Vote-buttonThe vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court was the first topic tackled tonight as Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and his Democratic challenger Patty Judge met to debate in Sioux City.

Foreign policy, tax reform and the future of the federal ethanol production mandate were briefly discussed, but Grassley and Judge began with the issue that has been at the center of their contest.

“The obstruction for the Supreme Court for the last several months is unprecedented,” Judge said. “That is on my opponent’s shoulders.”

Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Since February he’s said the next president should “make the next appointment” to the Supreme Court.

“We have taken the position that similar to what Democratic senators have taken when there’s Republican presidents, three different ones,” Grassley said.

A debate moderator asked Grassley whether he’d change his mind if Hillary Clinton wins and the other GOP senators want to confirm President Obama’s nominee.

“If a majority of the senate said that they were going to move ahead, a chairman serves at the (will) majority of the senate of the United States and I would follow the will of the majority of the senate,” Grassley said. “I don’t expect that to happen, though.”

Judge said Grassley’s “playing political games” with the court.

“I am really tonight troubled with this answer. It sure appears to me that he’s leaving himself some wiggle room so that they can have a hearing for Judge Garland between the time this election is over and Hillary Clinton takes office.”

The candidates sought to prove they have the ability to understand what’s important to Iowans. At one point, that included their check of commodity prices.

“Corn was $3.00, $3.13 today,” Judge said during a discussion of the next Farm Bill.

A few seconds later, Grassley said: “The price of corn at New Hartford today is $3.10.”

Grassley, who is from New Hartford, is seeking a seventh term in the U.S. Senate. Judge, a former state ag secretary, presented herself as “new leadership” for Iowa in Washington. She said the “gridlock and obstruction” in D.C. is fueling “great unhappiness” in the country.

“Put the partisan politics down,” Judge said. “Quit playing games.”

Grassley promised to focus on creating jobs and national security.

“I make sure that I’m on top of things by having dialogue with my constituents so I can better represent them,” Grassley said.

Judge shot back at that.

“When my opponent talks about the need to get out of there in Washington after having been there for 42 years is almost humorous,” Judge said. “I don’t need to have 99 town hall meetings to know what’s going on in Iowa. I live here.”

Grassley replied: “My opponent, I don’t think she would mean to imply that coming home on a regular basis and having all these meetings and making the process is something that’s wrong about Washington. That’s kind of what I heard, though.”

The hour-long debate was staged at Morningside College and hosted by KTIV in Sioux City. It was also broadcast on KWWL in Waterloo, WGEM in Quincy, Illinois and KTTC in Rochester, Minnesota that have signals which reach into portions of Iowa.