Grassley Seeks Fulfillment of FCC Chairman's Commitment to Make Staff Available to Discuss LightSquared

WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has asked the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to fulfill his commitment to make agency staff available to discuss the LightSquared wireless project with Grassley staff.

Grassley wants his staff to have a conversation with Paul de Sa, a top FCC staff member who is described as the "father" of the LightSquared project, before de Sa leaves the agency next month.  When Grassley staff asked to meet with de Sa, the FCC's legislative affairs director responded that he was "not available."

In a letter to agency chairman Julius Genachowski, Grassley reminded Genachowski of his written statement to Grassley in October that he would "continue to make staff available to discuss this matter further" with Grassley and his staff at their "convenience."

"The FCC chairman should make this staff member available to fulfill his commitment," Grassley said.  "Otherwise, the words weren't meaningful.  And the FCC's lack of transparency on LightSquared and the questions it raises will continue."

An FCC official is quoted in reaction to Grassley's request to have his staff meet with de Sa as calling it a "witch hunt."  Grassley said, "Asking to meet with the 'father' of this project before he leaves the agency in a few weeks is due diligence, not a witch hunt.  Besides, if this top FCC official has time to meet with the hedge fund owner behind LightSquared, he should have time for a meeting with Senate staff trying to shed some light on a controversy created at the FCC."

Since last April, Grassley has been reviewing why the agency rushed approval of the LightSquared project without adequately exploring what turned out to be  widespread concerns of interference with the Global Positioning System devices widely used by the military, first responders, aviation, precision agriculture, and consumer navigation.

The text of Grassley's letter to Genachowksi is available here.  The chairman's letter from last October is available here.


Last year, Senator Grassley asked President Obama for clarification on the legal authority to implement the components of the President's announcement that he was taking unilateral action to reduce select borrower's student loan obligations.  Click here for Senator Grassley's letter.  The inquiry was based on the implication in the President's comments that he intended to go beyond the laws passed by Congress.

The subsequent response from the Secretary of Education indicated that, while the White House announcement had referred to changes to the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan that go beyond a law passed by Congress in 2010, the Department of Education was actually beginning the process to change the regulations governing the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, an older program with a more flexible authorizing statute that gives greater discretion to the Secretary of Education.  Moreover, while the White House's October announcement stated that this was part of a "series of executive actions" he was implementing and provided specific details about how the initiative would work, the Secretary of Education's response to Senator Grassley explained that the Department of Education was actually initiating a negotiated rulemaking process by which various stakeholders will meet to negotiate the final details of the new regulations.  Click here to read Secretary Duncan's letter.  In other words, the President's announcement is just an initial proposal and the actual details have yet to be determined.

Here's a comment from Senator Grassley about this revelation:

"I am glad to know that the Department of Education may not be flagrantly ignoring the law after all as President Obama's announcement initially implied.  However, the misinformation in the White House announcement that erroneously steers interested students to the IBR plan is still a potential source of confusion for students and financial aid advisors.  I hope the White House will issue a correction.  I also continue to have concerns about the potential costs of this initiative given the Secretary's refusal to answer my detailed questions about how the Administration's cost estimate was calculated."

For additional background, the October 25, 2011, press release issued by the White House cited the fact that, "Current law allows borrowers to limit their loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years" and gives a website for more information about the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan before going on to point out that, "...Congress enacted, a plan to further ease student loan debt payment by lowering the IBR loan payment to 10 percent of income, and the forgiveness timeline to 20 years. This change is set to go into effect for all new borrowers after 2014?mostly impacting future college students."  The White House announcement then states, "Today, the Administration is proposing to offer even more immediate relief to many current college students by giving them the chance to limit loan payments to 10 percent of their discretionary income starting in 2012."  Or, as the President said in his remarks at the University of Colorado the following day, "So today, I'm here to announce that we're going to speed things up.  We're going to make these changes work for students who are in college right now."

Saluting Service and Sacrifice

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Iowans will welcome friends and family home for the holidays this month to celebrate the joys of the season together.  Kids home from college and relatives from far and near will gather under one roof to enjoy each other's company.

For U.S. military families, the return of 45,000 troops from Iraq arguably wins the best homecoming present of the season.  Nearly nine years after the war started in March 2003, American troops have fought to defend freedom and protect U.S. national security interests in and around Afghanistan and Iraq. The men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line in service to our country have earned a debt of gratitude from the American public.

The American public cannot afford to become complacent about the mission and contribution of the U.S. military.  The military serves in many cases as the world's first and last line of defense for freedom, liberty and democracy at home and abroad.  Ultimately, it is the courageous members of the U.S. Armed Forces who serve on the front lines to protect our American way of life here at home.

Iowa has a long-held tradition of honoring members of the Armed Forces and the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard and Reserves.  Local communities and veterans' service organizations for generations have organized celebrations for hometown heroes deploying to and returning from military service, as well as memorials for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

In Washington, I work to square the needs of a strong U.S. military and the sacrifices of the taxpaying public.  Recently, I've worked to raise awareness and increase federal help for our members of the Armed Forces who suffer from service-related mental health conditions and injuries.  An increasing number of veterans return from the battlefield with invisible wounds.  In 2007, I worked with Iowa lawmakers to pass the "Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act" in honor of an Iowa veteran who took his own life after returning home from active duty.

Seeking to help military veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, I worked to help secure passage this year of a federal tax incentive that would make it easier for small businesses to hire qualified military veterans.  In recognition of their skills and service to our country, I've also called upon federal agencies to hire qualified military veterans.  As a result, the IRS has hired thousands of vets in the last four years.

During this season of joy and celebration, let's remember to salute the service and sacrifice made by America's veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Thanks to their commitment to duty, honor and country, America continues to be the land of the free and home of the brave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


Q:        Why do people have a beef with labeling the origin of the meat sold in grocery stores?

A:        A lot of people want to know where the food on their tables comes from.  Today, many food retailers are required to inform consumers about the country of origin of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, ginseng, and ground muscle cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat, thanks to legislation first passed as part of the farm bill in 2002, and updated along with the farm bill in 2008.  The origin of almost everything you buy in the United States is labeled, so it's a no-brainer to provide the same information about meat and produce.  Consumers deserve to know, and for producers, it's a positive opportunity to build consumer confidence.  Unfortunately, making the law a reality for meat labeling, in particular, was a long and difficult process.  For too long, the U.S. Department of Agriculture delayed implementation by relying on inaccurate information provided by meat processors and containing gross over-estimates about the cost of providing this information to consumers.  Before the 2008 update, congressional committees responsible for funding agricultural programs withheld funds for COOL.

Q:        What's the situation today?

A:        In November, the World Trade Organization (WTO) sided with Canada and Mexico in a challenge by those countries both to COOL rules and voluntary suggestions from the administration to provide useful origin information to consumers.  A trade dispute resolution panel of the WTO said the United States has the authority to require labeling, but the way our program works is unfair to livestock producers in Canada and Mexico.  That's baloney.  The labeling system in place in the United States gives imported livestock the same opportunity to compete in the U.S. marketplace that it had before COOL was implemented.  What's more, Canada, Mexico and other countries require country-of-origin information to be provided to consumers in their own countries.

Q:        What can be done about the WTO ruling?

A:        At this point, the panel decision either will be adopted by a WTO Dispute Settlement Body, or an appeal to the decision will be considered by a WTO Appellate Body.  Some groups are urging the administration to find a way to settle the dispute without further WTO proceedings, but it's time for top U.S. officials to appeal without delay.  In December, I urged the U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Iowa's former governor Tom Vilsack, to challenge the panel decision.  Eighteen other senators signed the letter which also urged these agency leaders to make sure that the COOL program meets international trade obligations while continuing to provide valuable information to consumers.  The administration's handling of this WTO dispute will be closely monitored by many of us in Congress.  I encourage them to take all necessary steps to defend our COOL regulations.  America's farmers deliver an abundant, affordable and safe food supply, and they deserve credit for it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley has nominated 57 outstanding Iowa students for consideration for appointments to the United States service academies.

"The young Iowans who want to serve our country and enter the academies are just remarkable for their accomplishments and leadership.  Every year, the candidates are an impressive reflection on our state.  These young people signal continued excellence in the United States armed forces," Grassley said.

Grassley said he has the opportunity every year as a United States senator to nominate current or future Iowa high school graduates for a select few academy placements.  The Air Force, West Point Military, and Naval academies each select at least one qualified nominee from Grassley's recommendations.  The Merchant Marine Academy makes selections in proportion to the state's representation in Congress.

Grassley encourages Iowa students to consider applying to more than one academy.  "The academies offer some of the best options for higher education, and they offer an outstanding way to serve our country," he said.

Students interested in obtaining an academy appointment should begin the application process in the spring of their junior year of high school.  Senator Tom Harkin and representatives in the United States House of Representatives also make recommendations.  The academies subsequently select students based on the number of vacancies available for the next school year.  Traditionally, the high quality of Iowa nominees results in several Iowa students being selected to attend each academy.

Grassley said he will make announcements when appointments to the academies are offered to Iowans.  The lists below include the names, high schools and hometowns of Grassley's nominees for the 2012-2013 school year.

U.S. Air Force Academy
Collin Ascherl, MOC-Floyd Valley High School, Granville

Brett Deters, Ankeny High School, Ankeny

Daniel Eichman, Dulwich College Beijing, Dubuque

Jackson Espeset, Ames High School, Ames

Ryan Giarusso, Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls

William Guthmiller, MOC-Floyd Valley High School, Orange City

Jesse Hahn, Highland High School, Ainsworth

Nicholas Heth, Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls

Hanna Hubert, Woodbury Central High School, Hornick

Noah Jones, Davenport West High School, Davenport

Isaac Kinrade, Maquoketa High School, Maquoketa

Felix Knutson, Home School and South Hamilton High School, Hubbard

Tyler Krpan, Indianola High School, Indianola

Peighton MacLeod, Northern University High School, Cedar Falls

Colby McGinley, Lourdes Central Catholic High School, Hamburg

Jeffrey Melton, Jefferson-Scranton High School, Jefferson

Tyler Reiser, East High School, Sioux City

Tyler Rottinghaus, Urbandale High School, Urbandale

Adam Wachholz, Home School, Ottosen

Mahlon Whitead, Sioux City West High School, Sioux City


West Point Military Academy
Hannah Adamson, Iowa City West High School, Coralville

Adam Christian, Southeast Polk High School, Altoona

Conor Dolan, Muscatine High School, Muscatine

Christopher Drew, Iowa City West High School, Coralville

Olivia Fairfield, Iowa City West High School, Coralville

Andrew Foster, West High School, Waterloo

Genna Gibbons, Dowling Catholic High School, Perry

Travis Mallo, Mason City High School, Mason City

Andrew Meyers, Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School, Reinbeck

Matthew Miller, Bettendorf High School, Bettendorf

Jack Oberman, Waukee High School, Clive

Daniel Rigdon Jr., Dunkerton Community School, Dunkerton

James Saker, Fremont-Mills Senior High School, Tabor

Wyatt Sann, Clarion-Goldfield, Clarion

Sean Steil, Wapsie Valley High School, Oelwein

Jindalae Suh, City High School, Iowa City

Aloysius TeKippe, Earlham High School, Earlham

Erik Thorgaard, Ottumwa High School, Ottumwa

Nick Osmonson, Sioux City East High, Sioux City

Timothy Yu, West High School, Coralville


U.S. Naval Academy
Jeffrey Critchlow, Carlisle High School, Carlisle

Nathaniel Dyett, Johnston High School, Grimes

Zachary Elsner, Boone High School, Boone

Samuel Kuznetsov, Bettendorf High School, Bettendorf

Tucker Nash, Jefferson High School, Cedar Rapids

Andrew Peterman, Bettendorf High School, Bettendorf

Matt Truninger, Northeast Middle/High School, Clinton

Daniel Van Horn, Glidden-Ralston Community School, Glidden

Chantel Blair, Jefferson-Scranton High School, Paton

Jack Randall, Spencer High School, Spencer


U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Logan Braadt, Ankeny High School, Ankeny

Benjamin Jacobsen, A-H-S-T High School, Avoca

Tyler Laska, Xavier High School, Cedar Rapids

Marlis Owen, Southeast Polk Senior High School, Des Moines

Brady St. John, Solon High School, Solon

Keith White, Benton Community High School, Van Horne

Haley Wireman, Valley High School, West Des Moines

*Chantel Blair, Jefferson-Scranton High School, Paton

*Jack Randall, Spencer High School, Spencer

**Nick Osmonson, Sioux City East High, Sioux City


*Nominated by Grassley for both the Naval and Merchant Marine academies.

**Nominated by Grassley for both the West Point Military and Merchant Marine academies.



Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Debate on the Balanced Budget Amendment

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mr. President, I am very pleased that the Senate is today taking up the Balanced Budget Amendment.  The Senate has passed a balanced budget amendment in the past. More recently, it has come close to passing a balanced budget amendment.  I regret that this amendment has not become law.  I believe that had the Constitution been amended to require a balance budget, we would not today face the dire budgetary situation that is before us.

The balanced budget amendment before us today is straightforward.  It provides that total outlays shall not exceed total receipts unless each House of Congress by a 2/3 vote agrees otherwise.  To provide spending discipline, total outlays cannot exceed 18% of GDP unless 2/3 of both Houses of Congress vote to waive the cap.  The President will be required to submit a balanced budget to the Congress.  To avoid balancing the budget by imposing tax burdens, new taxes or increases in total revenues can be imposed only by a 2/3 vote of both Houses.  And the debt limit will be able to be raised only if 3/5 of both Houses vote to increase it.

To provide a level of flexibility in wartime, the provisions on outlays and receipts, total outlays, and the debt limit can be overcome by a 3/5 vote.  To minimize disruption, the amendment will not take place for five years.  Finally, the courts cannot enforce the balanced budget amendment by ordering a tax increase.

Reverence for the Constitution is a sentiment we all share.  But the Constitution provides for an amendment process.  When it is necessary, each generation has amended the Constitution.  When a guarantee of free speech, or the abolition of slavery, or giving women the right to vote was necessary, the Constitution was amended.  No one said that reverence for the Constitution was the end of the matter.

We have reached that point of necessity with the balanced budget amendment.  The Congressional Research Service reports:

"The budget deficit each year from 2009 to 2011 has been the highest ever in dollar terms, and significantly higher as a share of GDP, than at any time since World War II.  Under current policies, the federal debt is projected to grow more quickly than GDP, leading observers to term it unsustainable."

The very purpose of the Constitution, according to its Preamble, was to extend the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.  It is because the growth in the national debt is unsustainable that our posterity may not receive those blessings.

It is hard to imagine an amendment more in keeping with the goals of the Constitution than this one.  Otherwise, runaway debt will expand exponentially.  A permanent spiral can be created in which the debt feeds on itself.  Take a look at Europe today.  Nations risk default when they overspend.  If we are not careful, the United States at some point will face that same crisis.  It is frightening to contemplate.

We hear from opponents that Congress can balance the budget now, without a balanced budget amendment.  But the fact is that it cannot.

For more than 40 years, Congress has been unable to summon the ability to balance the budget.  Statutes that sought to provide a path to a balanced budget failed.  The only exception was for three years going into this century when a financial bubble provided windfall revenues.  Because Congress has been unable to control spending, the budgets have been in deficit and the national debt has increased.  The only way that Congress will exercise the discipline to balance the budget is if the Constitution forces it to do so.

Forty-six state constitutions require that their budgets be in balance.  They meet that requirement.  As members of Congress, we take an oath to adhere to defend the Constitution.  We take that oath seriously.  If the balanced budget amendment became a part of the Constitution, we will adhere to it or face the consequences from the voters.

Mr. President, this amendment wisely contains effective tax limitations as an integral part.  I have favored a balanced budget with tax limitations for more than 20 years.

For decades, federal spending has far outpaced even the steady and sizeable growth in taxes and revenues.  Raising taxes does not produce surpluses.  The historical fact is that they spur more spending.  For every additional dollar in taxes Congress has raised since World War II, it has spent an additional $1.13.  Raising taxes would make balancing the budget harder, not easier.  Without a supermajority requirement for tax increases, a balanced budget amendment may well encourage tax increases, fueling greater spending, and the continuation of additional debt and costs of servicing the debt.

The failure to balance the budget is a fiscal issue of the greatest importance.  But it is also a moral issue.  Without a balanced budget amendment, our children and grandchildren will pay for this generation's chronic inability to live within its means.  In the absence of an amendment, the standard of living for future generations will likely decline.  The fears of many Americans that the next generation will not live as well as this one are in many respects traceable to decades of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the Congress.  This balanced budget amendment would mean a stronger economy, good government, and more jobs.

I believe the American people are willing to do their part to prevent future generations from being saddled with an unconscionable level of debt.  They are willing to do so even if it means that some federal spending they support would be affected.  This is especially true if our budgeting is done fairly.

Mr. President, I believe that if one listens closely to the arguments of the opponents of this measure, one will hear more arguments against a balanced budget than against a balanced budget amendment.  There will need to be difficult actions taken.  It is those difficulties that have prevented Congress from balancing the budget.  Those difficulties are therefore reasons for a constitutional amendment, not reasons against one.  But balancing the budget is necessary.  And it will take an amendment to do it consistently.

We also hear arguments about the need to run deficits when the economy is in a recession. The amendment before us permits Congress to vote to run a deficit in that situation.  But be skeptical of the argument.  If deficits and debt gave us a strong economy, right now we would be in the midst of the greatest economic boom in our history.  Obviously, we are not.  Deficits of $1 trillion plus and a national debt of $15 trillion are not stabilizing the economy.

In fact, I believe that the size of the deficit and debt is one reason the economy is not performing well.  The size of looming deficits and debt is another.  The markets are not viewing that debt as stabilizing a weak economy.  Rather, they view it correctly as a drag on the economy.

On the issue of enforcement, the opponents attack straw men.  They say either that the amendment cannot be enforced, so it is toothless, or they say that the courts will enforce it, leading to chaos.  Both of these arguments cannot be true.

The amendment will be enforced by the President submitting a balanced budget and Congress complying with the amendment, as do state legislators all over the country.  Members take an oath and voters will punish those who do not obey the constitutional command.  With respect to the courts, the text of the amendment prohibits courts from raising taxes.  And standing requirements, ripeness, and the doctrine of a political question will mean that the courts will continue to lack the power of the purse, as has been the case throughout our history.

Mr. President, in the past dozen years, Congress has been unable to balance the budget even when times are good.  Had we passed a balanced budget amendment when it was before us in the past, we would not have racked up the huge deficits that now confront us.

We have heard in the past that a balanced budget amendment was not necessary because Congress could balance the budget on its own.  Those arguments were wrong.

Today, we face one of the worst debt pictures in our history.  If nothing is done, the future will be even worse.  We owe a responsibility to the American people and to future generations to maintain the fiscal discipline that has allowed us to be the world's biggest economy.  Our pleas for a balanced budget amendment have been denied by a minority in the past.

We warned what road lay ahead if we failed to pass a balanced budget amendment.  Time has unfortunately proved us right.  It is not too late if we act now.  But time is growing shorter each year.

I urge my colleagues to do the right thing and enact a constitutional requirement that the budget be balanced.


with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


Q:        Why have you taken on the Federal Communications Commission?

A:        More than seven months ago, I started asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for information that would shed light on the agency's apparent rush to approve the LightSquared project.  Until public outcry, the agency was allowing LightSquared to move forward on a fast track with its plans for a nationwide wireless network, despite serious concerns of interference with the GPS systems used widely in military, aviation, emergency response venues, and even agriculture.  The agency has refused to provide the public with insight into its approval process.  This is of tremendous concern because the FCC controls a big part of the economy with its decisions about which companies can access highly valuable broadcast spectrum space.  The FCC conducts the public's business, and the public's business ought to be public.


Q:        Is there a way to make the FCC respond to your efforts for accountability?

A:        To date, the FCC has provided none of the information and found excuses not to provide the information.  Even the private companies involved - LightSquared and Harbinger Capital Partners (the hedge fund backing the project) - have promised to be more forthcoming than the FCC, even though the FCC is a public agency funded by the taxpayers.  LightSquared and Harbinger Capital promised to provide me with requested documents on their dealings with the FCC this month.  As a last resort to try to exhort more transparency and accountability from the FCC, I'll be placing a Senate hold on consideration of two nominees, a Democrat and a Republican, to serve as FCC commissioners.


Q:        What's at stake beyond accountability and the integrity of the FCC's approval process?

A:        This week, it was disclosed that Harbinger Capital Partners and fund owner Philip Falcone have received what's called a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  Last April, in my initial letter to the FCC on its decision to fast-track the LightSquared project, I noted that the hedge fund faced ongoing SEC investigations.  In July, I followed up by writing a letter that asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski if he was concerned about these multiple SEC investigations of Mr. Falcone related to market manipulation, especially since the FCC had granted Mr. Falcone's company a $10 billion victory with LightSquared following an unusual, shortened public comment period.  While the Wells Notice does not mean the SEC definitely will take action against Mr. Falcone and his hedge fund, it does show that the SEC staff believes there is sufficient evidence to consider recommending an enforcement action.  Now the FCC is faced with the real possibility that it made a multi-billion-dollar grant of valuable spectrum to someone who could be charged with violating securities laws.  When I raised this concern seven months ago, the FCC Chairman was dismissive.  Now, more than ever, the FCC chairman should lead the effort to provide documents and offer insight into how the agency decided to give Mr. Falcone, Harbinger Capital Partners, and LightSquared this multi-billion-dollar grant. The public spectrum is a valuable asset that the Federal Communications Commission is responsible for protecting.  It's unclear what would happen if a company gets access to a piece of this spectrum property and then falls apart.


Friday, December 9, 2011

***Supporting documents can be found here.***


Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Holding People Accountable for Gunwalking

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I have been investigating ATF's Operation Fast and Furious for almost 11 months now.

It is past time for accountability at the senior levels of the Justice Department.

That accountability needs to start with the head of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer.

I believe it is time for him to go, and I'd like to explain why I have come to that conclusion.

The Justice Department denied in a letter to me on February 4, 2011 that ATF had ever walked guns.

Mr. Breuer had been consulted in the drafting of that erroneous letter.

On May 2, 2011, rather than acknowledging the increasingly obvious facts and apologizing for its February letter, the Justice Department reiterated its denial.  Thus, when the Justice Department revealed on October 31 of this year that Breuer had known as far back as April 2010 about gunwalking at ATF, I was astounded.

This was a shocking revelation.

The controversy about gunwalking in Fast and Furious had been escalating steadily for 10 months.

The Justice Department had publicly denied to Congress that ATF would ever walk guns.

Yet, the head of the Criminal Division, Mr. Breuer knew otherwise and said nothing.

He knew that the same Field Division was responsible for walking guns in a 2006-2007 case called Wide Receiver.  But the real shock was how Mr. Breuer had responded within his own Department when that earlier gunwalking was first brought to his attention in April 2010.

He didn't tell the Attorney General.

He didn't tell the Attorney General's Chief of Staff.

He didn't tell the Deputy Attorney General.

He didn't tell the Inspector General.

Instead, he simply told his deputy to meet with ATF leadership and inform them of the gunwalking "so they know the bad stuff that could come out."[1]

Later, his deputy outlined a strategy to "announce the case without highlighting the negative part of the story and risking embarrassing ATF."[2]

For 18 months, the embarrassing truth about ATF gunwalking in Wide Receiver and Breuer's knowledge of it was successfully hidden.

It only came out because of the Congressional investigation into gunwalking in Fast and Furious.

The public outrage over Fast and Furious comes from average Americans who cannot understand why their own government would intentionally allow criminals to illegally buy weapons for trafficking to Mexico.

Next week, it will be one year since Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by bandits armed with guns as a direct result of this policy of letting guns walk.

The Terry family and all Americans who sympathize with their loss are rightfully outraged and astonished that our own government would do such a thing.

Yet when Mr. Breuer learned of a case where ATF walked guns in a very similar way, all he did was give ATF a "heads up."

There seems to be a vast gulf between what outrages the American people and what outrages Lanny Breuer.  Mr. Breuer showed a complete lack of judgment by failing to object to the gunwalking that he knew about in April 2010.

If Mr. Breuer had reacted to gunwalking in Wide Receiver the way most Americans reacted to gunwalking in Fast and Furious, he would have taken steps to stop it and hold accountable everyone involved.

Fast and Furious might have been stopped in its tracks.

When Mr. Breuer came before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism the day after those revelations, I gave him a chance to explain himself.

I listened to what he had to say.

He told us that he "thought that ... dealing with the leadership of ATF was sufficient and reasonable."

Clearly, it was not sufficient.

Mr. Breuer even admitted as much, saying: "I regret that I did not alert others within the leadership of the Department of Justice to the tactics used in Operation Wide Receiver when they first came to my attention."

He regrets not bringing gunwalking in Wide Receiver to the attention of the Attorney General, but what about bringing it to the attention of Congress?

He didn't even step forward to express his regret until emails that detailed his knowledge were about to be produced under Congressional subpoena.

It is astounding that it took the public controversy over Fast and Furious to help the chief of the Criminal Division realize that walking guns is unacceptable.

He'd had nine months after the February 4 letter to step forward, correct the record, and come clean with the American public.

He'd had 18 months after learning of gunwalking in Wide Reciever to put a stop to it and hold people accountable.

He failed to do so.

So during his testimony, I asked him point blank if he reviewed that February 4 letter before it was sent to me.

His misleading answers to these questions form the basis for my second reason for calling on Mr. Breuer to resign.

He responded that he couldn't say for sure but suggested that he did not review the letter.  He said: "[A]t that time, I was in Mexico dealing with the very real issues that we are all so committed to."

Now, last Friday the Justice Department withdrew their February 4th letter to me because of its "inaccuracies."

The department also turned over documents under subpoena about who participated in the drafting and review of the letter.

So imagine my surprise when I discover from documents provided Friday night that that Mr.  Breuer was far more informed during the drafting of that letter than he admitted before the Judiciary Committee.

In fact, Mr. Breuer got frequent updates on the status of the letter while he was in Mexico.

He was sent versions of the letter four times.

Two versions were emailed to Mr. Breuer on February 4, after he'd returned from Mexico, including the version of the letter that was ultimately sent to me that day.

At that time, he forwarded the letter to his personal email account.

Mr. Breuer's deputy also sent him two drafts of the letter while he was in Mexico, and he also forwarded one of those to his personal email account.

We do not know whether he did that in order to access it on a larger screen than a government-issued Blackberry or whether he engaged in any further discussion about the letter in his non-government email account.

However, we do know that in response to the draft received in Mexico, he wrote to one of the main drafters of the letter, "As usual, great work."

The Justice Department excluded Breuer's compliment about the content of the draft from the set of emails it released to the press on Friday.

That evening, Mr. Breuer submitted answers to written questions.  He wrote:

"I have no recollection of having [seen the letter] and, given that I was on official travel that week and given the scope of my duties as Assistant Attorney General, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that I did so."

So as late as Friday night, Mr. Breuer was still trying to minimize his role in reviewing the letter despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Why would Mr. Breuer say "great work" about a letter he claims not to have read?

It just isn't credible that someone like Mr. Breuer would forget about his involvement in a matter like this.

Mr. Breuer's failure to be candid and forthcoming before this body irreparably harms his credibility.

His complete lack of judgment and failure to deal with gunwalking when he first learned of it in April 2010, was bad enough, but this is the final straw.

Mr. Breuer has lost my confidence in his ability to effectively serve the Justice Department.

If you can't be straight with Congress, you don't need to be running the Criminal Division.

It's time to stop spinning and start taking responsibility.

I have long said that the highest-ranking official who knew about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious needs to be held accountable.

That standard applies no less to officials who knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.

Gunwalking is unacceptable no matter when it occurred.

Documents make clear that Assistant Attorney General Breuer was the highest-ranking official in the Justice Department who knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.

He did nothing to correct the problems, alert others to the issue, take responsibility, or even admit what he knew until he was forced to by the evidence.

Therefore, I believe the Attorney General needs to ask for Mr. Breuer's resignation and remove him from office if he refuses.

If Mr. Breuer wants to do the honorable thing, he should resign of his own accord.

Now I'm not someone who flippantly calls for resignations.

I've done oversight for many years, and in all that time, I don't ever remember coming across a government official who so blatantly placed sparing agencies embarrassment over protecting the lives of citizens.

He has failed in his job of ensuring that the government operates properly, including that people are held accountable.

Because of that, Mr. Breuer needs to go immediately.

Anything less will show the American people that the Justice Department isn't serious about being honest with Congress in our attempt to get to the bottom of this.

Just last night, the Justice Department sent a letter refusing to provide several Justice Department staff for transcribed interviews.

The letter explicitly goes back on the assurances I received when I consented to proceed with the confirmation of three senior Justice Department officials.

One of my conditions for agreeing to proceed with those nominations was that officials who agreed to voluntary interviews in this investigation would have either a personal lawyer present or a Department lawyer present, but not both.

I personally met with the Attorney General and he had that condition listed on a piece of paper in front of him.

It looked as if he had read it and was familiar with it, yet he never objected to that condition.

Dozens of witness interviews have been conducted under that understanding with no problem.

The only difference now is that instead of ATF witnesses, we are now seeking to interview Justice Department witnesses.

Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

There's no reason to change the rules in the middle of the game.

I was relying on the Attorney General and the other officials at the Department to honor their agreement.

Apparently, that's not going to happen.

Fortunately, Chairman Issa has the ability to require the witnesses to appear via subpoena if they refuse to appear voluntarily under the conditions that the Department previously agreed to.

I am confident that he will do that if it becomes necessary.  And, I will take whatever steps I have to take here in the Senate to encourage the Department to reconsider and stick to its original agreement.


WASHINGTON -Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation today to require open proceedings of the Supreme Court to be televised.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Constitutional Principles at Stake in President's Actions, Rhetoric

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

President Obama's latest media campaign is built around the tag line We Can't Wait for Congress.  Under this banner, he has announced executive actions for everything from mortgage and student loan relief, job placement for veterans, grants for health care workers and stricter funding requirements for Head Start programs.  The new slogan highlights the President's frustration that Congress did not pass his latest economic stimulus proposal in its entirety.  Instead, Congress has passed pieces of the President's proposal where there is bipartisan agreement and put forward other approaches.

A President being frustrated with Congress is nothing new.  What's more remarkable is the notion that the President will act completely independent of Congress.  "Where they won't act, I will," he said.

Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States says, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives."  Having had their rights violated by a King, our Founding Fathers intentionally put the power to make laws in the branch of government that is most directly accountable to the citizens.  Under our Constitution, the President's role is not to make policy unilaterally, but to, "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

So is the President overstepping his constitutional authority?  In some cases, the We Can't Wait slogan is simply being appended to actions implementing laws already passed by Congress.  For instance, job placement services for veterans have been around for a long time.  The health care worker grants were authorized under the 2010 health care law, and the Head Start reforms the President touted were actually included in a law passed by Congress way back in 2007.  On the other hand, the President's authority to change the rules for refinancing of certain mortgages and to offer more generous student loan terms to select borrowers is much less clear.  In fact, I wrote a letter to the President asking him to explain to Congress and the American public the legal authority he is claiming to implement the student loan changes.

If the President isn't usurping the legislative powers vested in the duly elected representatives of the citizens of the 50 states, he's certainly talking like he is.  The President should show leadership, which has been lacking when it comes to working with Congress on the politically difficult decisions needed to reduce the deficit, such as entitlement reform.  However, no President should even pretend to have the authority to unilaterally implement policies not authorized by law.  This attitude is particularly concerning given this President's history of bypassing Congress to implement his agenda.

For instance, the House and Senate have considered various proposals to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but no climate legislation was able to achieve sufficient support to pass Congress.  Nevertheless, in the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward with regulations for greenhouse gases under a law Congress never intended to be used for that purpose.  While a Supreme Court ruling cracked open that door, the fact that Congress pointedly did not authorize this step should have given the administration pause.  The President's Race to the Top education program is another significant overreach.  Congress bears responsibility for writing a $5 billion check to the Secretary of Education in the 2009 stimulus bill with minimal guidelines attached, but the administration blew past even those broad guidelines to implement an unprecedented federal intervention into state education policy.  The resulting program offered the possibility of big dollar grants to cash strapped states, provided they first changed state laws to implement specific policies favored by the Secretary of Education.  Most states, like Iowa, implemented the Secretary's preferred policies and applied for the funds yet never saw a dime in return.  In a similar move, with states clamoring for relief from the ever tightening requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the President has announced that he would grant waivers.  The catch is that states will have to adopt key components of his education reform agenda.  This is despite the fact that Congress is currently considering legislation to update federal education policy and may not adopt all aspects of the President's proposal.  Moreover, current law allows for waiving existing requirements on a case by case basis, but does not authorize the Administration to add new requirements in return.

We Can't Wait for Congress isn't just a bad PR gimmick, it contradicts the philosophy underpinning the American Revolution, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  It violates the Declaration's concept of "unalienable Rights" and the principle "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."  By contrast, the French Revolution was inspired by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote that claims of natural rights must be abandoned in favor of submission to the authority of the "general will" of the people as a whole, as expressed through a ruling elite.  This philosophy allows for a more active government, but has also led to some of history's worst tyrannies.  Our system of separation of powers, federalism and checks and balances, designed to protect individual rights, results in a more deliberative form of government.  This can be frustrating.  It means that the President cannot expect Congress to just pass his proposals without reading them.  However, America's founding principles have kept us free for over two centuries and the President shouldn't blithely dismiss them, whether in word or deed.

Monday, November 28, 2011