Grassley, Johnson Push for Legitimate Payment Limits in Upcoming Farm Bill Discussions

Senators Introduce New Legislation to Place Hard Caps and Close Loopholes

 

WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley and Tim Johnson today are introducing legislation that would place a hard cap on the farm payments an individual farmer could receive in a year and would close long-abused and well-documented loopholes in the farm payment program.

 

The new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill sets a hard cap for farm payments of $250,000 per married couple, and closes loopholes that allow non-farmers to qualify for federal farm payments.

 

The senators had introduced similar legislation earlier this Congress, but wanted to be sure the legislative text would accommodate any type of safety-net program adopted in a new farm and nutrition bill.  This is particularly important in light of the growing prospect that direct payments are unlikely to be included in a farm and nutrition bill.

 

"A strong safety net is critical to ensuring a safe and affordable food supply.  In order to maintain that safety net, we can't have the mentality of the past where the government looked the other way and allowed people with no connection to the farm to take farm payments," Grassley said.  "It's unacceptable that small- and medium-sized farmers get so little of the very program that was created to help them."

 

"The farm safety net was designed to help family farmers but it has increasingly led to a windfall for owners of our nation's largest farms. Congress should act to close the loopholes and better target payments to our small and mid-sized family farmers. This legislation represents our best chance to move forward with reforms as consideration of the farm bill continues," said Johnson.

 

Specifically, the new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill has a hard cap on marketing loan gains of $75,000 ($150,000 for a couple).   The remainder of the payment limit would be a cap on the total amount a farmer can receive in safety-net payments in general.  For instance, if the Congress were to adopt a shallow loss program, the Grassley-Johnson bill would set a limit of $50,000 ($100,000 for a couple) that a farmer could receive.

 

In addition, the bill closes loopholes that allow people with ties to the farmland that consist of a conference call and nothing else.  The bill sets a measurable standard for someone to qualify as actively engaged in farming by providing management for the operation, and the bill provides an exception for farming operations where there is only one manager of the farm.  This exception should help the Department of Agriculture administer the standard.

 

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley's statement submitted for the Congressional Record upon introduction of the bill today.

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

The Rural America Preservation Act of 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

Mr. President, today I am introducing the Rural America Preservation Act of 2012.  I appreciate Senators Johnson of South Dakota, Enzi, Brown of Ohio, Gillibrand, and Nelson of Nebraska for joining on this bill, and in this effort.

 

As the Senate Agriculture Committee continues working on the next farm bill, one thing seems to be clear.  The Title I safety-net is going to look quite different than current programs.

 

It appears the direct payment program may be done away with entirely.  Some of my colleagues and agriculture groups have proposed a variety of new ideas as possible replacements to the current commodity title.

 

No matter what commodity program we create, my bill sets the marker on payment limitations.  I introduced a similar payment limits bill last year, but this bill should better address whatever type of safety-net program we adopt going forward.

 

The premise remains the same.  We need firm payment limit.  And we need to close loopholes.  I support having a safety-net for farmers.  This nation enjoys a safe and abundant food supply.  Certainly a lot of that can be attributed to the ingenuity and hard-work of the American farmer.  But the farm safety-net helps small and medium-size farmers get through tough times that are out of their control.

 

We need an effective safety-net to assist farmers.  But equally important is for Congress to develop a defensible safety-net.  I will continue to work with my Agriculture Committee colleagues to figure out what type of program will be most effective.

 

We already know the steps that need to be taken to make it more defensible.  Defensible means setting firm caps on the farm payments any one farmer can receive.  The current approach does not have any overall cap.

 

There's nothing wrong with farmers growing their operations.  But big farmers shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars to get even bigger.  When the largest 10% of farmers receive 70% of farm payments, something is wrong.   There comes a point where some farms reach levels that allow them to weather the tough financial times on their own.  Smaller farms do not have the same luxury, but they play a pivotal role in producing this nation's food.

 

If you want to witness how farm payments to big farmers create a barrier for small and beginning farmers, look at land prices.

 

The current system puts upward pressure on land prices making it more difficult for small and beginning farmers to buy ground.  This is not unique to Iowa.  This upward pressure on land prices is occurring in many other states.

 

This bill proposes an overall cap of $250,000 for a married couple.  In my state, many people would say this is still too high.  But I recognize that agriculture can look different around the country, and so this is a compromise.  Strong payment limits will ensure farm payments are helping those who payments were originally created for, the small and medium-size farmers.

 

Having an overall cap is more defensible from a federal budget stand point as well.  This nation needs to make tough decisions regarding all government programs.  And we need to find savings across the board.  Setting strict caps on all commodity programs should be a no-brainer as we look to find savings and increase accountability in farm programs.

 

Having a defensible safety-net also means closing loopholes in the current law.  For all the rhetoric that comes out of Washington D.C. about eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse, making sure non-farmers don't game the system is a common sense step to take.

 

It's simple, if you are not a farmer, you shouldn't get a farm payment.  The bill I introduced last year, and this bill, has language that closes the loopholes.

 

After I introduced the bill last year, we received some questions regarding the language from two camps of people.  The first camp of people I would say were critical because they don't want the loopholes closed.  They would have us turn a blind eye to the fact people game the system.  They would have us turn a blind eye to the fact we have nonfarmers who claim to help "manage" the farm by participating in one or two conference calls a year.  To those people, I cannot satisfy your concerns. I will not turn a blind eye to abuses.  These are loopholes that need to be closed.

 

To the other camp of people, who have provided constructive feedback, I would say, we have listened.  The revisions we made addressed the issues raised.  We have improved the language closing the loopholes.  This bill provides a tangible, workable, and fair approach.  Closing these loopholes is the right thing to do for the American taxpayer.  And it's the right thing to do for the American farmer.

 

Hard caps on farm payments and closing loopholes should be supported by anyone who wants an effective and defensible farm safety-net.

 

As the Senate Agriculture Committee heads toward a mark-up of the Farm Bill, I invite my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

 

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by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

 

With spring just around the corner, many Iowans look forward to seasonal rites of passage this time of year.  Farmers are itching to get in the fields. Home gardeners anticipate the first shoots of peas and lettuce.  Spring cleaning tops the to-do list for many families.  School students give thanks for Spring Break.  And, soon-to-be-college graduates have their sights set on landing a job.

 

It's no secret the Class of 2012 needs to break into a job market struggling to rebound from Wall Street's financial meltdown and mortgage industry mess.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate is idling at 8.3 percent. This year's crop of graduates also will be competing with more than five million jobless Americans who have been looking for work for longer than six months.

 

Yet, the Obama administration has proposed federal rules to "attract and retain highly skilled immigrants" that arguably increase the competition for Americans who are looking for work.

 

Is this really the administration's idea of priming the employment pump?

 

In Iowa, civic and business leaders work together in their communities to grease the wheels for economic development.  From Council Bluffs to Keokuk, local economic development leaders search for ways to attract and keep businesses.  They go to bat for their towns because they know their labor pool is ready and willing to work.

 

So, flooding the employment market with foreign workers, when high-skilled Americans are seeking jobs at unprecedented levels, just doesn't square with improving the home team advantage, let alone fostering a level playing field.

 

From my leadership position on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I have championed reforms to the nation's immigration and visa laws to better protect the pool of highly-skilled, unemployed U.S. workers and graduates who struggle to find good-paying jobs here at home.

 

For example, the H1-B visa program was created in 1990 as a temporary measure to help companies in America find high-technology workers -- assuming specialized workers aren't available in the United States to fill these jobs.  After more than two decades on the books, the program needs better controls and stronger oversight that will prevent qualified American workers from being passed over for good-paying jobs.

 

That's why over the last several years I've introduced an H-1B visa reform bill that would require a good faith recruitment of American workers by all companies seeking to bring in foreign workers, change the wage requirements to ensure that visa holders are not undercutting American workers, give more authority to the Department of Labor to investigate allegations of fraud, prohibit employers from advertising only to H-1B visa holders, and increase penalties for those who violate the terms of the H-1B visa program.

 

Working with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, I've also urged the administration to formally adopt the standards set by the U.S. Department of State and the Administrative Appeals Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when adjudicating L-1B visas (a visa that allows employers to transfer its existing workers to the U.S. if they have "specialized" or "advanced" knowledge of the company).  Unfortunately, the Obama administration is considering changes to the L-1B visa program that could water down these standards and allow the L-1B visa program to be used as a back door to evade restrictions of the H-1B visa program, putting American workers at a disadvantage.

 

Out-of-work Americans and graduates of the Class of 2012 have enough hurdles to overcome.  The nation's visa system should not undermine their chances of landing a good-paying job.

 

March 19, 2012

WASHINGTON - Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Chuck Grassley today urged the Senate leaders to convene a conference committee on the congressional insider trading bill to restore two key amendments.

 

Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants the Senate to restore his amendment to give prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials. Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wants a conference committee to renew his amendment requiring political intelligence agents to register as lobbyists. The Senate overwhelmingly passed both amendments but the House of Representatives' version of the bill excludes the provisions.

 

Leahy and Grassley wrote to the Senate majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, and the Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, urging a conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House bills or alternatively, the opportunity to offer their amendments if the Senate takes up the House bill instead of convening a conference committee.

 

The text of Leahy-Grassley letter follows.

 

March 19, 2012

 

The Honorable Harry Reid                           The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader, United States Senate                      Minority Leader, United States Senate

S-221 Capitol Building                       S-230 Capitol Building

Washington, DC 20510                          Washington, DC 20510

 

 

Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:

 

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) passed the Senate with two critical provisions that would improve transparency and give law enforcement more effective tools to combat corruption.  One, an amendment requiring political intelligence agents to register as lobbyists, strengthens the STOCK Act by ensuring that lawmakers, congressional staff, and the American people know who is feeding information to Wall Street.  The other, a carefully tailored amendment to give prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials, furthers the STOCK Act's goals of stopping public corruption and holding public officials accountable for wrongdoing.

 

The Senate passed both of these amendments with strong, bipartisan support.  Unfortunately, the House stripped both provisions from the STOCK Act without a vote. The Senate should act to ensure that the key improvements it made to this bill are incorporated into the final legislation that Congress passes.

 

We urge you to take the STOCK Act to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House bills and to encourage the conference to restore these two key provisions.

 

Should you decide, instead, to have the Senate take up the House-passed version of the STOCK Act, we request the opportunity to offer these two crucial amendments so that the Senate may adopt them, again.

 

Taking up the House-passed bill without the opportunity for the Senate to reassert its position with respect to these provisions would be wrong.  These are two of the most important and substantive provisions in the bill.  Without them the legislation would be significantly weakened.

 

Sincerely,

 

PATRICK LEAHY                          CHARLES GRASSLEY

Chairman                       Ranking Republican Member

 

# # # # #

Prepared Floor Statement Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Sunshine Week

Delivered Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr./Madam President,

This is Sunshine Week.  Sunshine Week is observed annually to coincide with the birthday of James Madison, the Founding Father known for his emphasis on checks and balances in government.

Open government and transparency are essential to maintaining our democratic form of government.

Although it's Sunshine Week, I'm sorry to report that contrary to President Obama's proclamations when he took office, after three years, the sun still isn't shining in Washington, DC.

There's a real disconnect between the President's words and the actions of his administration.

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act to the heads of the executive agencies.   In it, he instructed the executive agencies to

"adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government."

We all know that actions speak louder than words.  Unfortunately, based on his own administration's actions, it appears that the President's words about open government and transparency are words that can be ignored.

Given my experience in trying to pry information out of the Executive Branch and based on investigations I've conducted, and inquiries by the media, I'm disappointed to report that President Obama's statements about transparency are not being put into practice.

Federal agencies under the control of his political appointees have been more aggressive than ever in withholding information from the public and from Congress.

Throughout my career I've actively conducted oversight of the Executive Branch regardless of who controls the Congress or the White House.  When the agencies I'm reviewing get defensive and refuse to respond to my requests, it makes me wonder what they're hiding.

Over the last year, many of my requests for information from various agencies have been turned down again and again because I'm the Ranking Member and not the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  Agencies within the Executive Branch have repeatedly cited the Privacy Act as part of the rationale for their decision, even though the Privacy Act explicitly says it is not meant to limit the flow of information to Congress.  This disregard by the Executive Branch for the clear language of the law is disheartening.

 

Since January 2011, Chairman Issa and I have been stonewalled by Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department regarding our investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.  This deadly operation let thousands of weapons "walk" from the United States into Mexico.  Despite the fact that the DOJ Inspector General possesses over 80,000 relevant documents, Congress has received only around 6,000 in response to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee.

Even basic documents about the case have been withheld by the Justice Department, yet the Department insists it is cooperating.

The sun must shine on Fast and Furious so that the public can understand how such a dangerous operation took place?and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

I've also worked hard to bring transparency to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  This is an Executive Branch agency that desperately needs more sunshine.  Over the past two years I've investigated rampant fraud, waste, and abuse at public housing authorities around the country.  I've discovered exorbitant salaries paid to executive staff, conflicts of interest, poor living conditions and outright fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayers' money.

Many of these abuses have been swept under the rug and HUD has been slow at correcting these problems.  HUD cannot keep writing checks to these local housing authorities and blindly hope that the money gets to those Congress intended to help.  I'll continue to work to bring sunshine to HUD.

In April of last year, I requested documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding a valuable regulatory waiver it granted to a company called LightSquared.  LightSquared was attempting to build a satellite phone network in a band of spectrum adjacent to GPS.  The problem is that LightSquared's network causes interference with critical GPS users such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA.

The FCC responded to my document request by saying that they don't give documents to anyone but the two Chairs of committees with direct jurisdiction over the FCC.  That means that if you're in that 99.6 percent of Congress that does not chair a committee with direct jurisdiction, you are out of luck.

In a letter to me, Chairman Genachowski did tell me that he would make his staff available to me for interviews.  But when I took him up on his offer and asked to interview members of his staff, my request was refused.  Once again, actions speak louder than words.  This is stonewalling pure and simple.

It seems obvious that the FCC is embarrassed and afraid of what might come from uncovering the facts behind what the Washington Post called the LightSquared "debacle."  If there's nothing to hide, then why all the stonewalling?  The FCC seems determined to stonewall any attempts at transparency.

But it's not just the executive branch that needs more transparency.  The judiciary should be transparent and accessible as well.  That's why over a decade ago, I introduced the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, a bipartisan bill which will allow judges at all federal court levels to open their courtrooms to television cameras and radio broadcasts.  By letting the sun shine in on federal courtrooms, Americans will have an opportunity to better understand the judicial process.

The sunshine effort has no better friend than whistleblowers.  Private citizens and government employees who come forward with allegations of wrongdoing and cover-ups risk their livelihoods to expose misconduct.  The value of whistleblowers is the reason I continue to challenge the bureaucracy and Congress to support them.

For over two decades, I've learned from, appreciated and honored whistleblowers.  Congress needs to make a special note of the role that whistleblowers play in helping us fulfill our Constitutional duty of conducting oversight of the Executive Branch.

The information provided by whistleblowers is vital to effective Congressional oversight.  Documents alone are insufficient when it comes to understanding a dysfunctional bureaucracy.  Only whistleblowers can explain why something is wrong and provide the best evidence to prove it.  Moreover, only whistleblowers can help us truly understand problems with the culture at government agencies.

Whistleblowers have been instrumental in uncovering $700 being spent on toilet seats at the Department of Defense.  These American heroes were also critical in our learning about how the FDA missed the boat and approved Vioxx, how government contracts were inappropriately steered at the GSA, and how Enron was cooking the books and ripping off investors.

Like all whistleblowers, each whistleblower in these cases demonstrated tremendous courage.  They stuck their necks out for the good of all of us. They spoke the truth. They didn't take the easy way out by going along to get along, or looking the other way, when they saw wrongdoing.

I've said it for many years without avail, but I'd like to see the President of the United States have a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers.  This would send a message from the very top of the bureaucracy about the importance and value of whistleblowers.  We all ought to be grateful for what they do and appreciate the very difficult circumstances they often have to endure to do so, sacrificing their family's finances, their employability, and the attempts by powerful interests to smear their good names and intentions.

I've used my experience working with whistleblowers to promote legislation that protects them from retaliation.  Legislation such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the False Claims Act recognize the benefits of whistleblowers and offer protection to those seeking to uncover the truth.  For example, whistleblowers have used the False Claims Act to help the federal government recover  more than $30 billion since Congress passed my qui tam amendments in 1986.

These laws are a good step, however, more can be done.

For example, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, will provide much needed updates to Federal whistleblower protections.  I'm proud to be an original cosponsor and believe the Senate should move this important legislation immediately.  This bill includes updates to the Whistleblower Protection Act to address negative interpretations of the WPA from both the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

I started out my remarks by quoting James Madison, the Founding Father who is one of the inspirations for Sunshine Week.

Madison understood the danger posed by the type of conduct we're seeing from President Obama's political appointees.  He explained that --- "[a] popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both."

I'll continue doing what I can to hold this administration's feet to the fire.

I hope that my colleagues will help work with me so that we can move toward restoring real sunshine, -- in both words and actions --, in Washington DC.

Measure Limits Taxpayer-Funded Reimbursement to $400,000 per Year, Extends Cap to All Government Contractor Employees

 

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) this week introduced the Commonsense Contractor Compensation Act of 2012, S. 2198, which would lower the maximum amount taxpayers reimburse all government contractors for their salaries.

 

The Senators' bill would limit the taxpayer reimbursement for government contractor salaries to the amount of the President's salary - currently $400,000. The measure would also extend the cap to all government contractor employees.

 

Currently government contractors can charge taxpayers $693,951 for the salaries of their top five employees, based on a federal executive compensation benchmark. Employees of government contractors outside of the top five can and do earn taxpayer-funded amounts in excess of the current benchmark.

 

The new bill would build on a previous measure by Senators Boxer and Grassley - which was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in December - that set limits on taxpayer-funded salaries for defense contractor employees. It extended the $693,951 salary cap to all defense contractor employees, not just the top five.

 

Senator Boxer said, "As Senator Grassley and I made clear in December, we will keep fighting to rein in exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries for contractors. There is simply no reason that taxpayers should fund government reimbursements for private contractor salaries at a rate more than three times what Cabinet Secretaries earn."

 

Senator Grassley said, "The direct taxpayer-funded salaries of government contractors clearly need to be contained, and this legislation is designed to do so. There's no justification for these payments to be higher than the salary of the President of the United States."

 

The salary benchmark has nearly doubled in the last twelve years. From 1998 to 2010 the benchmark has grown 53 percent faster than the rate of inflation. According to a study from New York University, in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled, there were 7.6 million government contractors, including 5.2 million defense contractors.

 

The proposed taxpayer salary reimbursement limit is still double the $200,000 salary that Cabinet Secretaries earn.  Additionally, the amendment would in no way limit employee compensation provided by private companies out of their own revenue streams.

 

###

Friday, March 16, 2012

 

Senator Chuck Grassley today released the following comment after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts informed him that video coverage will not be allowed of the landmark health care case that will be heard before the Supreme Court next week.  The Chief Justice said the court will provide audio recordings and written transcripts of the oral arguments each afternoon of the proceedings.

 

In a letter sent in November to the Chief Justice, Grassley had recommended that audio and video coverage of the arguments be allowed.  Grassley argued that the law was so massive in size and scope and had an effect on every American. He is the author of legislation that would allow cameras in federal courts, and is the lead cosponsor of legislation to allow cameras in the Supreme Court.  The press release and letter from November can be found after Grassley's quote below.

 

"Every American should have the opportunity to see and hear this landmark case as it plays out, not just the select few allowed in the courtroom.  The health care reform law has ramifications for the entire country.  Video coverage would help with the public's understanding of not only the controversial new law, but also the American judicial system.  It's disappointing that the Chief Justice isn't allowing video coverage of the case, but I appreciate his willingness to provide expedited release of the audio and transcripts to the American people."

 

Here is the press release and letter after Grassley asked Roberts to allow for audio and video coverage of the proceedings.

 

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

 

Grassley Requests Audio, Video Coverage of Landmark Health Care Case in Supreme Court

 

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley has 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 is the author of legislation that would allow cameras in federal courts.  The bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

"Cameras in federal courtrooms are at the very heart of an open and transparent government.  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," Grassley said.  "This law is massive in size and scope.  Its effect is reverberating throughout America's economy.  The constitutional questions are landmark.  The public has a right to hear and see the legal arguments."

 

Grassley first introduced the Cameras in the Courtroom legislation in 1999.  Since then, the Chief Justice has immediately released audio of oral arguments of compelling cases.  The first release came when, at the request of Grassley and others, then Chief Justice William Rehnquist allowed for the release of audio immediately following oral arguments in the Florida election matter in 2000.  Since then, Chief Justice John Roberts has released audio recordings the same day of the oral arguments for more than 20 cases, including Grutter v. Bollinger, D.C. v. Heller, the Guantanamo Cases and the Citizens United Case.

 

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley's letter.  A copy of the signed letter can be found here.

 

November 15, 2011

 

The Chief Justice

The Supreme Court of the United States

Washington, DC 20543

 

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

 

I am writing to request that the Supreme Court exercise its discretion to permit television coverage of Supreme Court proceedings when the Court hears arguments in the case of the federal health care reform law.  It is my understanding oral arguments will take place in March of next year.

The decision in this case has the potential to reach every American.  The law is massive in size and scope.  The effect of the law, and the Court's decision, will reverberate throughout the American economy.

 

The constitutional questions presented in the case are momentous. The public has a right to witness the legal arguments likely to be presented in the case: (1) the constitutionality of the individual mandate; (2) the severability of the individual mandate and whether or not the remainder of the law is valid without the mandate; and (3) the authority of Congress to impose mandatory Medicaid coverage thresholds on states.  Given the nature of the topic, everyone in the country would benefit from following the proceedings in this landmark case.

 

Modern technology makes televising the proceedings before the Court simple and unobtrusive.  A minimal number of cameras in the courtroom, which could be placed to be barely noticeable to all participants, would provide live coverage of what may be one of the most historic and important arguments of our time.  Letting the world watch would bolster public confidence in our judicial system and in the decisions of the Court.

 

Providing live audio and video coverage of the oral arguments will be of great benefit to the Court and to the public.  Letting the world watch these historic and important proceedings will bolster confidence in our judicial system and the decisions of the Court.

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 

 

 

 

 

cc:        The Honorable Antonin Scalia

The Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy

The Honorable Clarence Thomas

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Honorable Stephen G. Breyer

The Honorable Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.

The Honorable Sonia Sotomayor

The Honorable Elena Kagan

WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley, Mark Udall, Scott Brown, Tom Harkin, Dean Heller, Ron Wyden, and Michael Bennet today proposed a two-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

 

The bipartisan proposal would prevent a lapse in the credit.  Without an extension, as many as 37,000 jobs nationwide could be lost.  The senators hope to have the extension passed as quickly as possible in order to provide tax certainty for the renewable energy sector.

 

"Tax reform efforts might modify or address this incentive in the near future, but the jobs and opportunities provided by wind energy should not be abandoned in the meantime.  And limiting the bill's impact on the deficit can be addressed," Grassley said.  "Tax relief has succeeded in developing this clean, renewable and innovative energy source, and it ought to be continued with the degree of certainty that encourages continued investment.  Unemployment remains high at 8.3 percent and energy costs are on the rise.  Congress should renew the wind energy tax credit to develop clean energy alternatives and good paying jobs."

 

"Extending the wind energy tax credit is a move that can give Coloradans and Americans a great return on investment - a stronger economy, more local jobs and more affordable power for our homes," Udall said.  "With employers like Vestas willing to invest in Colorado, Congress needs to act well before the deadline and give these employers certainty to plan ahead - otherwise those jobs will move to other countries.  Failing to extend the production tax credit for wind energy will threaten the industry's growth and Colorado jobs, and I'll continue to push my colleagues for a better solution where Colorado keeps our jobs."

 

"I believe in an all of the above approach to America's energy challenges.  The extension of these tax credits will help make sure that we continue to diversify our energy supplies over the long term," Brown said.

"Congress must extend the production tax credit for wind, which is essential for continuing the expansion of one of Iowa's most exciting sectors and creating and preserving jobs in our state," Harkin said.   "I am pleased to partner with Senator Grassley on this focused bill and will do everything I can to see it approved by Congress."

 

"Nevada has vast potential for renewable energy development.  Not only is it a clean source of energy, but it can also create thousands of jobs in the process.   The growing energy demand in our country requires that we find innovative solutions for our nation's energy needs.  Renewable energy development as a part of a broader energy strategy will ensure our nation has a diverse and secure energy future," Heller said.

 

"Wind energy is one of the fastest growing and most promising sectors of the energy industry providing for thousands of jobs in Oregon and nationwide," Wyden said. "The existing production tax credit has given the renewable energy industry an important tool to grow and its expiration could put the future innovation of wind resources and other forms of renewable energy at risk.  Companies on the cutting edge deserve to have some certainty in their tax treatment and extending this tax credit will help them to compete against non-renewable energy sources and continue the success we've seen over the last decade."

 

"The wind energy tax credit has been a huge plus for Colorado.  It has helped create jobs and advance a diversified energy portfolio," Bennet said.  "This tax credit has bipartisan support, and Colorado companies are counting on us to get it across the finish line.  Congress should act now."

 

Today, the wind industry supports 75,000 American jobs and drives as much as $20 billion in private investment.  During the last five years, 35 percent of all new electric generation in the United States was wind.  This expansion has directly led to the growth in domestic wind manufacturing.  There are nearly 400 manufacturing facilities today, compared with just 30 in 2004.

 

Grassley authored and won enactment of the first-ever wind production tax credit in 1992.  The incentive was designed to give wind energy the ability to compete against coal-fired and nuclear energy and helped to launch the wind energy industry.

 

The bill introduced today is titled the American Energy and Job Promotion Act.

 

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WASHINGTON - March 14, 2012 - Calling the audit work of the Defense Department's inspector general a mission of the highest importance, Senator Chuck Grassley today urged auditors to double down on improvements to their work with stronger recommendations, a greater focus on fraud and appropriate criminal referrals, timeliness, and follow-up efforts that result in accountability and recovery of improper payments.

 

Grassley made his remarks as he released his third report card assessing the audit work of the Inspector General's office.  Grassley's latest review awarded a grade of C, up from last year's D-minus.

 

"There's nothing more important to the taxpayers than having an aggressive team of auditors watch-dogging how the taxpayers' money is spent," Grassley said.  "The good news is that in response to the feedback from these report cards and a productive ongoing dialogue, audit quality appears to be improving."

 

The senator said he began assessing this audit work three years ago based on a tip about mismanagement and no benefit to taxpayers or program integrity despite a cost of $100 million a year for the auditing operation.

 

Grassley said that the work he first examined was little more than policy and compliance reviews, with no real attempt to scrutinize the dollar impact of misguided efforts.  "If we're going to have accountability with valuable defense dollars, we need hard-core, fraud-busting contract audits," Grassley said.

 

Earlier this month, Grassley asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to examine audit recommendations and pursue reforms.  Today, Grassley said he appreciates the interest of Acting Inspector General Lynne M. Halbrooks in making the audit work more aggressive and effective.  Grassley shared his review with Halbrooks in a detailed 25-page document.  Grassley's floor statement about his continuing effort is below.

 

The Iowa senator has a long history of defense oversight and legislative reform work.  During the 1980s, he led a vigorous campaign for military procurement reform.  Grassley helped to expose the gross overpricing of spare parts and won passage in May 1985 of an amendment that froze the defense budget and ended the Reagan military budget build up.  In working to reduce waste, fraud and abuse of defense dollars, Grassley took on the iron triangle of congressional committees, the Pentagon and special interest groups.  He has been a leader in drawing attention to egregious practices of the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, the agency which manages payments for the Department of Defense, and offered a series of reform amendments to annual spending bills for the Department of Defense, while also ramping up pressure on auditors for the Inspector General to conduct aggressive and meaningful reviews of accounting practices.  Over many years, Grassley has worked to empower watchdogs and whistleblowers to speak up regarding defense spending abuses and to hold accountable inspectors general responsible for oversight of defense dollars.

 

 

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Audit Oversight Review and Report Cards for 2009-2011

The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 

Mr. President, I come to the floor today to report on the latest results of my ongoing audit oversight review.

 

This work examines audits issued by the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Defense.

After receiving anonymous letters in early 2009 alleging mismanagement of audit resources, my staff initiated an in-depth oversight review. This is my third report in the series. Its goal is to assess audit quality in 2011 and make recommendations for improvement.

I am doing this work for one important reason.

Like investigations, audits are a primary oversight tool. In fact, audits may be the most important tool. That is because the auditors' core mission is to watch-dog how the taxpayers' money is being spent. That puts them on the "money trail" 24/7. If fraud is occurring, that's where it will happen. That's where they need to be, and hopefully they find it.

These audits cost the taxpayers $100 million a year. Are they getting the job done? Are they rooting out waste and fraud and saving money?

My first report, which was published on September 7, 2010, clearly indicated that the audit oversight capabilities of the Inspector General's office were seriously degraded.

The Inspector General at the time, Gordon Heddell, responded to my first report in a very constructive way. He promptly approved a transformation plan designed to improve audit quality.

In order to assess progress on reforms, I issued a second report on June 1, 2011. I called this one a Report Card. It evaluated and graded 113 reports issued during fiscal year 2010.

I awarded those 113 reports a grade of D Minus.

The low overall score was driven by the very same deficiencies pinpointed in my first report.

Instead of being hard-core, fraud-busting contract audits, most reports were policy and compliance reviews. There was little or no attempt to even verify the exact dollar impact of the misguided policies examined. Such reports offered zero benefit to the taxpayers, though many were mandated by Congress.

I identified 27 good reports that involved commendable and credible -- and in some cases -- nitty gritty audit work. Were it not for their long completion times, all those reports would have earned top scores.

At the conclusion of the second report, my staff presented a list of the "Top Nine Audit Roadblocks" standing in the way of reform.

After the second report was issued, Inspector General Heddell issued a sharp rebuttal.

He complained that I did not give sufficient credit for 18 audits that identified $4.2 billion in potential monetary benefits.

I addressed Inspector General Heddell's criticism on the floor on two separate occasions -- July 5th and July 28th, 2011. At that time, I admitted that he had a legitimate gripe about my report. My staff reviewed the matter and upped the scores on 12 of the 18 reports, but those adjustments did not move the overall score for 113 reports out of the D range.

Today, I am issuing my third audit oversight report. This one examines the latest batch of reports -- the 121 reports issued between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011. They are known as the fiscal year 2011 audits.

I am giving those reports an overall score of 3.51 or C.

As my report clearly indicates, there was across-the-board improvement in every category except one - timeliness.

I am very happy to report to my colleagues that audit quality appears to be improving.

The best possible indicator of improvement is the doubling of top-rated reports. Those numbers jumped from 27 reports, or 25% of total production in 2010, to 70 reports, or 58% of total production in 2011. That's better than a two-fold increase.

The auditors have achieved a breakthrough. The apparent progress is promising.

The most important area of improvement in audit quality was in the strength of recommendations. There was a surge in this key area. It was propelled by calls for accountability and recovery of wasted money. Though modest and limited in number, these initiatives had force. Recommendations are the business end of an audit, and these recommendations were based on rock-solid findings.

At least 50 reports arrived at findings that documented flagrant mismanagement, waste, negligence, fraud, and even potential theft. Sixteen of those reports recommended that responsible officials be considered for administrative review. A comparable number contained recommendations for the recovery of improper payments. And 10 reports - largely those on "Stimulus" projects - recommended that wasteful projects be terminated.

These reports jumped out at me. They are quite remarkable. But 50 reports with rock-solid findings should generate 50 - not just 16 -- sets of hard-hitting recommendations.

These 50 reports add up to a good beginning, but they don't confer world-class status on the Inspector General's Audit Office.  Within the grand totality of the 121 reports published in 2011, they are a drop in the bucket.

The vast majority of reports still offer weak recommendations.

Most reports merely instruct audit targets to do what they are already required to do under law and regulation. In my opinion, that's a waste of ink and paper.

There are still four distinct trouble spots needing intense management attention.

The biggest problem continues to be the number of unsatisfactory reports. While I can no longer say that most reports were poor, at 42%, the proportion of low scoring reports remains unacceptably high.

Those reports continue to suffer from the same deficiencies identified in a report commissioned by Inspector General Heddell in response to my first report. This report was produced by two independent consulting firms and dated October 7, 2010. It is known as the Qwest Report. Their conclusions, which matched my own, were as follows:

"We do not believe Audit is selecting the best audits to detect fraud, waste and abuse. The organization does not audit what truly needs to be done. Some audits hold little value in the end."

As I have said many times, far too many audits offer little or no benefit to the taxpayers. This was still true in 2011.

Long audit production times remain another big problem. Old reports offer stale information that weakens the power and relevance of audit reports.

Between 2010 and 2011, the average time needed to complete reports jumped from 13 to 16 months, and, as I understand it, those numbers don't tell the full story.

They do not include the extra weeks or months reportedly needed for the planning and approval process that occurs before audit work begins. Add those numbers together, and you are really looking at two years to publish an audit.

Stale information reduces audit impact to zero over time.

The Qwest Report pinpointed the root cause of this problem: "it is apparent that in the planning phase of audit selection, audits are written to fit a team, as opposed to a team established to conduct a needed audit."

Such organizational inflexibility drives long completion times. It also leads to the publication of audits having objectives that are so narrow and limited in scope that they are virtually worthless.

Audit teams need to be organized to support more challenging and more relevant audit tasks, and Mr. Blair indicated recently that he was moving in this direction.

There are two other outstanding problems.

Far too few reports - just 9 in all -- verified actual payments, using primary source accounting records.

Failing to nail down exact dollar amounts of waste and mismanagement, including those resulting from misguided policies, undermines the credibility and completeness of audit reports.

For example, using invoices or contracts to estimate payments would not appear to meet the most stringent audit standards. A more acceptable procedure is essential because of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's long-standing track record of making erroneous and unauthorized payments. In the face of such sloppy accounting practices, verification of payments should be mandatory.

Lastly, referral rates to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) are still far too low. Only 5 reports generated potential criminal referrals, which appears to point to a lack of concern about fraud. Surely there was enough grist in the 50 reports, which documented egregious waste and misconduct, to warrant additional referrals to DCIS and/or the Justice Department.

A number of audits standout as candidates for further review and possible prosecution.

I have urged Secretary Panetta and the Acting Inspector General to reexamine some of these issues.

Acting IG Halbrooks has put the public spotlight on disgraceful and scandalous waste and alleged misconduct that demands accountability.

Unfortunately, unless the recommendations in those hard-hitting audits are somehow converted to concrete action, all this good work will amount to nothing more than a bunch of auditors "howling in the wilderness."  It will simply "fall through the cracks."

Converting tough recommendations into concrete action takes determination and relentless follow-up. The key is making sure agencies do what they agreed to do at the conclusion of an audit. However, all indications suggest that corrective actions proposed in 16 hard-hitting reports have run into some serious flak in the Pentagon bureaucracy.

Without high-level intervention, most, if not all, accountability and savings measures could be slowly and quietly quashed in bureaucracy. A recent report from the Navy clearly indicates that this fate awaits at least one of the reports and probably all the others, as well.

In order to assist in the audit resolution process, I have asked Secretary Panetta to conduct a top-level review of all the allegations contained in the 16 most disturbing reports.

I urged him to establish a reasonable path forward on all unresolved recommendations.

Until there are meaningful consequences and real penalties for such gross waste and misconduct, the culture of the organizations involved will not change.

Without accountability, there will be no positive results. Good audit value will go down the drain. Unabated waste of the taxpayers' money will continue.

Clearly, significant progress was achieved in 2010-11. But the Inspector General's audit capabilities are not yet out of the woods. Much more work remains to be done. Management needs to build on the strengths exemplified by the 50 reports containing rock-solid findings and 16 sets of hard-hitting recommendations. Those reports could be used as models for improving audit quality in the future.

In order to start producing more top quality reports, management needs to consider the following suggestions:

·         bring report recommendations into balance with findings;

·         increase calls for accountability and recovery of improper payments;

·         verify all payments using primary source accounting records;

·         organize audit teams to match more complex and challenging tasks;

·         pick-up the pace of fraud referrals to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service;

·         develop a more effective audit follow-up strategy;

·         follow-up to ensure that prosecution occurs where warranted or necessary;

These adjustments should be achieved using available resources.

Correct these problems, and top quality reports will be the norm. All these goals are within easy reach. Once accomplished, audits will be fully aligned with the core mission.

In closing, I want all the auditors in the Inspector General's office to know that I consider their oversight mission to be of the highest importance. There is nothing more important to the taxpayers than having an aggressive team of auditors watch-dogging how the taxpayers' money is being spent. I know there has been a concerted effort over the past few years to improve the quality of their work. I deeply respect, appreciate, and support these efforts. They are starting to pay off.  I can see results of all the hard work. I encourage all the auditors to keep moving ahead until the job is finished. And I urge Mr. Blair to unleash the auditors. I want them to be tigers. Encourage them to call waste what it is - WASTE. Let them follow their instincts and the guidance in their audit manuals that instructs them to: "Think fraud and plan audits to provide a reasonable assurance of detecting fraud."

 

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Remarks on District Court Cloture Petitions

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 

Mr. President, I rise to speak regarding judicial nominations, and to respond to some of the claims made by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

 

If you listened to some of our colleagues over the last couple of days, you would think the sky is falling.  They act as if the Senate is treating President Obama's judicial nominees differently than nominees have been treated in the past.

 

That is simply not true.

 

A fair and impartial look at the numbers tells a far different story.  The fact of the matter is that President Obama's nominees are being treated just as well, and in many cases, much more fairly than the Democrats treated President Bush's nominees.  I want to take just a couple minutes to set the record straight.

 

Let me start by taking a brief look at the 17 cloture motions the Majority has filed.  Seven of those nominees were reported out of the Judiciary Committee within the last month, and three of them were reported last week.

 

That is without precedent.  To our knowledge, the Majority has never filed cloture on district court nominees within a month of them being reported out of the Judiciary Committee.  That accounts for seven of the 17.

 

What about the other 10?  Well, what our colleagues fail to mention is that they could have gotten a majority of those nominees confirmed at the end of last Session.  Our side cleared quite few nominees, and we offered to confirm them as a package at the end of last Session.  However, the President refused to offer assurances that he would not bypass the Senate and make so-called recess appointments.

 

In other words, it was the President who chose not to confirm those nominees at the end of last Session.  If the President believes we should have confirmed more nominees last fall, he should look to his own Administration for an explanation.

 

That is the background on the 17 cloture motions before the Senate.

 

But let me comment on something that I read in one of our daily newspapers that covers the Congress.  A famous reporter said in the second paragraph of a report I read today that the Republicans are filibustering nominations. I told the writer of that article that you can't filibuster anything that's not before the United States Senate, and these nominees were not before the United States Senate until the leader of the majority filed these cloture motions.

 

So wouldn't you think, that if you believed you needed to stop debate, that you would at least let debate start in the first place?  But no.  The game that's played around here is that, in order to build up the numbers, so you can claim that the minority is filibustering, when the minority is not actually filibustering.

 

But, let me take a step back and address some of the claims I have heard from the other side.  I cannot believe some of the comments I am hearing, so I believe it is important to set the record straight.

 

First of all, everyone around here understands that it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources for the Senate to consider Supreme Court nominees.  For that reason, when a Supreme Court nomination is pending before the Senate, the Judiciary Committee considers little else.

 

During President Obama's first three years in office, the Senate considered not one, BUT TWO nominations to the Supreme Court.  Those nominations occupied the Judiciary Committee for approximately six months.

 

The last time the Senate handled two Supreme Court nominations was during President George W. Bush's second term.  During President Bush's entire second term, we confirmed only 120 lower court nominees.  Under President Obama, we have already confirmed 129 lower court  nominees.

 

Let me repeat that.  We have confirmed 129 of President Obama's judicial nominees in just over three years.  That is more than were confirmed under George W. Bush's entire second term.

 

And again, the comparison between President Obama's first three years to President George W. Bush's second term is the appropriate comparison.

 

These were the only two time periods in recent memory when the Senate handled two Supreme Court nominations during such a short time period.

 

But, even if you compare the number of President Obama's nominees confirmed to President Bush's first term, it is clear that President Obama has fared very well.

 

More specifically, even though the Senate did not consider any Supreme Court nominations during President Bush's first term, we have confirmed approximately the same number of President Obama's lower court nominees as we did President Bush's, relative to the nominations President Obama has made.

 

In other words, although fewer lower court nominees have been confirmed under President Obama, the President made approximately 20 percent fewer judicial nominations during his first 3 years than President Bush did in his first term.

 

As a practical matter, if the President believes he hasn't gotten enough confirmations, then he should look no further than the pace at which he has made nominations.

 

Maybe he should've spent less time on the 100 or so fundraisers he's been holding all over the country recently, and more time on making judicial nominations.

 

The fact of the matter is this: IF a backlog exists, then it is clear that it originates with the President.

 

If you need even more evidence that the President has been slow to send judicial nominees to the Senate, all you need to do is examine the current vacancies.  My colleagues have been on the Senate floor talking about the so-called "vacancy crisis."

 

But, what my colleagues fail to mention is that the White House has not even made nominations for over half of the current vacancies.

 

Let me repeat that:  Of the 83 current vacancies, the White House has not submitted nominations for 44 of them.

 

As a result, it is clear that IF there is a "vacancy crisis," once again the problem rests with the White House.  If the President believes there are too many vacancies in the federal courts, he should look no further than his own Administration for an explanation.

 

Now, what about the other side's claim that nominees are waiting longer to get confirmed than they have in the past?

 

Once again, this is just not true.

 

The average time from nomination to confirmation of judges during the Obama Administration is nearly identical to what it was under President Bush.  During President Bush's Presidency, it took on average, approximately 211 days for judicial nominees to be confirmed.

 

During the first three years of President Obama's Presidency, it has taken 218 days for his judicial nominees to be confirmed.

 

I'm sure this will be news to many of my colleagues.  If you have listened to the other side, you would think we have somehow broken new ground.  We haven't.  We are treating President Obama's nominees virtually the same as President Bush's.

 

It's not our primary concern to worry about whether one President is being treated differently than the other. We just proceed with our work.  But the numbers you see here is a result of our work.  The fact of the matter is that the numbers aren't much different than other presidents.  To suggest we are treating President Obama's nominees a whole lot differently is intellectually dishonest.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Senate has been working its will, and regularly processing the President's judicial nominees in much the same way it has in the past.

 

Given that the President's nominees have received such fair treatment, why would the Majority Leader choose to take the unprecedented step of filing 17 cloture petitions on district court nominees?

 

Why would the Majority Leader choose to manufacture controversy where none exists?

 

The answer is simple.  These votes are nothing short of a stunt.  They are a smokescreen.

 

They are designed to accomplish two goals: First, as even Democrats concede, the President cannot run for re-election on his own record, so these votes are designed to help the President's re-election strategy by somehow portraying Republicans as "obstructionist."

 

Second, the other side simply does not want to talk about the extremely important and very real problems facing this nation.

 

Look at any poll. Go to any town meeting.  People in this country and my state of Iowa are concerned about the economy and jobs. With 8.3 percent unemployment, they are right to expect us to work on jobs.
           
A small business tax bill passed the other body.  Why aren't taking that up?  It's ready and would likely pass the Senate without much dissent.
 
Why aren't we taking up a budget this year?
 
It's been four years since the Senate has passed a budget. This is budget week.  Instead of talking about a budget, we're spending time talking about judicial nominees who aren't going to be filibustered.   We ought to be considering a budget. 
 
But the Majority refused to produce a budget.  It's been more than 1,040 days.

 

The American people are sitting at home and watching this debate.  They want to know how we are going to get the unemployment rate down.

 

They are not concerned about whether the Senate will confirm one of the President's district court nominees this week, rather than next.

 

They want to know what we are doing to help their father, or mother, or brother or sister get back into the workforce.

 

Given that millions of Americans remain out of work, why aren't we considering and debating the JOBS bill the House just passed?

 

Why aren't we tackling the Energy crisis?

 
With $4 gas in this country, we ought to be talking about drilling here, drilling now.  We ought to be talking about building a pipeline.  We ought to be talking about how we can stop sending
 $833 million every day overseas to buy oil. We ought to be talking about extending the energy tax extenders that sunset as of December 23.

 

Unlike the so-called "vacancy crisis," the energy crisis is not manufactured.  It is real.  The rising cost of gasoline matters to millions and millions of Americans.

 

If they are fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, millions of Americans are trying to figure out how they will afford to get to work with the rising cost of gasoline.

 

Rather than spend time working on Energy crisis, which is all too real for millions of Americans, we are spending time on this manufactured controversy.

 

And what's even worse, this is the week we're supposed to be debating a Budget.  But, you'd need a high powered microscope to find any budget that the Majority has put together.  The Majority has failed to produce a budget, so they manufacture a so-called "crisis" on nominations to throw up a smokescreen to hide their failure.

 

Mr. President, I will have more to say about this as we move forward with this debate.  But for now I will conclude by saying this.

 

A fair and impartial examination of how the Senate has treated President Obama's nominees reveals that, contrary to what you'll hear from the other side, the President's nominees are being treated more than fair.

 

Rather than waste time on a so-called "crisis" that everyone realizes is entirely manufactured, we should be focusing on those issues that matter deeply to the American people: jobs, the economy, and tackling our energy crisis.

 

I urge my colleagues to reject these cloture petitions so that we can get back to the business of the American people.

 

I yield the floor.

 

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Iowa Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have today joined with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to introduce legislation that revives vital civil rights protections for older workers that were limited following the Supreme Court's decision in Gross v. FBL Financial.  Harkin is Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee while Senators Leahy and Grassley are the Chairman and ranking member respectively of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In Gross, the Supreme Court overturned established precedent that had applied standards of proof the Supreme Court first set out in interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA).  The Court held that because Congress did not amend the ADEA to include this standard when it codified the standard for race, sex, national origin, and religion claims as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the standard did not apply to age claims.  As a result of this discrepancy, the opinion has also had reverberations in a wide range of civil cases in addition to age discrimination, including discrimination based on disability.   

"Jack Gross's story is unique, but sadly, is not uncommon," said Senator Harkin.  "Prior to the Court's decision in Gross, the same standard of proof applied equally to all workers, regardless of the type of invidious discrimination they faced.  Ignoring these consistent standards, the Court's decision established a far higher standard of proof for age than for discrimination based on race, sex, national origin and religion, without any rationale or justification.  The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will reverse the Court's decision and restore the law to what it was for decades so that Jack Gross and all older workers in this country enjoy the full protections of the law."

"The decision in the Gross case has had a major impact on employment discrimination litigation across the country.  It's time we clarify the law to ensure that other people like Jack Gross aren't put in similar situations.  Older Americans have immense value to our society and our economy and they deserve the protections Congress originally intended," Grassley said.

"This bipartisan legislation reaffirms the contributions made by older Americans in the workforce and ensures that employees will be evaluated based on their performance and not by arbitrary criteria such as age," said Senator Leahy.  "In these difficult economic times, hardworking Americans deserve our help.  We must not allow a thin majority of the Supreme Court to eliminate the protections that Congress has enacted for them."

"The Supreme Court's decision in my case significantly undermined well-established protections against discrimination for older workers," said Jack Gross, the Des Moines man whose case prompted the legislation.  "I am also concerned that this decision, with my name on it, is being used as precedent to undermine workers' rights under other civil rights laws, too."

"I am grateful and proud to have two tenured and highly-respected senators from my home state of Iowa leading the charge on this bipartisan bill to restore longstanding legal standards.  Congress has a long history of working together, on a bipartisan basis, to create a level playing field in the workplace, and I hope they will enact this legislation as soon as possible."

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will restore fundamental fairness.

  • The Act reverses the Gross decision and restores the law to what it was for decades before the Court rewrote the rule.  The Act makes clear that when a victim shows discrimination was a "motivating factor" behind a decision, the burden is properly on the employer to show it complied with the law.
  • The Act is modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis 93-5.  Among other things, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 codified the "motivating factor" framework for race, sex, national origin and religion discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • The Act makes clear that this "motivating factor" framework applies to all anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws involving race, sex, national origin, religion, age and disability - treating all workers, and all forms of discrimination, equally.

The bill is supported by the AARP, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Partnership for Women and Families, and National Senior Citizens Law Center.

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