CEDAR RAPIDS — The shooting of a U.S. congressional leader and four others at a suburban Washington, D.C., area baseball field Wednesday morning is a “sad situation,” but Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn’t see a need for additional security for members of Congress.
Personal safety probably doesn’t cross the minds of members of Congress as often as it should, Grassley said Wednesday, hours after he first learned of the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, and others.
He has noticed more law enforcement at his town hall meetings this year, but Grassley said adding more security personnel might make lawmakers less safe.
“This may sound like tongue-in-cheek, and it’s not meant to be,” he said during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters, “but in this town, if I had three or four people following me around, somebody would say, ‘He must be somebody important.’ It tends to put your life more in jeopardy more than if you are just obscure.”
Besides, in Iowa, “people tend to recognize Chuck Grassley after 36 years in the United States Senate,” he said.
Capitol Hill security personnel do check on his travels, Grassley said, asking his staff for the locations of his town hall meetings.
“I have to assume maybe they call local sheriff’s office or the local police in a town I’m going to be in because I have had the presence of those people at my town meetings,” Grassley said. “There’s more of a presence of them than I’ve seen before. At least that’s my recollection. I’ve noticed it a lot this year.”
Several of the Iowa Republican’s town hall meetings have been raucous, drawing large crowds of people shouting at him and getting in his face.
That’s nothing new, however, Grassley said, recalling meetings in the summer of 2009 involving conservatives upset with his participation in negotiations on the Affordable Care Act as well as those who wanted him to be more supportive of Obamacare.
Last year, Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had several confrontations with Iowans upset with his decision not to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
More recent meetings have been quiet by comparison.
“People have been nice in how they ask questions and approach issues, so I haven’t seen a lot of change in those eight years,” he said.
The shooting will not change his tradition of holding events in all 99 Iowa counties every year, Grassley said.
“Life goes on, and representative government demands that we consider constituents’ points of view,” Grassley said. “I just have to continue to do it and not worry about it. Otherwise, I better get out of politics.”