WASHINGTON, DC- Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation today that would authorize the establishment of a memorial in Washington, DC, to recognize African American patriots who fought for the United States during the Revolutionary War.

According to the Daughters of the American Revolution, over 5,000 African Americans, including over 800 from Connecticut, served as soldiers or sailors for the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.

This bill was inspired by the work of Maurice Barboza, a Connecticut native who, after discovering that a distant relative of his had fought for the American forces, has passionately fought for these patriots to receive the recognition they deserve.  Barboza has also founded the National Mall Liberty Fund, DC, a private nonprofit organization that will be entirely responsible for raising the funds needed to construct the memorial in Washington.

The legislation was previously introduced in the 111th Congress by former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), along with Senator Grassley.

Grassley co-sponsored similar legislation more than two decades ago.  During the 1980s, a group of young Iowans helped organize an initial push for such a memorial.  An African American Revolutionary War patriot named Cato Mead who originally was from Connecticut spent his final years in Southeast Iowa, and there is a monument dedicated to Mead in the Montrose Cemetery in Lee County, Iowa.

"The important role that many African Americans played during the Revolutionary War is too often overlooked," Lieberman said.  "This memorial will honor these patriots' sacrifice and ensure that this important part of our nation's history is not forgotten."

"The nation's capital is an appropriate place to honor the part that African Americans played in the American revolution," Grassley said.  "A memorial will broaden Americans' understand of the diversity of the patriots who helped to secure America's independence," Grassley said.

###

Bipartisan Proposal Updates Ethanol Tax Policy, Generates Jobs

Washington - Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Kent Conrad of North Dakota today introduced bipartisan legislation to update ethanol tax policies in an effort to boost domestic energy production and increase America's energy independence and security.

The bill also has the original co-sponsorship of Senators Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Al Franken of Minnesota, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

"Affordable energy is a major concern for Americans, and Congress needs to keep energy security on the front burner.  Now more than ever, it's time to ramp up production of traditional energy sources here at home and to expand alternative fuels and renewable energy sources.  We've seen what ethanol can do, and the sky is the limit as we move to the next generation and cellulosic ethanol," Grassley said.

"Our nation is spending more than $850 million every day on imported energy," Conrad said.  "Imagine what it would be like if we spent that money on energy from the Midwest instead of the Middle East?  We need to do more to boost domestic energy production, especially from alternative fuels such as ethanol."

The bill introduced today - the Domestic Energy Promotion Act of 2011 -would reduce significantly tax incentives for ethanol.  It would extend, through 2016, at descending levels, the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or VEETC, which is also known as the blenders' credit.  It also would extend, through 2016, the alternative fuel refueling property credit; the cellulosic producers' tax credit; and the special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property.

The Senators noted that many of these existing tax policies have helped to successfully develop ethanol, the only source of alternative energy that is substantially reducing America's dependence on foreign oil and generating economic activity in the United States.

Ethanol already comprises nearly 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply.  The Senators said they introduced their legislation because it would provide the certainty that's necessary for the additional private investment and job creation that will help further develop ethanol as a leading alternative energy source.

"The debate over energy tax policy should be comprehensive and include all sources of energy.  With this bill, ethanol has taken the lead in looking forward.  No other energy sector has stepped up to do that in the current legislative debate," Grassley said.

-30-

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Darrell Issa today pressed Attorney General Eric Holder to provide a complete and accurate accounting of the policy to allow guns to be purchased by known straw buyers and then transported across the border into Mexico.

In a letter received yesterday from the Office of Legislative Affairs, the department once again denied any knowledge of the policy.  The denial comes despite the documents that have been provided to the department that are contrary to the official stance.

Grassley and Issa said in a response to Holder that they will continue to conduct constitutionally mandated oversight of the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' policy to allow guns to be purchased by known straw buyers.

"We are extremely disappointed that you do not appear to be taking this issue seriously enough to ensure that the Department's representations are accurate, forthcoming, and complete.  We will continue to probe and gather the facts independently, as it has become clear that we cannot rely on the Department's self-serving statements to obtain any realistic picture of what happened," Grassley and Issa wrote.

Grassley began looking into allegations brought forward by Agent John Dodson, and more than a dozen other ATF agents after the Justice Department Inspector General failed to investigate their concerns.  The agents indicated that their supervisors kept them from stopping gun traffickers with the normal techniques that they had been successfully using for years.  They instead were ordered to only watch and continue gathering information on traffickers instead of arresting them as soon as they could.  In the meantime, the guns were allowed to fall into the hands of the bad guys even as agents told supervisors that it could not end well.  Many of the guns have subsequently been found in firefights along the border, including a December 14, 2010 firefight where Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.

Grassley and Issa's requests for information from the Justice Department have gone mostly unanswered about what transpired at the ATF and the Department of Justice during the time when Terry was killed and the policies instituted during Project Gunrunner that allowed guns to be sold to known straw purchasers and moved across the border without intervention.

As chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa has begun issuing subpoenas to uncover the facts about how this reckless policy was approved.

Here is a copy of the text of today's letter to Holder.  Here is a copy of the May 2 letter to Grassley and the February 4 letter to Grassley.

 

May 3, 2011

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

As Senator Grassley discussed on the phone with you yesterday, we are very concerned that the Department chose to send a letter containing false statements in response to his initial inquiry into the ATF whistleblower allegations related to Operation Fast and Furious.  To be more specific, the Department sent a letter on February 4, 2011 claiming that the whistleblower allegations were "false" and that "ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico."  When questioned in transcribed interviews last week in Phoenix, agents with first-hand knowledge of ATF operations contradicted that claim.

Specifically, in response to that exact quote, they said the Department's letter was "false" and could not explain how such a representation could be made to Congress in light of what they witnessed on the ground in Phoenix in late 2009 and 2010, prior to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  In fact, according to these witnesses, there was a specific strategy implemented to not "make every effort" but rather to avoid interdicting weapons in hopes of making a larger case against higher-ups in the trafficking organization.

Therefore, we were surprised and disappointed to see the Department repeat once again, in slightly different language, its denial in a letter received shortly after your telephone conversation with Senator Grassley.  Yesterday's letter reads, in part, "It remains our understanding that ATF's Operation Fast and Furious did not knowingly permit straw buyers to take guns into Mexico."

The documents and information previously provided to you demonstrate that the ATF urged gun dealers to go forward with sales to known straw buyers despite the concerns expressed by at least one dealer that the guns would be transferred to the border and possibly used against Border Patrol agents.  ATF and Justice officials assured that dealer that unspecified safeguards were in place to ensure that did not happen.  Yet, guns from that case were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's murder and at crime scenes in Mexico.

In its latest denial, the Department seems to focus more on whether ATF knew guns were being trafficked to Mexico than whether the ATF knew they were being purchased by straw buyers.  While it might be typical in Washington for lawyers to narrowly parse statements and argue over fine distinctions to confuse the issue, those are not the kind of answers that we believe the Justice Department should give to Congress when asked straightforward questions about such a serious matter as this one.

You were asked to please explain whether you deny that the ATF allowed the sale of assault weapons to straw purchasers, and if so, why given the evidence that was attached.  The reply was not signed by you, did not explain whether you stand by the denial, did not explain why, and did not meaningfully address the serious issues raised by the attached emails between a gun dealer and the ATF.

We are extremely disappointed that you do not appear to be taking this issue seriously enough to ensure that the Department's representations are accurate, forthcoming, and complete.  We will continue to probe and gather the facts independently, as it has become clear that we cannot rely on the Department's self-serving statements to obtain any realistic picture of what happened.

Sincerely,

Darrell Issa, Chairman                       Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member
Committee on Oversight &                             Committee on the Judiciary
Government Reform                         United State Senate
U.S. House of Representatives               

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a requester of a Government Accountability Office report released today that found that the Department of Veterans Affairs has inadequate procedures to protect the safety of veterans who receive care using medical equipment and supplies at Veterans Affairs' hospitals.  Grassley made the following comment on the report, which is available here.

"We were all reminded over the weekend how military men and women risk their lives to protect our safety and freedom.  The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to step up training and institute new procedures to make sure medical equipment is sanitized and used the way it's supposed to be.  The agency has a double duty to take care of veterans' health care and make sure medical practices aren't putting veterans' lives at risk."

Senator Grassley's Votes in 111th Congress Show His Support for Economic Growth and Job Creation

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2011 - U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) received the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence today in recognition of his consistent support of manufacturers and their employees across the United States. The Award was presented at an event sponsored by NAM member Vermeer Corporation at its facility in Pella, Iowa.

Members of Congress who maintained a voting record of 70 percent or higher during the 111th Congress (2009-2010) received the Award. Senator Grassley received a 77-percent key vote rating.

"On behalf of Vermeer Corporation and our employees, I thank Senator Grassley for championing the causes that will help manufacturers thrive in Iowa and across the United States," said Vermeer President and CEO Mary Andringa. "We're fortunate to have Senator Grassley supporting the efforts of Iowa manufacturers, advocating policies that will enable us to grow, create jobs, expand internationally and stay ahead of our global competition."

"Senator Grassley supports common-sense policies that will enable manufacturers to create and maintain good high-paying jobs in Iowa and throughout America," said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.  "A vibrant manufacturing base is vital to getting our economy turned around and ensuring quality of life for all Americans. It is critical to have lawmakers like Senator Grassley whose actions consistently match their words when it comes to a pro-manufacturing agenda for economic growth and job creation."

Each key vote was selected by an NAM member-led advisory committee comprised of executives from small, mid-sized and large manufacturing companies. Members of Congress are notified in advance when key votes are pending and why the key vote designation has been made.

Key manufacturing votes for the 111th Congress included energy policy, taxes, regulations and labor law reform, among others. These policies are important components of the NAM's "Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America," a comprehensive plan for supporting jobs and the U.S. economy. You can view the Strategy at www.nam.org.

"The Award is a non-partisan indicator to help manufacturers and their employees sort out the true allies of manufacturing based on their votes on key issues that affect the manufacturing economy, jobs and U.S. competitiveness," Timmons noted.

Voting records for all members of Congress are available at www.nam.org/votingrecord along with further details about NAM Key Manufacturing Votes.

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states.  Manufacturing has a presence in every single congressional district providing good, high-paying jobs.  For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

-NAM-

Thursday, April 21, 2011 

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is concerned that banks will use taxpayer money from the Small Business Lending Fund to repay their loans under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.  Last month, he sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, asking for detailed information on the department's oversight plan for the Small Business Lending Fund and information on TARP recipients that have applied for Small Business Lending Fund money.   Last year, Grassley exposed the misleading nature of a General Motors and Treasury Department public relations effort over how General Motors had repaid its government loan.  Today, Grassley released the Treasury secretary's response to his inquiry on the Small Business Lending Fund and made the following comment on the response.

"This response confirms what I was afraid of.  It's okay with Treasury if banks use their small business lending funds to repay TARP because supposedly TARP already has made a profit.  That's not how the small business program was sold to the public.  This was supposed to get small businesses back on their feet and create jobs.  It sure seems like small businesses are getting left out again.  So far, this fund might only have created jobs for the banks shuffling public money around.  Well, we've been there, done that, and that approach has been rejected by the grass roots.

"Beyond that, it's disappointing that Treasury won't disclose the names of banks applying for these loans.  These banks are applying for tax dollars.  There's no reason why their names should be kept secret from the public.  And the Treasury Department doesn't name a single step to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in this $30 billion program.  From this response, it seems the Treasury Department is content to give the money out and let the inspector general and GAO try to police any abuse on the back end.  As we've learned with TARP and the stimulus program, especially in the weatherization program, it's nearly impossible to recoup wasted money after the fact."

Friday, April 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - In anticipation of the upcoming debate to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known in its current form as No Child Left Behind, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced legislation last night which would make sure that federal education policy no longer overlooks the needs of high-ability students.

The new proposal is called the TALENT Act, or the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act.

The senators said the provisions in their bill, S.857, are designed to correct the lack of focus on high-ability students, especially those students in underserved settings, including rural communities, by including them in the school, district, and state planning process that already exists under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The bill would raise the expectation that teachers have the skills to address the special learning needs of various populations of students, including gifted and high-ability learners.  It would provide for professional development grants to help general education teachers and other school personnel better understand how to recognize and respond to the needs of high-ability students.

The legislation also retools and builds upon the goals and purpose of the existing Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act so that education policy makers would continue to explore and test strategies to identify and serve high-ability students from underserved groups.  The senators said that these strategies should then be put into the hands of teachers across the country.

"America can no longer afford to ignore the needs of our brightest students and, by doing so, squander their potential.  Our legislation would make the modifications needed to federal education policy to develop and encourage the high achievement that's possible for so many gifted and talented students and, in turn, enhance the future prosperity of our nation," Grassley said.

"We must train our teachers to identify and encourage gifted and high-ability learners, particularly in underserved communities," said Casey.  "The potential of our children must be maximized for their sake and for the sake of our long-term economic growth."

Casey serves on the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee, which is currently working through a bipartisan committee process to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Grassley has been a leading advocate in Congress for gifted and talented children.  Among other efforts, he sponsored legislation that became part of the original No Child Left Behind Act to expand the availability of gifted education services.

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley recently met with Elaine and Bob Bartel, of Eldridge, during their visit to Washington, D.C.  The Bartels were in Washington to visit their daughter, Christine Bartel, who formerly worked for Grassley and now works in the State of Iowa's Washington office.

Grassley and the visitors discussed the family's missionary work in Africa and issues under consideration by Congress.

"I'm glad that I got to talk with the Bartels while they were in Washington," Grassley said.  "This kind of dialogue, between elected representatives and the people we represent, is essential to making the process of representative government work."

Grassley makes it a priority to sit down with Iowans when they're in Washington.  In addition, in Iowa, he has conducted at least one constituent meeting in every one of Iowa's 99 counties every year since he was first elected to the Senate in 1980.  He also responds to every constituent letter, email and phone call.  Grassley communicates with Iowans on facebook, twitter and at http://grassley.senate.gov, and he is a regular guest on public affairs programs statewide, where he responds to questions from Iowans.

Meetings can be scheduled with Grassley at http://grassley.senate.gov.  Click on Info for Iowans and select Scheduling Requests.

-30-

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 

Senator Chuck Grassley released the following comment after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally exempted milk and milk product containers from the Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Rule that is intended to prevent oil from discharging into U.S. waterways.  Grassley was a cosponsor of legislation to expedite a decision by the EPA to exempt milk containers from regulations initially intended for oil spills.

Grassley is also leading an effort to keep the EPA from placing further economic pressure on rural America if the agency chooses to impose more stringent regulations on dust. Here is Grassley's comment on the milk exemption.

"Dairy producers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief.  In an already difficult economic environment, this attempt by the EPA to apply burdensome and unnecessary regulations would have put many of these hard working dairy farmers in an extremely precarious position, and could easily have increased prices for consumers at the grocery store.  To think that milk would be treated the same as oil defies common sense.  The agency seems oblivious to the tremendous impact its rules and regulations have on the general public and agriculture in particular.  I appreciate EPA finally getting the job done and doing the right thing in this instance.  I hope this is a sign that common sense won't take a back seat to ideology in the future."

Grassley, Wyden Introduce Bill Making Medicare Claims Data Public

WASHINGTON - April 7, 2011 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon today introduced legislation to make Medicare claims data public for the first time.  The legislation is the product of the senators' combined efforts - each was working on a method of making the data public and combined approaches in the bipartisan legislation introduced today.

"Medicare is a $500 billion program with billions of dollars going out in error each year," Grassley said.  "The bad actors are getting bigger and bolder all the time.  They 're able to stay out of law enforcement's reach too often.  It's time to try new things.  More transparency about billing and payments increases public understanding of where tax dollars go.  The bad actors might be dissuaded if they knew their actions were subject to the light of day."

"Hiding information on how taxpayer dollars are being spent is not something we do in this country," Wyden said.  "Moreover, if taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly there is no reason to hide.  Shedding light on Medicare claims will be helpful to those making medical decisions, offer insight into how Medicare dollars are being spent and prevent wasteful spending and fraud.   All of which begs the question 'why isn't this information already available?'"

Last month, Grassley introduced legislation requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to make Medicare claims and payment data available to the public in a manner similar to other federal spending disclosed on www.USAspending.gov.

Wyden was developing an approach to make the data public through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The joint bill, called the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (Medicare DATA Act), contains both elements.  The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations to make available a searchable Medicare payment database that the public can access at no cost.  The bill also clarifies that data on Medicare payments to physicians and suppliers do not fall under a Freedom of Information Act exemption.

Grassley and Wyden said health care fraud remains a pervasive problem in federal health care programs.  It has been widely agreed that between 5 percent to 8 percent of federal health care expenditures is lost to fraud.

In a recent series, The Wall Street Journal used limited access to Medicare billing data to identify suspicious billing patterns and potential abuses of the Medicare system. The Wall Street Journal found cases where Medicare paid millions to a physician, sometimes for several years, before those questionable payments stopped.  While volume alone doesn't automatically mean there's fraud, waste, or abuse, accountability and transparency are powerful preventive tools, Grassley and Wyden said.

Grassley and Wyden serve together on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare.  Grassley is a senior member and former chairman and ranking member.  Toward the cause of transparency and good government, Grassley and Wyden earlier this year achieved success in their long-time effort to end the Senate practice of placing "secret" holds on legislation.

The text of their legislation introduced today is available here.  Grassley's statement on the bill introduction is available here.

-30-

Pages