that in 1992, he didn’t have the slightest idea that Iowa would be getting 40% of electricity from wind.
“It’s quite marvelous to hear this kind of stuff is going on in Iowa,” he said.
Following the tour, an open-ended forum was held in the break room, where all employees were encouraged to ask the Senator whatever they wanted.
Grassley said he tries to get to each of Iowa’s 99 counties, visiting both town-hall sessions and touring businesses.
He said this way, constituents that may not be able to leave work to attend other forums can have an opportunity to make their voice and concerns heard.
Being the trailer industry is heavily reliant on steel and aluminum, the question of what the current situation surrounding several tariffs was brought up relatively quickly.
“I’ve had conversations with the President on it, and he isn’t inclined to take them off, but this is what I tried to explain to him — he put the tariffs on because Mexico and Canada weren’t negotiating. So they’ve negotiated and he’s gotten what he considers a good agreement and what I consider a good agreement, particularly in the automobile industry,” Grassley said. “So I said don’t you think these tariffs should come off? They negotiated in good faith and he said ‘no.’”
Grassley said the Trump administration wants to continue to use tariffs to leverage quotas and stop the Chinese from shipping metal products to Canada and Mexico, which in turn deliver them to the U.S.
“If they don’t come off, there won’t be any USMCA,” Grassley said. “I guess it’s just a ‘wait until he wakes up (situation).’”
As for tariffs related to China, Grassley said there has been some progress made.
He said they’ve been negotiating intellectual property, stealing trade secrets and currency manipulation with the Chinese government.
“I think they’re coming close to getting an agreement now,” he said, adding things could come to a resolution as early as June.
But, Grassley said, most important to any deal with China would be the enforcement of it.
“In 2011, we had an agreement on certain things they were going to do and they didn’t do them,” Grassley said. “If we don’t get (these deals) enforced, it doesn’t do any good to have them. So I think that the enforcement will be this — what tariffs are on both China and our country will come off in tranches based upon their good faith in following it.”
Grassley also said he favors a boarder “wall” if it is defined in several different ways — a physical barrier, electronic surveillance, more border patrol agents and doing away with “catch-and-release.”
“I think that we’re a very welcoming nation when it comes to immigration,” he said. “We take more immigrants than any country in the world, but we want people to come here legally — not without papers. You couldn’t go to any other country without their permission, so why do people think they can come to this country without our permission?”
Management at XL Trailers asked if there was anything that could be done to streamline the legal immigration process to help alleviate the shortage of workers in Iowa.
“To get comprehensive immigration, we have to control the border first. We’ve promised people for so long that we were going to control the border that we don’t have any credibility, so I don’t know how you get anything major like that done until we actually deliver on what we told the people we were going to do. And we ought to be embarrassed that we haven’t delivered on it,” he said.
Grassley said there are some uncontroversial aspects of immigration reform, but even those are unfortunately a tall order in this political climate.
“If you bring up a little immigration bill, say like agricultural workers, when it gets out on the floor, then anyone can amend anything immigration aspect they want to,” he said. “You’ve got people on the right that say ‘I’m not going to vote for an immigration bill until you load up 12 million undocumented workers up and ship them out of the country’ and then you have people on the left that will say ‘I’m not going to vote for an immigration bill until you legalize everyone that came here yesterday.’ When you get those extreme views, it’s difficult to get 60 votes.”