Grassley talks economy and infrastructure during Iowa City visit

Grassley toured the County Materials Corporation in Iowa City as part of his Johnson County stop on his 99 County Tour.


Jerod Ringwald

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with workers during a visit to the County Materials Corporation in Iowa City as part of Grassley’s Johnson County stop on his 99 County Tour. Grassley and County Materials Corporation workers spoke about employment, infrastructure, and inflation.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Editor

Sen. Chuck Grassley explained his support of the 2021 infrastructure bill and addressed economic concerns and bipartisanship at his Johnson County stop on his 99 County Tour. 

Grassley fielded questions from employees at the County Materials Corporation, which specializes in concrete pipes. 

The 88-year-old senator donned a red hard hat and wore a neon visibility vest over his dress shirt, tie, and cardigan as the plant managers led him through the warehouse. Over the sound of machines working to mix cement and mold the pipes, they explained the business to Grassley. 

“After all of these years I’ve come to the conclusion that we Iowans don’t brag enough,” Grassley said, after learning the history of Iowa cement pipes on Friday. 

Jennifer Schaff, a technical resource engineer at County Materials Corporation, said a lot of people don’t understand how the materials are made and their role in infrastructure. She said concrete is an ideal material because it’s heavy and more durable to weathering than other materials. 

“A lot of times when you have lots of big rain events,” Schaff told The Daily Iowan as rain came down on Friday afternoon. “If we have lightweight piping materials, they’re prone to flotation, so basically lifting up underneath the weight of that water.” 

In a Q&A with staff, Schaff thanked Grassley for voting in favor of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Schaff told the DI the funds appropriated from the legislation will go towards projects the County Materials Corporation will do work for.  Grassley was the only Republican in Iowa’s delegation to vote in favor of the bill. Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne also voted yes. 

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“I took some criticism for that because I was the only Republican in the delegation of vote for it. If that doesn’t make sense to some of you that are Republicans, I can only explain it this way, that Trump promised about the same amount of money for infrastructure for four years,” Grassley said. “… So I get a chance even though we got a Democrat president and I’m a Republican, I got a chance to vote for something that I was telling people for four years I was gonna vote for, I voted for it.”

One employee asked Grassley if there is more commonality between Republicans and Democrats than the public sees. 

Grassley said Democrats have strongly different views on the role of the government, but there is also a lot of bipartisan collaboration that isn’t highlighted. He gave examples of working with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. on criminal justice reform, Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. on antitrust legislation, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. on lower drug prices. 

However, Grassley did have some critiques of the Biden administration related to inflation. He blamed Biden’s energy policies for increased prices, in addition to the pandemic’s effect on the economy. 

“We were energy independent and now we’re energy dependent,” he said.