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ORANGE CITY | A second day of questions about his refusal to hold hearings to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy greeted U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley when he visited Northwestern College on Tuesday.

Among the questioners: A man dressed as founding father Benjamin Franklin.

"Ben Franklin, I listened to you yesterday," Grassley said as John Robinson, of Des Moines, first began to talk. Four of the first six people who spoke to Grassley, Judiciary Committee chairman, mentioned the court vacancy, and near the end of the hour event, the senator said he wanted to give others who hadn't attended his Monday meetings in Ocheyedan and Rock Rapids, Iowa, an opportunity to weigh in on issues.

Ultimately, eight of the 19 people who spoke at the meeting referenced the court opening, demonstrating it is a hot topic during a congressional recess near the Easter holiday.

A month ago, President Barack Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Grassley, a Republican, has steadfastly said he won't hold hearings. The U.S. Senate is the chamber that approves or blocks nominations. The Senate is controlled by Republicans and Obama is a Democrat.

In his Tuesday comments, Grassley remained firm in his position that the court vacancy should remain until 2017, which gives time for Americans to pick a new president in November.

"It ought to be carried over 'til the next president is sworn in," Grassley told people at Northwestern College.

The first to mention the court issue was Ruth Kocisko, of Sioux Center, Iowa. Kocisko said having a bunch of 4-4 court rulings won't settle major legal battles, as the lower court rulings are affirmed during Supreme Court ties.

Grassley said many majority-party Senate Republicans have said they would not vote for Garland.

"Why hold a hearing if you know what the results are going to be?" Grassley said to the crowd.

Garland, who is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was appointed by Obama to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Considered a moderate, Garland was also a finalist for the first two Supreme Court vacancies Obama filled.

"This justice is as much a consensus candidate as you would ever find," Kocisko said.

The biggest applause of the day came after a woman thanked the senator for his "courageous" stance.

"You are being effective and efficient with the time in the Senate," said Janae Stracke, communications coordinator for Concerned Women for America, which is based in Washington.

After the meeting, Stracke, who identified herself as a native of Manilla, Iowa, said the loud affirmation from the crowd showed "everybody here thought I was a voice for them, too."

Robinson said he dressed as Franklin to remind Grassley of his constitutional role to process judicial nominations.

"When somebody says I am not doing my job, I kind of resent it," Grassley said.

In talking with Robinson, the senator also said he didn't want to keep covering the same court topics in his meeting.

"I have already answered the question over here from the lady (Kocisko)," Grassley said.

Other people at the town hall event asked Grassley about Social Security benefits, immigration policy, cancer funding and renewable energy. Grassley is seeking re-election in November and several Democrats are vying to become the party's nominee to oppose him on the ballot.


County and education reporter

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