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.

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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

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today announced that Iowa has received a $727,058 competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The funding will provide 65 percent of the anticipated cost of construction for renovation of the Medical Clinic at the State Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

"These funds will help improve the quality of life of those who selflessly served our country," Grassley said.  "We owe them a great debt of gratitude.  Further enhancement of this facility is one step in that direction."

The Iowa State Veterans Home is one of the three largest state-owned facilities for veterans in the country.  It is home to more than 720 residents.

 

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WASHINGTON - Several U.S. senators today questioned possible plans by the administration to unilaterally extend either deferred action or parole to millions of illegal immigrants in the United States.  Senator Chuck Grassley was joined by Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jim Bunning of Ky., Saxby Chambliss of Ga., Jim Inhofe of Okla., Johnny Isakson of Ga., Thad Cochran of Miss., and David Vitter of La.

"There's a lot we can agree on when it comes to dealing with the immigration problems in the United States, but this appears to be amnesty in disguise, and is simply an attempt to circumvent Congress," Grassley said.

Here's a copy of the text of the letter to President Barack Obama.


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

WASHINGTON - June 18, 2010 - The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a measure sponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) that would increase federal criminal penalties for drug dealers who entice children with candy-flavored methamphetamine, marijuana and other dangerous drugs.

According to law enforcement officers and drug treatment officials, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs are being colored, packaged and flavored in ways designed to attract children and minors.  Some have child-friendly names like Pot Tarts - named after the popular Pop-Tarts snacks.

"This bill sends a strong and clear message to drug dealers - if you target our children by peddling candy-flavored drugs, there will be a heavy price to pay," Feinstein said. "The legislation increases criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs in an effort to hook our young people.  New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner.  We must do everything we can to end the practice of purposely altering illegal drugs to make them more appealing to our youth."

"Drug dealers who target children by flavoring drugs to taste like candy have sunk to a new low.  These dealers need to know that when you prey on our youth, you risk serious prison time.  This legislation should make drug dealers think twice about selling candy flavored drugs to our kids," Grassley said.

The bill also has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Narcotics Officers' Associations' Coalition.

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June 14, 2010

Today the Obama Administration issued new rules that govern whether individual and employer-sponsored health insurance plans can remain exempt - or "grandfathered" -- from the new health care requirements passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in March.  The New York Times wrote, "... in some respects, the rules appear to fall short of the sweeping commitments President Obama made while trying to reassure the public in the fight over health legislation."  Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, made the following comment on the new rules.

"My goal in health care reform always is to fix the parts of our health care system that are broken, but still allow people to keep the things they like.  Today's new rules from the federal government on 'grandfathering,' which were crafted without any opportunity for public input, are just more proof that despite all of the promises made by the President and other supporters, you actually can't keep what you like under the new partisan health reform law.  Change is coming for a lot of people, whether they want it or not."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - JUNE 9, 2010

Chuck Grassley was named the hardest working Member of Congress in The Hill newspaper today, based on a survey of lawmakers, aides and other officials.   The Hill wrote that Grassley's "work on government oversight remains consistent regardless of which party controls 1600 Pennsylvania Ave." Here's a link to The Hill's feature.

Today's first-place ranking follows Grassley being named number 16 on a list of 100 most influential people in business ethics for being "a leading voice in the Senate speaking out against corruption and financial fraud."  The Ethisphere Institute said in December, "Even before the financial crisis of last year, Grassley's name always seemed to come up in financial fraud stories.  He is aware of what's going on and is aggressively going after those that commit fraud."  The Institute describes itself as "a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability." Here is the link to its Ethisphere article.

WASHINGTON  - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with exclusive Senate jurisdiction over taxes, this week joined the committee chairman to introduce tax legislation that would create job opportunities for veterans returning home from military service and help businesses create jobs.  This is the latest in a series of Grassley actions to help veterans and active duty members of the military.

"These men and women are extremely capable," Grassley said.  "They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace.  This legislation will clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans.  These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS' hiring of veterans.  The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans.  Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities."

The bipartisan Veterans Employment Transition Act will reward employers who hire qualified veterans who have recently completed their service in the military with up to a $4,800 tax credit for disabled veterans and up to a $2,400 tax credit for other qualifying veterans.  The bill eliminates the administrative burdens that make the current Work Opportunity Tax Credit provision directed toward unemployed veterans difficult for small businesses to use.  As a result, servicemen and women who have been recently discharged will be able to provide documentation from the Department of Defense without having to go through the tax credit's current certification process, which can be lengthy.   Any recently discharged veteran who has discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty is eligible. This includes those men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard.  The bill also requires the military to educate service members on how employers may qualify for the tax credit by hiring them.  The bill text is available here.

The introduction of this legislation follows earlier Grassley steps to increase veterans' hiring.  Beginning in 2008, Grassley succeeded in persuading the IRS to increase its hiring of veterans. At Grassley's urging, the agency hired more than 1,000 veterans in 2008, per a verbal commitment Grassley secured from the IRS commissioner, and hired an additional 700 veterans in the first five months of Fiscal Year 2009.  Grassley is seeking an update for the rest of Fiscal Year 2009.  Grassley initiated the effort after realizing that the Treasury Department, including the IRS, lagged behind other federal agencies in hiring newly returned veterans, even though the department had significant vacancies.

In 2008, Congress made permanent several provisions to provide tax relief for American troops and their families that Grassley helped to advance.  The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008, the HEART Act, was a bipartisan effort that incorporated most of the provisions in the Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act of 2007, which Grassley co-sponsored and promoted.  The HEART Act also made permanent and expanded upon some of the tax relief measures that Grassley coauthored in 2003, while chairman of the Finance Committee.

"Military service makes taxes complicated and sometimes unfair," Grassley said.  "People shouldn't suffer a tax hit to serve our country.  Military men and women should have fair treatment under the tax code. It's a no-brainer."

Last year, Grassley welcomed the enactment of legislation he cosponsored to help members of the military benefit from the first-time homebuyer tax credit.  Before this correction, members of the military were penalized by the credit's structure.  The correction gave military personnel serving outside of the United States more time to qualify for the credit.   It also eliminated the repayment requirement for military personnel forced to sell as a result of official service.  The legislation also excluded from tax any payment to military personnel to compensate them for loss in home value resulting from base closure.

Apart from tax work, Grassley recently has worked to address the ongoing and growing backlog of veterans' claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  He also cosponsored successful legislation that will ensure timely, sufficient and reliable funding for the VA health care system.  This legislation was supported by all major veterans' organizations as well as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Grassley also has worked to include several beneficial provisions in the Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.  This new law corrects a number of deficiencies in how the U.S. cares for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, enhances VA support for family caregivers, and expands mental health services.  In 2009, Grassley received the American Legion's Distinguished Public Service Award for his work on issues important to veterans.

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