Q.  What are Constitution Day and Citizenship Day?

A.  Constitution Day is celebrated on September 17, because the Constitution of the United States was signed on September 17, 1787.  Constitution Day is also Citizenship Day, a day that recognizes all who have become U.S. citizens, whether by birth or immigration.

Originally, U.S. citizenship was celebrated on the third Sunday of every May, on a day known as "I Am An American Day."  In 1952, this day was moved to September 17, to celebrate citizens and the Constitution.  Until 2004, the official name of this holiday was Citizenship Day.  It is now known as "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day."

Q.  Why should we celebrate our Constitution and Citizenship?

A.  The Constitution is the framework for our democracy.   It was adopted by the Constitutional Convention 223 years ago, ratified by the original 13 states, and it continues to guide us today.  In the United States, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  The Constitution embodies the enduring philosophical principles in the Declaration of Independence; that the limited government created by the Constitution only exercise power by the consent of the governed.

That philosophy is clearly stated in the Declaration's second paragraph:  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ? That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."  The Constitution is a statement of this philosophical belief in limited government.  All power rests with the people, and the Constitution is a compact where the American people delegate certain enumerated powers to the government in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." 

September 17 is also a day to celebrate the honor, and reflect on the responsibilities, of U.S. citizenship.



COMMENTARY ALERT - You might be interested in a Washington Post blog this afternoon about the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.  My concern is that the SEC seems to be pursuing the classic, flawed tactic of most bureaucracies, "ignore the message and kill the messenger" when concerns about mismanagement are raised.  Instead, SEC higher-ups need to listen to different points of view from SEC employees in order to avoid the kinds of mistakes the SEC has made in recent years.  The promise of protection for SEC whistleblowers looks like it is being undercut by the reality of retaliation.  You can read the letter I sent to the SEC chairman by clicking here. - Chuck Grassley

Grassley calls SEC response on alleged retaliation 'extremely disturbing'

A senior Senate Republican is calling into question the Securities and Exchange Commission's response to allegations that top officials in the Fort Worth office retaliated against employees who raised concerns about an agency examination program.

Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked for a briefing from top SEC officials about the treatment of two employees in the Fort Worth office. The senator wanted to know why that although the inspector general recommended the SEC take disciplinary action against the Fort Worth officials none had been taken.

In a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, Grassley wrote: "These facts and circumstances are extremely disturbing and paint a picture of a culture at the SEC, which endorses retaliation against employees who attempt to improve operations by reporting mismanagement to headquarter."

The letter follows a pair of reports by the SEC inspector general and an article in The Washington Post about the problems at the Fort Worth office.

The Post article cites an SEC inspector general's report that concluded that two SEC employees, Julie Preuitt and Joel Sauer, faced "inappropriate" sanctions from their bosses in Fort Worth when they raised concerns about a new review process for financial firms.

Preuitt, who had warned presciently about a potential scam at R. Allen Stanford's Houston-based business, told superiors she was concerned that the office was more interested in boosting statistics about the number of firms the office examines rather than actually uncovering fraud.

According to inspector general reports and interviews, Preuitt was also essentially demoted after vocalizing her complaints.

Later, the program she opposed was suspended in favor of programs to verify assets claimed by investment companies in the wake of the large number of Ponzi schemes disclosed in the past two years.

Grassley tied to the agency's actions in Fort Worth to its broader desire to attract whistleblowers, who can provide regulators with inside information on wrongdoing.

"You have previously assured me that in leading the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC/Commission), you intend to value whistleblowers and ensure that they are able to make protected disclosures in order to help managers improve operations at the Commission," Grassley said. "However, it appears that this commitment to valuing dissent within the Commission is not being fully implemented."

Grassley asked the SEC to explain why it had not disciplined the Fort Worth managers. The SEC responded:

[P]rior to imposing discipline, the senior-level Ft. Worth managers had solicited advice . . . from other Commission officials responsible for disciplinary actions. It has not been alleged, nor is there any reason to believe, any of the advising parties had reason to retaliate against the two employees. Because the actions were deemed appropriate and senior-level Ft. Worth managers relied on the guidance that was provided, management determined their actions were not retaliatory.

Grassley was not pleased with this response.

"The implication ... is that a retaliatory personnel action can be laundered of its retaliatory intent by simply consulting with others who had no retaliatory intent and obtaining their concurrence," he wrote. "Such a policy would make a mockery of whistleblower protections throughout government."

By Zachary Goldfarb  |  August 30, 2010; 2:59 PM ET



WASHINGTON - August 25, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded four grants totaling $1,868,364 and one cooperative agreement totaling $237,597 to Iowa medical facilities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will distribute the money as shown below.

  • St. Ambrose University in Davenport will receive a $594,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations

  • Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines will receive a $495,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations· Mercy Foundation in Des Moines will receive a $495,000 grant for health care and other facilities from the Division of Grants Management Operations

  • The University of Iowa in Iowa City will receive a $284,364 grant for pharmacology, physiology, and biological chemistry research from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

  • The University of Iowa in Iowa City will enter into a $237,597 cooperative agreement for human genome research with the National Human Genome Research Institute

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity administering the funds.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa have asked Inspectors General from 29 government agencies to review whether federal agencies are taking new steps to limit responses to Freedom of Information Act requests from lawmakers, journalists, activist groups and watchdog organizations.

The request from Grassley and Issa is based on what was reported earlier this summer about Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano requiring FOIA requests to be given more scrutiny, depending on who the requestor was.  The Inspectors General also have been asked to determine the extent to which political appointees are systematically made aware of FOIA requests and their role in decision-making.

"The question is to what extent an effort has been made to inhibit the accountability that's established through the Freedom of Information Act with new hurdles or by making politically appointed officials part of the FOIA review process within the various federal agencies.  These requirements could delay disclosures, and that's a disservice to the public," Grassley said.

"Getting through a non-partisan bureaucracy to obtain information through FOIA is difficult enough without political appointees inappropriately injecting partisan political considerations into the process," said Rep. Issa.  "There's a clear public interest in finding out if what happened at Homeland Security is also taking place in other federal agencies.  This inappropriate interference by political appointees in FOIA requests further undermines President Obama's promise to create an unprecedented level of openness in government."

Click here to read a copy of the letter that was sent to the 29 Inspectors General, including those from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Elections Assistance Commission, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the General Services Administration, the Government Accountability Office, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Personnel Management, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin today announced that the United States Senate Youth Program has begun its statewide selection process.  The two selected Iowa students will join 102 other delegates March 5 - 12, 2011, for the program's 49th Annual Washington Week, an intensive week-long program educational program.

The United States Senate Youth Program brings two students from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Schools overseas to Washington, D.C.  Student delegates will visit Capitol Hill, the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Supreme Court and meet with Senators, cabinet officers, government leaders and policy-makers.

"The program gives students a first-hand look at all three branches of the federal government," Grassley said.  "It's a great learning opportunity for the students."

"The Washington trip gives students a birds-eye view of American government, and I encourage all eligible students to apply," Harkin said. "When smart, talented students take an interest in government it benefits all of us."

Student delegates will each receive a $5,000 college scholarship.  The leadership program is fully funded by the Hearst Foundations.

Delegate selection is coordinated by each state's chief school officer in cooperation with high school principals.  Delegates must be junior and senior elected student officers for the 2010-2011 academic year and reside in the state where they attend school.

The selection deadline is October 4, 2010.  Interested students should visit www.ussenateyouth.org and contact:

Ms. Cheryl Mullenbach

Social Studies Consultant

Grimes State Office Building

400 SE 14th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319

515/494-5610

cheryl.mullenbach@iowa.gov

Since its establishment in 1962, nearly 5,000 students have participated in the United States Senate Youth Program


Q.  Why do we pledge allegiance to the flag? 

A.  The U.S. flag represents not just our country as a political unit, but the principles that bind us together as Americans, namely individual liberty and unalienable natural rights, endowed by our Creator, which the government shall not infringe upon.  We pledge our allegiance to the flag to show our allegiance to the founding principles of our country as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Constitution.  

Q.  Has the Pledge of Allegiance always been exactly as it is today? 

A.  The pledge was originally composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892.  It has been modified four times since then.  The original pledge read, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all." According to the Congressional Research Service, "my flag" was changed to "the flag of the United States of America," in 1923, because the National Flag Conference believed the word "my" could cause confusion among new immigrants, who might take it to mean the flag of their native land.  The words "under God" were added in 1954, two years before "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the United States.  Today, the pledge reads, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 

Q.  What is proper pledge etiquette? 

A.    According to the U.S. Code, the pledge should be rendered by standing at attention and facing the flag.  Non-uniformed men should remove any non-religious headdress and render the civilian salute, which is the placement of the right hand over the heart.  Those in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.



A tide of rising uncertainty is swelling among Iowans who worry the federal government is overstepping its authority.  Whether overspending tax dollars or overreaching Constitutional boundaries, taxpayers, property owners, farmers and small business owners are asking when is enough, enough?  In the last two years, Washington has dramatically accelerated public spending and expanded the size and scope of the federal government.

Just consider what it will take to implement the vast, new health care and financial reform laws.  Countless layers of an already bloated federal bureaucracy will influence how consumers receive and pay for medical care and qualify for school, business and home loans.  With Washington's lackluster track record for transparency and accountability, Iowans have reason to worry about footing the tab and wonder if bureaucratic red tape will affect their access to the latest medical breakthrough or line of credit at the bank.

Churning out federal regulations has expanded the federal workforce.  One estimate says the federal government employs a quarter of a million people responsible for writing and enforcing the regulations.  The total number of federal employees has increased by 273,000 since 2008.

The new regulations can create controversy and unnecessary confusion.  Consider one small business owner who wrote to me about the new federal tax credit created to help small businesses offer insurance coverage for their employees.  After reading the fine print, he said the rules are "ridiculously complicated for a small business owner to understand and implement" and "Congress is over-selling/over-promising the benefits."  And this one rule is just the tip of the iceberg. The major pieces of the health care reform law will not take effect until 2014.

Concerns about unprecedented public spending are very unsettling to many Iowans who wonder how in the world Washington will square entitlement obligations with ballooning payments on the national debt.  The new health care law itself will cost nearly $2.6 trillion over a decade when it is fully implemented.  It will expand Medicaid by 16 million people (even though the states are struggling with enormous shortfalls to finance those currently enrolled in the program); carve $529 billion out of Medicare; and, create new taxes on health plans and individual investment income.  Unlike the safety net created under FDR, when 77 Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate approved Social Security, or in 1965 when Medicare passed with generous bipartisan support, the largest new entitlement adopted in 45 years was passed without achieving bipartisan consensus.

How much government are taxpayers able and willing to pay for?  In addition to the revenue needed to keep standard government services open for business, such as USDA meat inspectors, FDA drug safety scientists, FAA air traffic controllers, and ICE border patrol agents, taxpayers also are paying for bail-outs for Wall Street and Detroit, stimulus spending, and interest on the national debt.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates the U.S. national debt could hit 60 percent of our national income by year's end.

Taxpayers are wondering how far this runaway spending train will go before it derails.  As a U.S. senator, I work to protect the integrity of the public purse.  With hard-earned tax dollars sent to Washington, I track the federal pipeline trying to ensure these dollars are protected from waste, fraud and abuse.  Sticking my nose in the federal bureaucracy's business helps look out for the people's business.  That's why I have demanded a full accounting of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to find out how Wall Street banks are using the money intended to shore up the financial system (including the unconscionable pay-out of extravagant severance packages and retention bonuses); requested an audit of the administrative costs for the Cash-for-Clunkers program; and, called into question missteps by General Motors which received $49.5 billion under TARP.

As Eastern Iowans struggle to rebuild and recover from the devastating floods this summer, I will keep working to hold Washington accountable to the people.  That includes putting the brakes on runaway spending and replacing "ridiculously complicated" rules; in other words, substituting Washington nonsense with Midwestern common sense.  From rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, to championing whistleblowers and fighting for the independence of agency-appointed auditors, I am not afraid to do whatever it takes to fix wrongdoing and mismanagement so that the federal government fits the bill when the taxpaying public is footing the bill.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA

Friday, July 30, 2010

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

FBI Oversight Hearing

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chairman Leahy, thank you for calling this hearing.  I thank Director Mueller for coming up here today to discuss some very important matters.  Since the Director was last before the committee in January, there have been a number of high profile issues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Most of these issues are related to the FBI's continuing mission to address the national security threats our nation faces.  This includes the failed bombing in Times Square and the recent arrest and subsequent deportation of a number of Russian spies.  The FBI has done a commendable job in continuing to face these threats, but there are still areas the FBI needs to address.  I hope to discuss a number of important topics with the Director and look forward to candid answers.

The FBI's Sentinel Case Management Computer System

The FBI continues to have problems with the nearly decade long upgrade of its case management computer system.  The current iteration, known as Sentinel, follows the failed taxpayer boondoggle of the Virtual Case File system that cost taxpayers over $100 million and provided no usable system.  The Sentinel system was announced in March 2006 and the contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin to develop the $425 million system.  Sentinel was projected to be completed by December 2009.  However, delays and cost overruns have increased the projected cost to $451 million and the project completion date was pushed back until September 2010.

In March, I first learned that the development timeline and cost of the project were in jeopardy.  That month, the FBI issued the first "stop-work" order to Lockheed Martin halting their ongoing work on phases 3 and 4 of the project to refocus efforts on completing a now delayed phase 2.  I wrote to FBI Director Mueller asking a number of questions about this development and what the delay would do to the final timeline and cost of the project.  The FBI responded to some questions but deflected a number of key questions related to the timing and cost.  Following my letter, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice issued a report on the FBI's progress with Sentinel.  The Inspector General stated, "We have serious concerns about the progress of the FBI's Sentinel project."  He added, "As of March 2010, the FBI does not have official cost or schedule estimates for completing Sentinel."  Finally, he found, "FBI officials have acknowledge(d) that the project will cost more than its latest revised estimate of $451 million and will likely not be completed until 2011."  This is absolutely unacceptable for large scale procurement and is particularly egregious given the FBI's previous failure on Virtual Case File.

Compounding matters, I recently wrote for a second time to FBI Director Mueller because the FBI issued another stop-work order to Lockheed Martin extending the previous order.  This second stop-work order should be a concern to all members of this committee and taxpayers alike. While I appreciate the FBI cutting off work on a project before it completely fails, it is starting to appear that the FBI and Lockheed Martin are not going to be able to complete Sentinel in the near future.  Further, it appears that completing this project will take millions more taxpayer dollars.

The FBI and Lockheed Martin are at a crossroads on the Sentinel project.  Director Mueller must take ownership of this project which has spiraled out of control and off budget.   The FBI continues to negotiate with Lockheed Martin about the projected timeline to finish Sentinel, but the Director must provide answers to a number of questions and not simply provide the standard bureaucratic answers if he wants to regain the trust of Congress on Sentinel.  I plan to ask him what has happened with the negotiations with Lockheed, how much more taxpayer money they intend to ask Congress for, whether Lockheed Martin is the best contractor to finish the job, why the cost has spiraled out of control, why the FBI has modified the contract hundreds of times via contract modifications and "change orders" within those modifications, and whether it'll ever be possible to finish this never ending procurement.  There are a lot of questions that need answering before Congress should consider providing one additional dollar to the FBI for Sentinel.

FBI Cooperation with the Government Accountability Office (GAO)

I also want to ask the FBI Director about the FBI's cooperation with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  The GAO initiated a review of FBI counterterrorism vacancies at my request, joined by a bipartisan group of Members from both House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The review is human capital focused and is similar to prior work GAO conducted at the FBI from 2002-2004.  The objectives of the current review are to assess: (1) the extent of FBI counterterrorism vacancies and the reasons for the vacancies, (2) the trends in these vacancy rates over time, (3) implications of these vacancies for the Bureau's mission, and (4) the authorities and strategies the FBI is using to address the vacancies

Unfortunately, the GAO has been repeatedly denied access to information it needs from the FBI.  In follow-up questions on this topic following the last hearing, Director Mueller stated that "aspects of the review...constituted intelligence oversight" and that "it is the longstanding position of the intelligence community to decline to participate in GAO reviews that evaluate intelligence activities."  I find it curious that the FBI did not have this reaction to the same sort of GAO request in the past.  In fact, the FBI worked closely with GAO when it conducted its previous FBI reviews in 2002-2004.  Unfortunately, the GAO has encountered bureaucratic roadblocks from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which claimed that GAO lacks the authority to evaluate most FBI counterterrorism positions, as these positions are scored through the National Intelligence Program (NIP) Budget.

I am alarmed at this effort to cut off GAO access to information that they have previously collected in the past.  I am also concerned that this lack of cooperation is part of a greater initiative to limit the ability of Congress to conduct oversight.  Further, I have serious concerns that the reliance on the OLC opinion at issue here could have greater impact on the Judiciary Committee as a whole and our ability to adequately evaluate the management and performance of critical FBI components.  I will ask the Director a number of questions related to this matter and hope he will be responsive.

Finally, I want to ask the Director about the recent supplemental budget request submitted to the Congress by the Department of Justice and the White House.  This request seeks an additional 44 FBI agents and an additional 34 full time employees.  I want to know why the FBI needs the additional agents in light of the 145 agents deployed to the border, as the Director discusses in his written statement.  I'm concerned that temporary accounting via supplemental funding could lead to serious problems in the FY2011 budget.  I want to know how the FBI will account for these additional personnel in future years to ensure that agent positions in critical counterterrorism and national security areas are not left vacant because of these new positions.  Given the current fiscal constraints of the federal budget and the swelling deficit, I want to know if the FBI is best suited for this mission or if these resources are best directed to the Border Patrol or other federal agencies with a more permanent presence on the Southwest Border.

I look forward to Director Mueller's testimony and his responses to these important matters.

-30-

ACTION ALERT

They're at it again.  Big Oil, Big Food and their followers are spreading a new misinformation campaign against homegrown biofuels.  I went to the Senate floor earlier today to dispel the myth.  I thought you might be interested in a copy of the text of my statement or the video of my remarks on the Senate floor. Let me know your thoughts by emailing me here. - Chuck Grassley

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Homegrown, Renewable Biofuels

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mr. President,

It's that time of year again.

Without fail, every few months or so the Big Oil and Big Food interest groups start their misinformation campaign in an effort to denigrate the U.S. biofuels producers.

Last week, as if almost on cue, a group opposed to domestic efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil began their usual song and dance.

A press conference led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other special interest groups was held to malign the benefits of homegrown renewable fuels.

Don't forget, this is the same group of folks who, a few years ago, waged a high-priced, inside-the-beltway smear campaign against ethanol for allegedly leading to higher food prices.

That myth was roundly dispelled.

Economists proved what farmers knew to be true - the higher cost of corn was responsible for just a tiny fraction of the increase in food prices.

So, while food manufacturers wanted consumers to believe that corn ethanol was doubling or tripling their grocery prices, non-biased observers knew the corn input costs were just pennies of the retail price of food.

However, with dozens of multi-billion dollar corporations and profits to protect, it's not surprising to see them attack our country's farmers and ranchers who are working to produce our nation's food, feed and fuel.

After all, they have a bottom line to look out for and pockets to line.

And now these same groups are at it again.  They see a new opportunity to undermine our domestic biofuels industry.

They're now arguing that our nation cannot afford government policies to foster further growth.

In other words, they're arguing that the cost of energy independence is too high, and we can't afford it.

They'd prefer we increase our reliance on fossil fuels and imported crude oil.  The unfortunate outcome of such attacks, however, is that less informed individuals begin to believe them.

I think it's important to review the true costs of imported fossil fuels.

In 2008 Americans sent over $450 billion to foreign countries to satisfy our demand for oil.  At $80 a barrel, we'll send nearly $350 billion overseas this year.

We rely on foreign oil to meet 60 percent of our oil demand.  And don't forget, much of the world's oil reserves are located in the Middle East.

According to the Energy Information Administration, oil price shocks and price manipulation by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have cost our economy about $1.9 trillion between 2004 and 2008.

Our need for oil accounts for half of our trade deficit.

The federal government's support for homegrown ethanol equals less than 2 percent of the money we'll send to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigera, and others.

The domestic ethanol industry supports 400,000 green jobs here in the United States.  Last year, ethanol contributed over $50 billion to our Gross Domestic Product.

It contributed $8.4 billion in tax revenue for the federal government.

The incentives we provide for ethanol production leads to a surplus of tax revenue for the federal treasury.

So, which is a better bargain?  Being dependent of foreign countries for 60 percent of our energy needs at a cost of $350 billion?  Or, keeping this money at home, creating green jobs, and increasing our national and economic security?

The choice is obvious.

So far I've only considered the economic costs.

Mr. President, this chart depicts just a small example of the environmental costs of our dependence on fossil fuels.

The first photo is one that we're all too familiar with by now - the explosion and ensuing oil spill at BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

The other photo depicts land in Canada where oil is being extracted from tar sands.

The fact is, fossil fuels are getting more expensive to extract, and are likely to come at a greater environmental cost.

The alternative is homegrown, renewable biofuels.

Today, ethanol accounts for 10 percent of our transportation fuels.  No other fuel alternative comes close to ethanol's contribution.

Domestically produced ethanol contributes more to our fuel supply than all foreign imports except Canada.

More ethanol means less greenhouse gas emissions.  A University of Nebraska study found that ethanol reduces direct greenhouse gas emissions by 48 to 59 percent compared to gasoline.

Ethanol production continues to improve and increasing crop yields mean we're producing more fuel from less grain and fewer acres.

Ethanol producers are reducing their energy and water usage.

Finally, Mr. President, it's important that we consider the national security cost of our dependence on foreign oil.

Oil from the Middle East accounts for 20 percent of U.S oil imports.

Seventeen million barrels of oil are shipped each day through the single most important shipping chokepoint - the Strait of Hormuz.

Fifteen crude oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz on average every day, with much of the oil headed to the United States.

Two of the other largest oil shipping chokepoints are at the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen.

To determine the true cost of America's dependence on foreign oil, it's important to understand the costs to the taxpayer of defending and protecting these shipping lanes.

A New York Times editorial in the late 1990's calculated the true cost of a gallon of gas, including military costs, at $5 a gallon.

Last week, I questioned four-star retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark on the true cost of gasoline.  He estimated it to be around $7 to $8 dollars a gallon.

Homegrown ethanol produced in the Midwest doesn't need a military escort to gas stations on the East or West coast.

Homegrown ethanol doesn't need the Department of Defense to protect its transport from farm fields to consumers.

Again, our nation's investment in ethanol is a bargain, and it's increasing our economic and national security.

That's why it's important that we continue our support of this industry.  Some have claimed that it's a mature industry, and it no longer needs our help.

This statement ignores the fact that ethanol is competing with a century-old industry dominated by Big Oil, which itself has received billions of dollars from the taxpayers for decades longer than has the ethanol industry.


Yet, ethanol detractors continue to undermine these efforts.

One organization estimates that a lapse in the tax incentive for ethanol would shut down 40 percent of the industry and result in the loss of 112,000 green jobs.  Let me repeat - 112,000 jobs that rely on the production of ethanol.

We can't allow the ethanol industry to follow the path of the biodiesel industry, which is essentially shut down because this Congress has failed to extend their tax incentive.

While President Obama spoke in his address on Saturday about investing in homegrown, clean energy, 45,000 biodiesel jobs have vanished because of the lapse in the biodiesel credit.

It's inexcusable.

President Obama touted the goal of creating 800,000 clean energy jobs by 2012.  Why not take action today to extend the lapsed biodiesel tax credit and immediately put 45,000 Americans back to work?

The same thing could happen to the ethanol industry if we fail to extend the tax incentive.

If you undermine ethanol, you're putting out the welcome mat for dictators like Hugo Chavez.

Last week, the senior Senator from Arizona questioned the wisdom of our domestic renewable fuels incentives.

He was quoted as saying, "Maybe we will stop doing this damned foolishness called ethanol subsidies.  It's one of the greatest rip-offs that takes place on the American taxpayers."

To those who would do away with our domestic ethanol production, I have one question:  Which country should we look to for 10 billion gallons of fuel - Saudi Arabia? Venezuela?  Nigeria?

Who would you rather support with your hard-earned money?

Hugo Chavez or the American farmer?

Supporting Chavez is insanity.  Sending money to people who buy guns to fight us is insanity.

We shouldn't be reducing our use of renewable fuels.  We should be increasing it.

We should produce all we can from corn, crop residues and other biomass.

We should increase the use of biofuels by mandating the production of flex fuel vehicles and increasing the availability of blender pumps.

Ethanol is here today.  It's creating a cleaner environment, keeping money at home in our economy and increasing our national security.

Undermining the only renewable fuel that has the proven ability to accomplish these goals would be insanity.

Senators again ask administration if plans are underway for large-scale de facto amnesty

WASHINGTON -- In response to the administration's silence and lack of a denial, Senator Chuck Grassley and 11 other senators again have asked top government officials if the Obama administration has plans, as has been rumored, to unilaterally extend either "deferred action" or "parole" to millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.  The senators are asking the Secretary of Homeland Security to reveal how many times the department has used its discretionary authority to let people who are illegally in the country to stay.  This authority is meant to be used only in unusual, emergent or humanitarian circumstances.

"The administration has yet to answer our letter about reports that it may be planning a large-scale, de facto amnesty program through deferred action and parole.  By shedding a little light on the numbers, we're working to get to the bottom of the administration's plans," Grassley said.  "If it wants to claim that discretionary authority is being used on a case-by-case basis, then let's determine if these cases are truly meritorious."

The letter was signed by Grassley, Thad Cochran, Johnny Isakson, Jim DeMint, Saxby Chambliss, Jim Inhofe, Tom Coburn, David Vitter, Orrin Hatch, Jim Bunning, Pat Roberts and Jeff Sessions.

Here is a copy of the text of today's letter, followed by the unanswered June 21 letter.

July 26, 2010

The Honorable Janet Napolitano

Secretary

Department of Homeland Security

Nebraska Avenue Complex

245 Murray Lane, Mailstop 0150

Washington, DC 20528-0150

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

We remained concerned about potential plans for a large-scale effort to offer parole or to defer action on undocumented aliens in the United States.  We realize that deferred action and parole are discretionary actions reserved for individual cases that present unusual, emergent or humanitarian circumstances.  However, we do not believe that such actions should be used for a large population of illegal aliens or used to bypass Congress and the legislative process.

News articles report that your department has denied the charge, stating that grants of parole or deferred removal are based on the merits of individual cases.  While we have not personally been assured that plans have not been drawn up, we are interested in data that will guarantee the American people that the Administration is not using these discretionary actions in cases that are not urgent or based on humanitarian reasons.

Therefore, we seek the following information about how the department is using its authorities. Specifically, we would like answers to the following questions no later than August 16:

· How many removal actions have been deferred each year over the past 5 years, including calendar year 2010, to date?

· How many times has parole been granted each year over the past 5 years, including calendar year 2010, to date?

· Of those granted deferred action or parole in the past five years, including 2010, how many have been provided work authorizations?  In what circumstances are work authorizations not granted?

· What guidelines and procedures are in place when the department considers using its discretionary power to defer action or grant parole?  Please describe the process from the initial request to the final approval, and please provide a copy of the written policies that employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Customs and Border Protection must follow.

Finally, in order to ensure that deferred action and parole are being used in a manner consistent with the law, we request to be notified in writing when the Administration defers removal action or grants parole to undocumented, deportable or inadmissible aliens.  We would further request a summary of the case and the rationale for using the discretionary action.  In that vein, we would like a summary (including demographic background) of the cases that so far have been approved in calendar year 2010.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

June 21, 2010

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear President Obama:

We understand that there's a push for your Administration to develop a plan to unilaterally extend either deferred action or parole to millions of illegal aliens in the United States.  We understand that the Administration may include aliens who have willfully overstayed their visas or filed for benefits knowing that they will not be eligible for a status for years to come.  We understand that deferred action and parole are discretionary actions reserved for individual cases that present unusual, emergent or humanitarian circumstances.  Deferred action and parole were not intended to be used to confer a status or offer protection to large groups of illegal aliens, even if the agency claims that they look at each case on a "case-by-case" basis.

While we agree our immigration laws need to be fixed, we are deeply concerned about the potential expansion of deferred action or parole for a large illegal alien population.   While deferred action and parole are Executive Branch authorities, they should not be used to circumvent Congress' constitutional authority to legislate immigration policy, particularly as it relates to the illegal population in the United States.

The Administration would be wise to abandon any plans for deferred action or parole for the illegal population.  Such a move would further erode the American public's confidence in the federal government and its commitment to securing the borders and enforcing the laws already on the books.

We would appreciate receiving a commitment that the Administration has no plans to use either authority to change the current position of a large group of illegal aliens already in the United States, and ask that you respond to us about this matter as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley

Orrin Hatch

Jim Bunning

Saxby Chambliss

Jim Inhofe

Johnny Isakson

Thad Cochran

David Vitter

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