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Grassley Introduces Bill to Require Televising Supreme Court Proceedings PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 12 December 2011 14:36
WASHINGTON –Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation today to require open proceedings of the Supreme Court to be televised.

The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011 would require television coverage of all open sessions of the Court, unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that doing so would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court. A similar bill was approved by a bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee last Congress.

In addition, on November 15, Grassley asked Chief Justice John Roberts to provide audio and video coverage of the landmark Supreme Court proceedings of the federal health care reform law.  Grassley said that broadcasting the health care reform law proceedings would not only contribute to the public’s understanding of America’s judicial system, but provide an excellent educational opportunity on a case that has the potential to have a far reaching impact on every American

"Nine Justices have a tremendous amount of influence on the lives of the people of this country, yet people know very little about the highest court in our country.   In fact, next year, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about a law that has the potential to impact every American.  Allowing cameras in the Supreme Court will help bring much needed transparency to a process that is largely unknown to the American public," Grassley said.

The Cameras in the Courtroom Act only applies to open sessions of the Supreme Court – sessions where members of the public are already invited to observe in person. Public scrutiny of Supreme Court proceedings will produce greater accountability, transparency, and understanding of our judicial system.

A hearing on the Cameras in the Courtroom Act will be held tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. The hearing will be chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar and will feature testimony from Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. More information on tomorrow’s hearing – including a link to the live webcast - can be found here.  Klobuchar, along with Senators John Cornyn and Richard Blumenthal, are also cosponsors of the bill.

In addition, Grassley is the author of bipartisan legislation that would allow the chief judge of federal trial and appellate courts to permit cameras in their courtrooms.  The bill would direct the Judicial Conference, the principal policy-making entity for the federal courts, to draft nonbinding guidelines that judges can refer to in making a decision pertaining to the coverage of a particular case.  It also instructs the Judicial Conference to issue mandatory guidelines for obscuring vulnerable witnesses such as undercover officers, victims of crime, and their families.  Included in the bill are safeguards to protect vulnerable witnesses, to exclude jurors from broadcast, and to allow a judge to use his or her discretion in determining whether to allow cameras in the courtroom.

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Weekly Video Address: Defense Authorization Bill PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 13:53

Advisory for Iowa Reporters and Editors

Friday, December 2, 2011

During his weekly video address, Senator Chuck Grassley discusses an amendment he cosponsored to give the National Guard a seat at the table when major decisions are made, including how Defense Department resources are allocated. During the debate to authorize Pentagon spending, Senator Grassley also cosponsored an amendment to the defense authorization bill to contain runaway spending on direct contractor salary reimbursements.

 

Click here for audio.

Here is the text of the address:

As part of a bill debated this week to authorize Pentagon spending, the Senate approved an amendment I cosponsored to give the National Guard a seat at the table when major decisions are made, including how Defense Department resources are allocated.

I’m a member of the National Guard Caucus in the Senate, and this amendment will build on reforms achieved in 2008.  The total force concept adopted by the Defense Department in 1970 made the Guard and Reserves integral to any extended campaign by U.S. forces, but the culture at the Pentagon has been slow to adopt the reality.

Last year, Iowa was ranked 15th in the nation for the percentage of our population serving in the National Guard.  Recently, we welcomed home the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, which had more than 2,800 soldiers serving on combat duty in Afghanistan.  It was the largest single unit deployment of the Iowa National Guard since World War II.  It’s time to give the Guard and Reserves support that’s on par with that dedicated to active forces.

I cosponsored another amendment to the defense authorization bill to contain runaway spending on contractor salary reimbursements.  A large portion of government contracts actually reimburse the contractors directly for costs, including the salaries of their employees.  These cost-reimbursement type contracts are used extensively by the Defense Department.  The amendment I introduced with Senator Barbara Boxer of California limits unreasonable expenditures under these types of contracts.  We can’t afford to waste increasingly limited defense dollars.

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Facts are STUBBORN Things...Having their Cake and Eating it, Too. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 13:52

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer Questions for the Record received December 2, 2011 and letter from Attorney General Eric Holder, October 7, 2011

The February 4th Response - The Justice Department can’t have it both ways

  • Attorney General Holder letter to Senator Grassley, Congressman Issa, October 7, 2011: “Senator Grassley has suggested that I was aware of Operation Fast and Furious from letters he provided to me on or about January 31, 2011 that were addressed to the former Acting Director of ATF.  However, those letters referred only to an ATF umbrella initiative on the Southwest Border that started under the prior Administration -- Project Gunrunner -- and not to Operation Fast and Furious.”
  • Senator Grassley: “Did your Deputy Assistant Attorney General (DAAG) Jason Weinstein review the Department’s February 4, 2011 letter to me?”

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, December 2, 2011: “Yes, DAAG Weinstein reviewed the letter; he also participated in its drafting.”

“Based on the documents being produced by the Justice Department, I understand that two emails attaching drafts of the letter were sent to me by DAAG Weinstein on February 2, while I was in Mexico (February 1-3), and that I forwarded one of those emails to my personal email account on that day; I also understand that on February 4, after I had returned from Mexico, I received two emails attaching signed versions of the letter, including the final version, and that on February 5, I forwarded both emails to my personal email account. However, as I testified, I cannot say for sure whether I saw a draft of the letter before it was sent to you.”

FACT

The letter which Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein participated in drafting, and which Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer was sent drafts of, stated: “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”  Weinstein knew this was clearly false because he knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver, which he brought to Breuer’s attention in April 2010.  Had Breuer read this letter (he is unclear if he read it), he would have known this sentence was false as well.

Like Senator Grassley’s January 27 letter, the Justice Department’s February 4 letter applied to all of Project Gunrunner, of which both Operation Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious were a part.  The Attorney General can’t simultaneously claim that Senator Grassley’s January 27 letter was too broad for him to be aware that Grassley was talking about of Fast and Furious but that their response was so narrow as to only apply to Fast and Furious, which is never specifically named in the Justice Department’s February 4 letter.

Documents supporting the FACTS.

 
Why DIDN'T Holder and Napolitano Know about the Connection between Fast and Furious and Agent Terry's Murder? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 10:25

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Why Didn’t the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security know about the Connection between Fast and Furious to Agent Terry’s Death?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

 

***Click here for video of Grassley’s speech.***

 

For nearly a year, I have been investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Operation Fast and Furious.

 

I have followed up on questions from that investigation as the Senate Judiciary Committee held oversight hearings over the past few weeks with both Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.

 

Each of them testified about the aftermath of the shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  And I have sought to clarify with FACTS some of the half-truths that were said during those hearings.

 

Each claimed that they were ignorant of the connection between Agent Terry’s death and Operation Fast and Furious until my letters with whistleblower allegations brought the connection to light.

 

However, documents that have come to light in my investigation draw those claims into question.

 

I’d like to address a couple of those discrepancies.

 

Secretary Napolitano went to Arizona a few days after Agent Terry’s death.

 

She said that she met at that time with the FBI agents and the assistant U.S. attorneys looking for the shooters.

 

She also said that at that point in time, nobody knew about Fast and Furious.

 

Yet documents show that many people knew about Fast and Furious on December 15, the day Agent Terry died.

 

Secretary Napolitano referenced the FBI agents looking for the shooters.

 

The head of that FBI field division was present at the December 15 press conference about Agent Terry’s murder.  At that very press conference, the FBI head told a chief Assistant U.S. Attorney about the connection to an ongoing Phoenix ATF investigation.

 

That same night, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke confirmed that the guns tied back to Fast and Furious.

 

These connections were made days before Secretary Napolitano’s visit.

 

The very purpose of her visit was to find out more about the investigation.

 

That leaves a very important question.

 

The Department of Homeland Security oversees the Border Patrol.  Why wouldn’t the Phoenix FBI head have told Secretary Napolitano that the only guns found at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder were tied to an ongoing ATF investigation?

 

And let’s not forget the U.S. Attorney’s office.

 

Secretary Napolitano said she met with the assistant U.S. attorneys looking for the shooters.

The chief assistant U.S. attorney for the Tucson office, which coordinated the Terry investigation, found out about the ATF connection directly from the FBI.

 

So, a very important question comes up.  Why would they conceal the Fast and Furious connection from Secretary Napolitano days later?

 

The Tucson office was overseen by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke, who confirmed to Tucson that guns came from Operation Fast and Furious.

 

When Ms. Napolitano was Governor of Arizona, Mr. Burke served as her chief of staff for five years.  Secretary Napolitano acknowledges that she had conversations with him about the murder of Agent Terry.

 

So, a very important question comes up.  Why would Mr. Burke conceal the Fast and Furious connection from Secretary Napolitano?

 

Even before Secretary Napolitano came to Arizona, emails indicate Mr. Burke spoke on December 15 with Attorney General Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson.

 

Before finding out about Agent Terry, Mr. Burke emailed Mr. Wilkinson that he wanted to “explain in detail” about Fast and Furious when they talked.

 

So, a very important question comes up.  On that phone call, did U.S. Attorney Burke tell Mr. Wilkinson about the case’s connection to a Border Patrol agent’s death that very day?

 

The next day, the Deputy Director of the ATF made sure briefing papers were prepared about the Fast and Furious connection to Agent Terry’s death.

 

He sent them to individuals here in Washington, D.C., in the Deputy Attorney General’s office at the Justice Department.

 

Within 24 hours, they were forwarded to the Deputy Attorney General.

 

They were accompanied by a personal email from one of the Deputy Attorney General’s deputies, explaining the situation. Two weeks later, that Deputy Attorney General, Gary Grindler, was named the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff.

 

Yet a month and a half after Agent Terry’s death, Attorney General Holder was allegedly ignorant of the Fast and Furious connection.

 

So, a very important question is unanswered.  Why wouldn’t Mr. Grindler bring up these serious problems with Attorney General Holder, either as his Deputy Attorney General or as his Chief of Staff?

 

It’s clear that multiple highly-placed officials in multiple agencies knew almost immediately of the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and Agent Terry’s death.

 

The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have failed to adequately explain why Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano allegedly remained ignorant of that connection.  Whether it’s the Attorney General or the Secretary, or members of their staff, somebody wasn’t doing their job.

 

In the case of Secretary Napolitano, either she was not entirely candid with me and others, or this was a gross breach on the part of those who kept her in the dark.

 

The Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security lost a man.

 

It was their right to know the full circumstances surrounding that.

 

No one likes the unpleasant business of having to ’fess up, but the FBI, ATF, and U.S. Attorney’s Office owed it to Agent Brian Terry and his family to fully inform the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security.

 

This was the death of a federal agent involving weapons allowed to walk free by another agency in his own government.

 

Let me explain walking guns.  The federal government operates under the rule of law just like all of us have to live under that rule of law.  There are licensed federal gun dealers.  Federal gun dealers were encouraged to sell guns illegally to straw buyers and supposedly follow those guns across the border to somehow arrest people who were involved with drug trafficking and other illegal things.  And, two of these guns showed up at the murder scene of Agent Terry.

 

And, if that’s not serious enough to brief up to the top of the department, then I don’t know what is.

 

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Senate approves Boxer-Grassley amendment to limit contractor salary reimbursement PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 10:01

Thursday, December 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley said today that the Senate has accepted an amendment he offered with Senator Barbara Boxer of California to limit taxpayer reimbursement for defense contractor salaries. The legislation will be included in a larger bill to authorize $662 billion in Pentagon spending for the next fiscal year.

Grassley said their reform amendment is aimed at runaway federal spending on contractor salary reimbursements.  Cost-reimbursement type contracts are used extensively by the Department of Defense.

“We can’t afford to waste increasingly limited defense dollars,” Grassley said.

Between 1998 and 2010, the benchmark for reimbursing executive salaries – separate from what these executives are paid by their private-sector employers – grew 53 percent faster than the rate of inflation.

Here is Grassley’s statement to the Senate regarding the Boxer-Grassley amendment.

Grassley Statement

The Congressional Record

Thursday, December 1, 201

At a time when the national security budget is under immense pressure, it is vitally important that we spend our defense dollars more wisely.  The Boxer-Grassley amendment will contain runaway spending in contractor salary reimbursements.  Notice that I said “salary reimbursements” not salaries.  Someone not familiar with government contracting might ask why it’s any of our business what government contractors get paid, and I would agree if we’re talking about what their company pays them out of its own pocket.

When most people hire a contractor to renovate their bathroom or re-shingle their roof, they find the one that does the best work for the least cost.  Having done that, you’re not likely to ask or care what their cut is or what they pay their crew.  To the extent that government contracts work the same way, the same principle applies.  Unfortunately, not all government contracts do work that way.

A large proportion of government contracts actually reimburse the contractor directly for the costs they incur, including for the salaries of their employees.  These types of contracts are risky because contractors lose the incentive to control costs.  They are only supposed to be used when a fixed price contract is not possible, for instance if the scope or duration of the work is not possible to determine at the outset.

Nevertheless, cost-reimbursement type contracts are used extensively by federal departments and agencies.  The Defense Department alone accounted for over $100 billion in cost reimbursement type contracts in fiscal year 2010.  President Obama has criticized the widespread use of these types of contracts and has set a goal of slowing the growth and ultimately reducing their use.  He’s made a little progress.  However, we’re talking about a small dent in a large bucket.  It’s clear that cost type contracts are going to account for a major proportion of the dollars spent on federal contracting for the foreseeable future.  As a result, we must take steps to limit unreasonable expenditures under these types of contracts.

Senator Boxer and I worked together to try to head off this problem back in 1997.  At that time, we proposed capping salary reimbursements at the salary level of the President of the United States.  However, a compromise was ultimately enacted that capped how much the top 5 highest earning contractor executives could charge the federal government for their salaries.  The cap was set at the median salary of the top 5 executives at companies with annual sales over $50 million, which must be recalculated annually.  Since that time, the cap has more than doubled from $340,650 to $693,951.  That’s 53 percent faster than the rate of inflation.

The House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Bill expands the current cap to all contractor employees, not merely the top 5 executives, closing a loophole that was being exploited.  The version of the National Defense Authorization Bill before the Senate extends the cap only to the top 10-15 executives.  However, Senator Boxer and I think it’s time to reconsider a fixed cap at the level of the President’s salary, which I should add was doubled by Congress to $400,000 since our previous proposal.  That’s more than generous.  Surely the taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay the salary of a contractor more than the President makes, which is twice what any cabinet secretary makes.  Keep in mind that this cap just limits how much Uncle Sam can be billed for, which is on top of whatever the company chooses to pay its employees out of its own pocket.

Not only would our straightforward cap save man-hours in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, which has to gather the data every year to determine the current convoluted cap, but it would save millions of dollars that need not be spent.  Again, we cannot afford to go on wasting our increasingly limited defense dollars.  We have to be more aggressive in weeding out waste in defense spending and this is one unnecessary expenditure that we can easily eliminate in favor of higher priorities.  I urge my colleagues to join us in this commonsense cost cutting measure.

 
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