WASHINGTON - Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) are urging the Senate to act on legislation they introduced today to strengthen America's energy independence and create jobs through the production of domestically produced biofuels.

The bipartisan bill would extend, through 2015, the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or VEETC, which is also known as the blenders' credit; the small ethanol producers tax credit; the cellulosic producers tax credit; and the ethanol import tariff.

The senators said that extension of these policies is the right thing to do because biofuels offer an alternative to foreign oil and generate economic activity in the United States.  Today, ethanol comprises nearly 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply.  Ethanol produced in the Midwest replaces oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria.  Ethanol is good for rural economies, and a recent study found that the failure to extend the VEETC credit and the secondary tariff would result in the loss of 112,000 jobs nationwide and reduce ethanol production by nearly 40 percent.  Iowa would lose the most jobs at nearly 30,000.

Grassley said the lapse of the separate tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of 2009, has cost 29,000 clean-energy jobs and put 23,000 more at risk.  "We can't risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake."  Of the ethanol tariff, Grassley said, "the United States already provides generous duty-free access to imported ethanol under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, but the CBI cap has never once been fulfilled.  In fact, last year, only 25 percent of it was even used by Brazil and other countries."

Conrad said, "Our country is in serious danger because of skyrocketing energy costs.  This growing crisis demands urgent action. We must be committed to coming together in a bipartisan way to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, while aggressively pursuing alternative sources of energy such as biofuels. Extending these tax credits is a step in the right direction."

Grassley and Conrad are longtime advocates for tax incentives for biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.  Grassley is Ranking Member of the tax-writing Finance Committee.  Conrad is a senior member of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  Grassley is a senior member of the Budget Committee.

The bill they introduced today - the Grow Renewable Energy from Ethanol Naturally Jobs Act of 2010, or the GREEN Jobs Act of 2010 -- is cosponsored by Senators John Thune (R-SD), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).

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Monday, April 5, 2010

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services to account for the fact that the agency that runs Medicare failed to respond for over a year to credible information about fraudulent pharmacies bilking Medicare.

The pharmacies in question included empty store fronts that successfully billed millions of dollars to private insurers, where they were identified, yet Medicare officials completely ignored the warnings, despite repeated warnings.

"Every Medicare dollar that's lost to fraud is a tax dollar wasted and a dollar that doesn't go to serve Medicare beneficiaries, as intended," Grassley said.

Here is Grassley's letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

This information comes on top of Inspector General reports last year about the Department's repeated failure to respond to formal reports about programmatic flaws that led to Medicare fraud, waste and abuse.

Conservative estimates say that at least $60 billion in Medicare dollars are lost every year to fraud, waste and abuse.  Earlier this year, Grassley introduced a comprehensive bill, the Strengthening Program Integrity and Accountability in Health Care Act, to combat this loss in federal health programs including Medicare.  It includes better screening requirements to keep fraudulent providers out of Medicare, as well as a stop-gap to prevent the federal government from paying first and asking questions later about whether claims for payment are legitimate.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Senator Chuck Grassley today made the following comment regarding the release of the first report on the President's Executive Order on Ethics.

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order that prohibited former lobbyists from serving in his Administration, or recuse themselves from work they did as a lobbyist.  However, the Executive Order included a loophole that allowed former lobbyists to obtain a waiver or recusal allowing them to circumvent the revolving door ban.  White House staff said the use of the waiver or recusal would be limited and transparent.  After questions from Grassley, White House staff said that the waivers and recusals for lobbyists would be in a year-end report from the Office of Government Ethics.

A copy of the report can be found on the Office of Government Ethics' website:  http://www.usoge.gov/directors_corner/reports/rpt_exorder13490.pdf .

Here is Grassley's statement.

"This administration's promise that lobbyists would not have a place in the executive branch is losing credibility.  The report from the Office of Government Ethics shed some sunlight on how many lobbyists were appointed, contradicts the prior statements that lobbyists weren't welcome in the administration, and outlines that the administration has welcomed lobbyists through waiver, recusal and even no check at all.  It's this type of double-talk that breeds cynicism and distrust at the grassroots."



WASHINGTON, April 5, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley recently met with Jonathan Daters of Eldridge in Washington, D.C.

Daters, a junior at North Scott High School, was in Washington, D.C. attending the National Youth Leadership Conference.  The conference provides opportunities for students to discuss issues with private and public sector leaders, meet members of Congress and visit Washington's historical landmarks.  During their visit, students take part in group discussion and decision-making exercises to further prepare themselves for leadership roles.

Grassley discussed the opportunity that students have to intern in one of his offices.  "Being an intern is a valuable experience that allows students to get an inside look at politics and become more involved in representative government."

"It was great to meet with Jonathan," Grassley said.  "I enjoyed hearing his views and answering his questions about government.  During his time in Washington, he received a first-hand look at the federal government in action.  I'm glad Jonathan was able to see some of my day-to-day activities."

Meeting with young people has been a priority for Grassley throughout his career in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.  He enjoys meeting with nearly 60 groups of students every year.  To schedule a meeting with Grassley, visit http://grassley.senate.gov and click on Scheduling Requests under the Info for Iowans tab.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over tax policy, made the following comment in response to report from the Treasury Department in support of Build America Bonds.

"The thin 11-page report from President Obama's Treasury Department released on Friday fails to mention that, according to Thomson-Reuters data, California and New York did 16 of the 17 largest Build America Bonds deals.  Taxpayers from the rest of the country are bailing out California and New York under the Build America Bonds program, which offers state aid in the form of fat checks from the Treasury Department just for issuing Build America Bonds.  California and New York get a better deal from the program than states with better credit ratings, because the program simply pays 35 percent of the non-taxpaying entity's interest costs, regardless of how high their interest rate goes.  Of course state and local governments are going to 'save' money under the Build America Bonds program ? they're being sent checks from the American taxpayers that they don't need to pay back.  Also, some analysts are pointing out that municipal debt could be the next debt crisis, so it's fair to ask whether federal policy should encourage increased municipal debt that could contribute to a meltdown.

"This report confirms that large Wall Street investment banks continue to receive higher underwriting fees on Build America Bonds deals than they receive for tax-exempt bond deals.  Also, the report is simply factually incorrect.  It states that a 28 percent subsidy rate for Build America Bonds is revenue-neutral for the federal government.  However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's analysis of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget stated that a 28 percent subsidy rate for Build America Bonds will cost American taxpayers an additional $8 billion over 10 years.  The large Wall Street investment banks aren't satisfied with a 28 percent subsidy rate and have stated publicly that they want more.  Fortunately for the Wall Street banks, but unfortunately for American taxpayers, the House gave in to the Wall Street banks' demands and recently passed a bill providing for a subsidy rate as high as 33 percent.  Instead of looking out for just California, New York and Wall Street banks, I'm looking out for the American taxpayers who are going to be stuck with the tab."

Finance leaders say findings could help lower barriers to key U.S. exports

Washington, DC - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today requested a study of the market for agricultural products in China, including the effects of tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. agricultural exports.  In their letter to Chairman Shara L. Aranoff of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the Senators asked the ITC to cover a five-year period from 2004-2009 in its report, and to submit the report within eleven months of receipt of their letter.

"China is already the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural products, but there is room for substantial growth if we can reduce trade barriers to our exports.  The United States is a top exporter of wheat and beef, but we face unjustified restrictions in the Chinese market," said Baucus.  "The report Senator Grassley and I commissioned today will investigate restrictions on these and other agricultural products, so we can begin to remove barriers and send more of our Montana and American-made goods to China and create jobs here at home."

"China has become a major market for American agricultural exports.  But the potential is there for China to become an even bigger market for these products," Grassley said. "We need a better understanding of the tariff and non-tariff barriers that U.S. agricultural producers face in trying to export to China.  The study that Chairman Baucus and I have requested today will help.  Specifically, beef and pork producers in Iowa and across the United States stand to benefit from the elimination of non-tariff trade barriers that have no basis in science.  This investigation will shed more light on those barriers."

The text of the Senators' letter follows below:

April 1, 2010

The Honorable Shara L. Aranoff

Chairman

U.S. International Trade Commission

500 E Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20436

Dear Chairman Aranoff,

We are writing to request that the U.S. International Trade Commission conduct an investigation under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1332(g)) regarding competitive factors affecting agricultural trade between China and the United States.

Since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, China's imports of U.S. agricultural products have grown substantially. China is now the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.  Yet sales are highly concentrated in a few products?soybeans, cotton, poultry, and hides and skins accounted for more than 85 percent of Chinese imports of U.S. agricultural products in 2009.  Chinese imports of several globally competitive U.S. agricultural products, such as certain meat, feedgrains, and processed food, are limited.  With rapidly rising per capita income and resource constraints on domestic production growth, China has the potential to provide greater opportunities for expanding U.S. agricultural exports.

At the same time, several factors threaten the ability of U.S. agricultural exporters to realize these opportunities.  Chinese government policies aimed at boosting domestic production and curbing imports, non-tariff measures, including sanitary/phytosanitary measures and technical trade barriers, and increased competition from third-country suppliers, especially those with which China has negotiated trade agreements, are important factors that could weaken the competitive position of U.S. agricultural products in the Chinese market.

The Commission's report should cover the period 2005-2009, or the period 2005 to the latest year for which data are available.  In addition, to the extent possible, the report should include the following:

* an overview of China's agricultural market, including recent trends in production, consumption, and trade;

*  a description of the competitive factors affecting the agricultural sector in China, in such areas as costs of production, technology, domestic support and government programs related to agricultural markets, foreign direct investment policies, and pricing and marketing regimes;

* an overview of China's participation in global agricultural export markets, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and in those markets with which China has negotiated trade agreements;

* a description of the principal measures affecting China's agricultural imports, including tariffs and non-tariff measures such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade; and

* a quantitative analysis of the economic effects of China's MFN tariffs, preferential tariffs negotiated under China's free trade agreements, and China's non-tariff measures on U.S. agricultural exports to China and on imports from the rest of the world.

The Commission should submit its final report no later than eleven months from the receipt of this request.  As we intend to make the report available to the public, we request that it not contain confidential business information.

Sincerely,

Max Baucus                         Charles E. Grassley

Chairman                       Ranking Member

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Senator Chuck Grassley today released the following comment after learning that Renewable Energy Group idled its facilities in Newton and Ralston, laying off 22 employees, due to the lapse of the biodiesel tax credit.

Here is Grassley's comment.

"Pelosi and Reid were playing with fire when they played politics with the biodiesel tax credit.  They knew 17 months ago that this tax credit needed to be extended.  Instead they made it a part of the political mix for the last year by only including it with controversial provisions.  In February, Senator Baucus and I had a bipartisan solution that would have given biodiesel producers a chance to make it through the political storm.  Unfortunately, the Democrat leadership reneged on our effort and biodiesel workers are now getting Pelosi's pink slips.  It sounds more and more like we were sold a bill of goods when the current leadership said they wanted to turn the economy around with green jobs.  Instead, they are focused on winning political points while unemployment stands at 9.7 percent.  It's time to take action to reduce job losses rather than increase them."

 



WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded two competitive grants totaling $3,030,257 to the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa.

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

  • $2,745,257 to the Iowa Department of Public Health to help pay for the Ryan White Care Act Title II.

  • $285,000 to the University of Iowa from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to help pay for pharmacology, physiology and biological chemistry research project titled, "Evolution of Pre-mRNA Splicing in Primates."

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.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, today made the following comment on media reports that the President will soon name Dr. Donald M. Berwick as his nominee to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  The programs serve nearly one-third of all Americans.  The Finance Committee will handle the nomination.

"This is always a big job, but the administration of health care reform, which includes implementing the hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts and the biggest expansion of Medicaid in its history, will make it more challenging than ever.  The Finance Committee vetting will need to explore the nominee's preparedness for the enormous challenges that face the agency."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, today made the following comment on the President's recess appointment of two nominees that were pending in the committee.

"A lot of presidents have used recess appointments, but it shows a lot of disregard for the Senate's advise-and-consent role to bypass not just the full Senate, but also the committee of jurisdiction that was in the middle of vetting the nominees in its jurisdiction. Jeffrey Goldstein and Alan Bersin were undergoing the Finance Committee's vetting process.  The vetting was bipartisan, as it has been since 2001 and maybe before that.  Dr. Goldstein was answering my final questions about his prior work at a private equity firm that used offshore blocker corporations in the Cayman Islands to avoid U.S. taxes and his earning of 'carried interest.'  Mr. Bersin was answering questions from both the chairman's and my staff about what appeared to be conflicting information about his documentation and disclosure of various household employees.  In both cases, this due diligence was directly relevant to the positions these nominees will hold.  It's a blow to a 'well-functioning government', to use the President's term, that the President didn't see fit to allow the Finance Committee's due diligence to conclude.  Now that the vetting process has been interrupted, these individuals will take their jobs without the public knowing whether they have experience that bears negatively (or positively) on their ability to serve the taxpayers.  Also, the President should be more precise in his claims of Republican obstructionism.  Finance Committee vetting is bipartisan.  Beyond that, senators have every right to draw attention to an issue of concern by highlighting a nominee. It's something that happened regularly with Democratic senators and Bush nominees, sometimes before a nominee was even allowed to have a hearing in the Finance Committee."

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