WASHINGTON DC (December 31, 2019) — Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) marked a series of policy and oversight accomplishments of 2019.
“Serving the people of Iowa as their United States Senator is my first priority and it’s an honor that I take seriously. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and through my extensive oversight efforts, my work focuses on making government more transparent, efficient, and accountable to Iowans and all Americans,” Sen Grassley said.
Sen Grassley holds at least one question-and-answer session in each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year to hear concerns and answer questions on any subject from Iowans. In 2019, Sen Grassley completed his annual county meetings for the 39th year in a row. Sen Grassley holds meetings in a variety of settings to ensure that a broad cross-section of Iowans can participate, including businesses, schools, town meetings, and factory floors. Although the setting may differ from county to county, the format is the same: Iowans set the agenda.
In addition to his annual meetings, Sen Grassley attended or convened a variety of events and forums, including:
In 2019, Sen Grassley continued his social media series called #CornWatch and launched #SoybeanWatch. These gave followers an insider look at farming operations and tracked the progression of the corn and soybean crops grown on the Grassley family farm in New Hartford, Iowa from planting through harvest.
When the Senate is in session, Sen Grassley sets aside eight 15-minute meetings every Monday through Thursday to meet with Iowans in Washington DC, including advocacy groups, associations, chambers of commerce, and local business leaders, students and families. Throughout 2019, Sen Grassley met with more than 1,200 groups of Iowans visiting the nation’s capital and discussed a variety of policy issues affecting Iowans such as trade, tax reform, and prescription drug pricing. Sen Grassley also joined 25 Iowa schools for photos on the Senate steps or Q&As via video conferencing and, as an avid fan of Iowa universities, attended dozens of sporting events.
Sen Grassley was also sworn in to be Senate president pro tempore, a position that has historically been bestowed upon the most senior member of the majority party in the upper chamber of Congress. Upon his swearing in, Sen Grassley became third in the line of presidential succession following the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives. An Iowan has not held this position since Sen Albert B Cummins in 1919.
Highlights of Sen Grassley’s legislative and oversight work follow here:
As the senior senator of one of the top agricultural states in the country, Sen Grassley has been an outspoken advocate for farmers and Rural America.
While the Farm Bill is only voted on every 5 years, Sen Grassley has consistently authored amendments important to farmers, and pushed for careful oversight of the Farm Bill’s implementation to ensure farmers are being appropriately prioritized.
Sen Grassley led an effort to help family farms reorganize debt when they fall on hard times by authoring the Family Farmer Relief Act. Following passage in Congress, President Trump signed this legislation into law this year.
Sen Grassley joined the only other farmer in the US Senate, Jon Tester (D-MT), to address farmer mental health. Unfortunately, more than ever, farmers are facing tough times with sinking commodity prices, unpredictable natural disasters, and various trade disputes. Sens Grassley and Tester authored the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, which aims to curb growing rates of suicide in Rural America by implementing a voluntary stress-management training program, creating a PSA campaign to raise awareness, and directing the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state and local groups to identify best practices when responding to farm mental stress.
From year to year, unexpected natural disasters take place across the country. Grassley joined fellow Iowa Sen Joni Ernst as well as a few Senate colleagues from the Midwest in urging the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide timely livestock disaster assistance. Following the severe flooding across Iowa this past spring, Sen Grassley also authored an amendment, passed in the federal disaster aid package, which provided relief to farmers that lost stored grain during the flooding.
Sen Grassley, along with his colleagues, Sens Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging them to include robust funding for the US Department of Agriculture’s Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG). Sen Grassley spearheaded the effort to create the VAPG program in 2000 after hearing some of the business challenges facing Iowa farmers. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized VAPG as part of an umbrella program called the Local Agriculture Market Program and provided VAPG with $12 million per year in mandatory funding.
Always an advocate for the farmers in Iowa, Sen Grassley questioned Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky on the USDA’s crop-reporting program during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. Sen Grassley heard concerns from constituents around the state during his annual 99 county meetings relating to the accuracy and dependability of the crop reports and data collection tools. Censky acknowledged those concerns and reported that the USDA is actively working to make the crop reports more accurate for farmers.
Diseases like African swine fever have the potential to devastate entire sectors of US agriculture. With that in mind, Sen Grassley cosponsored the Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019, which will address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border. This legislation passed out of the Senate by unanimous consent.
The Senate passed Grassley’s Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which would extend whistleblower-protections for employees who provide information to the Justice Department related to criminal antitrust violations. This initiative is part of Sen Grassley’s decades-long effort to protect and empower whistleblowers. The legislation passed the Senate the past three congresses, but has not been taken up by the House of Representatives.
Sen Grassley joined his colleague, Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), in introducing legislation to ensure antitrust authorities have the resources they need to protect consumers. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act would update merger filing fees for the first time since 2001, lower the burden on small and medium-sized businesses, ensure larger deals bring in more income, and raise enough revenue so that tax-payer dollars aren’t required to fund necessary increases to agency enforcement budgets.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Klobuchar on bipartisan, bicameral legislation to curb the abuse of the FDA petition process and increase access to affordable prescription drugs. The Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics (Stop STALLING) Act would reduce the incentives for branded pharmaceutical companies to interfere with the regulatory approval of generics and biosimilars that would compete with their own products, a tactic that delays patient-access to more affordable medications.
Sen Grassley and a bipartisan group of other Judiciary Committee members introduced legislation that would enable the federal government to take action against price-fixing by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, would explicitly authorize the Justice Department to bring lawsuits against oil-cartel members for antitrust violations.
As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen Grassley also introduced legislation directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study the role and recent merger activity of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other intermediaries as well as possible anticompetitive behavior. The Prescription Pricing for the People Act of 2019 helps shine a light on the PBM industry by examining the effects of consolidation on pricing and other potentially-abusive behavior. It also requires the FTC to provide policy recommendations to Congress to improve competition and protect consumers.
Criminal Justice Reform:
Congressional appropriators this year unanimously approved $75 million in funding for implementation of the bipartisan First Step Act, which Sen Grassley championed and President Trump signed on December 21, 2018. This landmark law will reduce recidivism, promote public safety, and improve fairness in sentencing of federal crimes. Sen Grassley recently commemorated the one-year anniversary of its adoption with a speech on the Senate floor. Sens Grassley and Dick Durbin (D-IL) also communicated this year with the Justice Department (DOJ) regarding DOJ progress in implementing its criminal justice reforms. The two also joined Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) in touring a maximum-security penitentiary in Illinois and received a briefing on its current operations.
Congressional appropriators also continued funding, in a year-end spending package, for other DOJ grant programs that Sen Grassley led the Senate in reauthorizing during his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman. These include a formula grant program established by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. After convening a 2015 hearing that unearthed shortfalls in DOJ’s oversight of that program, Sen Grassley championed the Senate version of bipartisan reforms to this 1974 statute. He also led the bicameral negotiations that yielded the final version, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. Signed on December 21, 2018, its enactment represents the first time in 15 years that Congress has updated and extended these juvenile justice programs.
Sen Grassley also partnered with Sen Durbin this year in introducing the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2019. As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, he also participated in last month’s Senate oversight hearing, which focused on the Bureau of Prisons.
Sen Grassley’s extensive oversight work throughout his career has included a dogged pursuit for answers from the Pentagon over decades of wasteful spending and its inability to produce a clean financial audit. In the fall of 2019, the Pentagon released the results of a full financial audit, showing once again it failed to produce a clean audit.
Sen Grassley has conducted oversight to hold the DoD accountable for over four decades. Earlier this year, he sent a letter to then-Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M Shanahan seeking details about how the DoD contracts with businesses and other entities with respect to overpricing, specifically citing TransDigm Group Inc (Transdigm). Additionally, Sen Grassley asked about the DoD’s ability to collect cost data from those entities and how Congress can help DoD stop price-gouging practices. Sen Grassley also critiqued DoD’s contracts with TransDigm in a floor speech and an op-ed. He recently sent a follow-up letter to Ellen M Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, seeking an update on how DoD is confronting TransDigm’s costly price-gouging schemes.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in reintroducing the Military Justice Improvement Act in response to reports of mishandling military sexual assaults. Sen Grassley, with Sens Gillibrand and Ernst, also probed the DoD for its apparent failure to ask victims of sexual assault if they would prefer their case to be tried in a civilian or military court.
Additionally, Sen Grassley, in a July 2019 letter, continued to press DoD’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA) on allegations that contracts granted to Professor Stefan Halper were used to support potential partisan political or other improper or wasteful activities. A DoD Inspector General audit revealed significant flaws in ONA’s contract management practices, indicating ONA’s internal controls were weak or non-existent. In the July 2019 letter, Sen Grassley requested thousands of pages of documents related to Prof Halper’s contracts, and after months of back-and-forth with ONA, on November 14, 2019, Sen Grassley received a full production of documents. Sen Grassley plans to continue to press ONA on its contracting practices in an effort to shed light on the wasteful practices of DoD’s internal think-tank.
Sen Grassley partnered with his colleague, Sen Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), to introduce the Special Counsel Transparency Act. The measure would ensure that the work of DOJ’s Special Counsels is publicly available.
Sens Grassley and Mark Warner (D-VA) have continued communicating with the DOJ over the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by US Park Police in 2017. Sen Grassley first contacted the FBI in December 2018 about its investigation into the shooting, and the FBI responded in March with little information, prompting a follow-up letter from Sen Grassley.
In June, Sens Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and National Parks Service (NPS). The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, the NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information. The DOJ then announced that it will not pursue action against the US Park Police officers who shot and killed Ghaisar. Read Sen Grassley’s statement on that announcement here.
Sen Grassley’s bipartisan Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2019 cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. It updates criminal money-laundering and counterfeiting statutes. It also promotes transparency in the US financial system.
In April, Sens Grassley and Ron Johnson (R-WI), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, contacted U.S. Attorney General William Barr to express concerns that the FBI may have used a counterintelligence briefing to conduct surveillance on the Trump transition team. The sens’ letter inquires about the extent of the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition staff. Subsequently, in its review of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation, the DOJ OIG found that an FBI Supervisory Special Agent did attend certain counterintelligence briefings for 2016 presidential candidates and that at least one briefing was used for investigative purposes.
In October, Sen Grassley again joined Sen Johnson in sending another letter to Attorney General Barr, calling for transparency in the reported DOJ criminal inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation.
In addition, on June 18, 2019, Sen Grassley and other senators wrote to DOJ to ask why it has not required Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This letter is a part of Sen Grassley’s ongoing FARA oversight.
One of Sen Grassley’s top priorities has been to address the rising costs of prescription drugs. With Sen Ron Wyden, (D-OR), he introduced the bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which would save tax-payers more than $100 billion, lower premiums, lower out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries and provide peace of mind to millions of seniors. It cleared the Senate Finance Committee this year, and support for the measure continues to grow.
In 2019, Sen Grassley continued to lead the fight to decrease prescription-drug costs in other ways. He joined Sen Durbin in sending a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), calling for implementation of proposed regulations requiring pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements. Late this year, HHS made good on the promise and finalized a rule requiring price disclosure on TV ads for prescription drugs. That rule is being challenged by pharmaceutical companies in court, but its issuance represents great progress in much-needed transparency for consumers.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen Grassley held a series of oversight hearings focused on drug-pricing in America. He invited patients, parents, pharmaceutical-company executives, and pharmacy benefit managers to identify reforms that will help drive down the high cost of prescription drugs. Bringing more accountability into the drug supply-chain will help prevent sticker shock at the pharmacy counter for patients.
Sens Grassley and Wyden also partnered on a bipartisan investigation into insulin prices. They sent letters to leading insulin manufacturers, seeking information regarding recent price increases of up to 500% or more for insulin, a treatment available for diabetes for nearly 100 years.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Wyden in introducing the Right Rebate Act, which closed a loophole in Medicaid that has allowed pharmaceutical manufacturers to misclassify their drugs and overcharge tax-payers by billions of dollars. Sen Grassley’s oversight work on EpiPen led to the development of this legislation, which is now the law of the land.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in introducing the bipartisan Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act. The measure would crack down on anti-competitive pay-for-delay pharmaceutical deals, in which branded companies pay their generic competitors not to compete as part of a patent settlement.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in introducing another bipartisan measure, the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act. The CREATES Act, which recently was included in the year-end spending agreement, is expected to save tax-payers $3.7 billion, by removing obstacles to the development of lower-cost prescription drugs. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee last year, Sen Grassley led that committee in approving the measure, which combats anticompetitive practices used by some brand-name pharmaceutical and biologic companies to block lower-cost generic drugs from entering the market.
Sen Grassley reintroduced a series of bills aimed at giving students and their families a better idea of the true costs of higher education and equipping them with the tools needed to make informed decisions based on tuition costs, financial aid, and loan and repayment options.
The Net Price Calculator Improvement Act would improve the effectiveness and access to net-price calculators, tools that provide students with early, individualized estimates of higher-education costs and financial-aid figures before they decide where to apply.
The Understanding the True Cost of College Act would create a universal financial-aid offer letter so that students could easily compare financial-aid packages between schools. It would clarify what financial aid families would receive from a school, distinguishing between loans and grants, and create standard terms for the aid offered so that students could accurately compare offers from different schools.
The Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act would increase the amount of information students receive about federal student loans, including their potential ability to repay based on their likely salary, before rather than after signing up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt to Uncle Sam.
Sen Grassley again confronted the issue of academic freedom, authoring a Wall Street Journal editorial on this subject in September. He also sent letters to the presidents of Duke University, Harvard University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Villanova University, seeking information on the current culture of academic freedom on campus. Due to concerns that professors might avoid teaching certain material in good faith out of a fear of being labeled “biased,” Sen Grassley also sought details on relatively new entities, known as “Bias Response Advisory Committees,” at the schools.
As part of Sen Grassley’s continued oversight of potential foreign threats to tax-payer-funded research, he also sent letters to the National Institute of Health (NIH), DoD, and HHS. In addition, on June 5, 2019, Sen Grassley convened a Finance Committee hearing, “Foreign Threats to Tax-Payer-Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions.” Sen Grassley later worked to get the Office of National Security, located within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), access to government databases that it had yet to get access to. Recently, ONS gained access to some databases as a result of those efforts.
Sen Grassley also sponsored a resolution, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, designating the week beginning October 20, 2019, as "National Character Counts Week.”
As a champion of renewable fuels and an all-of-the-above American energy policy, Sen Grassley continued his extensive work to enact responsible energy policies throughout 2019. Sen Grassley has been a leader in the effort to allow the sale of year-round E15. After regular correspondence with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and meetings at the White House, instructed the EPA to begin the process of allowing year-round use of E15. The EPA rule allowing E15 to be sold year-round was finalized in time for the 2019 summer driving season.
Sen Grassley has also led the fight to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He led efforts to pressure the EPA to stop issuing “hardship waivers” to obligated refiners as well as make the waiver process more transparent and highlight the importance of the RFS to President Trump.
In July 2019, the EPA announced its 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the RFS that failed to account for lost gallons due to small refinery exemptions. After an oval office meeting with Midwest leaders, including Sens Grassley, Ernst, and Reynolds, the President directed EPA to issue a supplemental rule to account for future exemptions using projections based on past waivers. When the EPA changed the methodology in the supplemental rule, Sen Grassley criticized the projections and noted that Iowa’s senators and governor strongly support President Trump’s promise to uphold the RFS; and he participated in meetings at the White House to fix this mess. On October 15, the EPA released a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking. Once again, the EPA fell short of the mark as the rule does not live up to the September agreement we reached in the White House.
Much of Sen Grassley’s energy agenda focused on the RFS. Sen Grassley worked extensively with Senate colleagues, President Trump and the EPA to find ways forward on renewable energies and fulfill congressional intent on the RFS.
Sen Grassley, with his colleague, Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA), led a dozen senators in contacting the US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, about the Trump Administration’s changed circumstances review of antidumping and countervailing duty orders that were imposed only months prior on imports of certain biodiesel products from Argentina. The sens have pressed the Commerce Department to rigorously and transparently review actions by the Argentine government and industry to determine if revisiting the antidumping and countervailing duty rates is warranted.
Sen Grassley, with Sen Rand Paul (R-KY), also authored the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2019. It would remove burdensome regulations on domestic energy production. Government intervention in the energy sector impacts everything from fuel sales to how fuels are taxed, inevitably driving up costs and holding back new technologies. As a result, Washington has unnecessarily limited consumer choice and constrained the wider availability of new fuel options.
In addition to ethanol and biodiesel, Sen Grassley highlighted the importance of wind energy in Iowa and around the country.
Sen Grassley has received awards for his work, including the 2019 “Fueling Growth” award from Growth Energy for his strong support and consistent work on behalf of ethanol. He also was presented with the 2019 “Holmberg Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference for his tireless efforts to promote renewable energy, particularly in Rural America.
Sen Grassley presided over a historic number of federal judicial confirmations during the 115th Congress, including the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 114th and 115th Congresses, Sen Grassley rigorously vetted and reviewed judicial nominations to ensure our federal judges will interpret and apply the law as written, not legislate from the bench based on policy preferences.
President Trump has made an effort to nominate constitutionalist and textualist judges who understand the role of the judiciary in our constitutional system. Under Sen Grassley’s leadership, the Judiciary Committee oversaw the confirmation of a record 30 circuit court judges, which is the most circuit-court confirmations in the first two years of any presidency in history, and in 2019, the Senate has confirmed a record number of circuit-court nominees. These confirmations will have an important impact on our country not just for this Congress or presidency, but for decades to come.
Foster youth, adoption, families and elder care:
Throughout his congressional career, Sen Grassley has advocated for children and families. He continued his work on these issues in 2019 by developing a number of bills aimed at protecting special-needs children, preventing elder abuse, encouraging elder independence, and promoting funding for programs to improve family health.
Sen Grassley partnered with colleagues in both the House and Senate to introduce the Family First Transition Act, which would help states transform their child-welfare systems and keep more children safely at home, instead of placing them in foster care. This legislation, which recently was enacted, will provide states with the tools to successfully implement the Family First Prevention Services Act, which became law last year.
Sen Grassley also partnered with Sen Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, which would streamline and expedite access to federal housing-assistance to foster youth who are aging out of care. The bill also would allow assistance to be extended for two additional years if the youth is engaged in self-sufficiency activities, such as work or school.
After convening a 2016 Judiciary Committee hearing on the challenges facing children who come into contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, Sen Grassley joined with Sen Gary Peters (D-MI) to reintroduce the Childhood Outcomes Need New Efficient Community Teams (CONNECT) Act. This bipartisan bill would help states identify and meet the needs of these children, also known as “dual status youth.”
Sen Grassley introduced with Sen Wyden the Increasing Opportunities for Former Foster Youth Act. This bipartisan legislation would improve services for older youth who are aging out of the foster-care system. Specifically, the bill would provide grants for carrying out and evaluating programs that serve youth who are transitioning to adulthood, with the goal of helping them become successful adults.
Sen Grassley continued his many years of work on elder justice-reform, convening two Finance Committee hearings this year to highlight deficiencies in oversight of nursing homes. At the first hearing in March, he invited Patricia Blank of Shell Rock, Iowa, to testify. Blank’s late mother, Virginia Olthoff, allegedly was in severe pain and possibly was denied fluids for days before her death, while in the care of an Iowa nursing home. The facility previously had received the highest-possible ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for quality of resident care — although it also had been fined for physical and verbal abuse a year before Olthoff’s death. CMS, which participated in this hearing, announced sweeping changes to its nursing home oversight policies a few weeks later.
At the second hearing, “Elder Justice: A Call for Reform,” representatives of two government-watchdog agencies testified to the need for additional reforms to promote the health and safety of residents of long-term care-facilities that participate in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Sen Grassley, a longstanding advocate for elder justice, is currently developing reforms for inclusion in the draft legislation he is developing to extend Elder Justice Act programs. As chairman of the Finance Committee in 2006, Sen Grassley worked on an early version of the original Elder Justice Act. He also authored a related measure, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017, which was enacted last Congress.
As part of a year-end spending package, Congress this year approved $40 million to implement the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 2018, which Sen Grassley sponsored in the last Congress and the President signed late last year, as well as $2 million for implementation of “Kevin and Avonte’s Law,” a bipartisan measure that Sen Grassley sponsored in the last Congress to help locate those with dementia and developmental disabilities who go missing.
This year, Sen Grassley also developed a resolution designating June 15, 2019, as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to draw attention to the issues of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. He also sponsored a resolution recognizing National Foster Care Month, to boost awareness of challenges faced by children in the foster-care system. Both passed the Senate unanimously.
Good Government and Transparency:
Sen Grassley has joined several Judiciary Committee colleagues in raising concerns about a continued culture of secrecy in the federal bureaucracy. In a letter to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy, these senators noted negative trends in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including a lack of responsiveness to requests, long delays, and record numbers of FOIA lawsuits.
Sen Grassley consistently has advocated for transparency across the board in the federal government. He joined other members of Congress in expressing significant concerns with the Department of Interior’s (DOI) proposed FOIA rule, which appeared to restrict public access to records and unnecessarily delay the processing of FOIA requests. Following calls from members of Congress, DOI updated its FOIA policies.
Sen Grassley joined Sen David Perdue (R-GA) in leading an effort to cut government waste and ensure that only the highest-performing federal employees are serving the American people. They reintroduced the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement and Transformation (MERIT) Act, which would modernize the civil-service system by expediting the dismissal of underperforming employees to keep pace with changing workforce needs.
Sen Grassley has been monitoring recent reports regarding the World Bank. He sent a letter to the bank’s president and requested a briefing on a highly-questionable $50 million loan provided to an organization associated with the forcible internment of Chinese Uighur Muslims, a population that has experienced grave human-rights violations at the hands of the communist Chinese government. He also gave a floor speech about the World Bank continuing to lend enormous amounts of money to the Chinese government despite their record of human-rights abuses and role as the world’s second-largest economy.
On June 5, 2019, Sen Grassley held a Finance Committee hearing, “Foreign Threats to Tax-Payer-Funded Research: Oversight Opportunities and Policy Solutions.” Following the hearing, Grassley called for the Office of National Security (located within HHS) to obtain access to certain government databases, to which that office previously had been denied access.
On August 14, 2019, Sen Grassley wrote to the Treasury Department, asking about the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ Henniges transaction, which involved a convoluted mix of American- and Chinese-government-linked companies, including one entity that is managed by Hunter Biden. He has since received multiple classified briefings regarding the transaction.
On October 2, 2019, Sen Grassley sent a letter to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) regarding a number of leaks of highly-sensitive information in the past two years relating to the Russia investigation and now the Ukrainian whistleblower complaint.
On October 17, 2019, after sending repeated oversight letters to the executive branch, Sen Grassley received a final report from the State Department regarding its security review of Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton’s mishandling of classified information. That report identified 91 valid security incidents that were attributable to 38 individuals. The sanction for a violation includes suspension or revocation of the clearance, suspension without pay, or termination.
In December 2018, Sen Grassley’s staff interviewed two IC IG employees who were tasked to the Clinton investigation. Specifically, they interviewed them based on news reports that they had information relating to an alleged hack by China into Sec Clinton’s non-government server. On August 14, Sens Grassley and Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, publicly released a Majority Staff Memo and all supporting documentation regarding the investigation into whether China hacked Sec Clinton’s non-government server.
Sen Grassley reintroduced the EAGLES Act to expand efforts by the US Secret Service’s National Threat-Assessment Center to help communities proactively mitigate threats of violence at schools. The bill would establish a national program on targeted school violence prevention and provide additional resources to expand research and training on a national scale. The bill also would require the Secret Service to develop an expansion plan and periodically report to Congress on its progress.
Sen Grassley in September called on HHS to explain why it has yet to adopt watchdog agencies’ recommendations to improve accountability of grants awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In his letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Sen Grassley urged adoption by HHS of policies to enhance grant program-oversight and promote access to treatment of childhood trauma. Sen Grassley also requested an inventory of federal grant programs to prevent violence as well as metrics on grantee vetting and program performance.
With Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen Grassley reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act. The legislation improves school safety and prevents guns from falling into the wrong hands by ensuring that relevant agencies and institutions accurately submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Sens Grassley and Michael Bennet (D-CO) championed the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act. This measure, which passed both chambers in April and President Trump signed, will provide children with complex medical needs, such as Down syndrome, the coordination of care needed to enjoy the healthiest life possible.
In April, Sen Grassley joined Sen Thom Tillis (R-NC) in introducing the Protect Act. This legislation would guarantee that Americans have health-care coverage, regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions.
Sen Grassley in January originated a letter to the HHS Secretary, cosigned by a bipartisan group of 21 other senators, questioning recent changes to our national liver-distribution policy. These changes could adversely impact rural communities in certain regions of the country. In December, Sen Grassley initiated a related letter, cosigned by Sen Todd Young (R-IN), which calls for the Acting Inspector General at HHS to initiate a comprehensive examination of the adequacy of our nation’s organ procurement and transplantation system.
To reduce regulatory burdens on hospitals in rural or remote areas, Sen Grassley called for CMS to update its guidance on the agency’s co-location policy. Co-location arrangements enable hospitals in these areas to partner with other hospitals and health-care providers to offer a wider range of services. In June, Sen Grassley submitted policy suggestions for CMS as the agency finalizes new guidance clarifying how CMS and state surveyors will evaluate the use of shared space, shared staff, and contracted services by hospitals that are co-located with other hospitals and health-care providers under the Medicare program.
To better understand other unique challenges facing rural hospitals across the country, Sen Grassley also participated in an August event sponsored by a Washington DC-based research institution in Des Moines, Iowa. The sen’s keynote speech highlighted the importance of telehealth in solving some challenges facing rural communities today.
Sen Grassley also requested specific information from the IRS regarding its oversight of nonprofit hospitals, after media reports emerged on this subject questioning whether these hospitals met the criteria for tax-exempt status, whether they served their communities appropriately, and whether they served individuals in need regardless of ability to pay. Sen Grassley later sent letters to the University of Virginia Health System and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee, requesting information about their billing and debt-collection practices with respect to low-income patients.
To improve the efficiency of the Medicare appeals process, Sens Grassley and Wyden this year reintroduced the Audit & Appeals Fairness, Integrity, and Reforms in Medicare (AFIRM) Act. This bipartisan bill would equip the HHS Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals with new tools to resolve outstanding appeals cases in a more cost-effective manner.
Sen Grassley also continued his oversight of the Medicaid program, initiating an October letter to the CMS Administrator that cites government audits showing that at least a dozen state Medicaid agencies improperly made payments for the deceased in recent years. (In at least one state, such improper payments continued for as long as two years after the beneficiary’s date of death.) Sen Grassley called for greater federal leadership in this area to help reduce program payment risks.
With his Republican colleagues on the Finance Committee, Sen Grassley also released a report on Medicaid supplemental-payments to providers. This report was issued to raise public awareness and initiate a congressional conversation about the transparency of provider payments and the importance of meeting their needs.
Sen Grassley this year pressed the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for answers to questions about lax oversight of federal spending by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and delays in implementing reforms that HUD pledged three years ago to implement. Over 3,300 PHAs across the country receive millions of dollars in the annual congressional appropriations process. These funds are appropriated to support housing for low-income households. But many PHAs — including the country’s largest — use a portion of those funds to cover “fees” for property management and other services to the housing projects they operate.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Ernst on a bill and an amendment to require public housing agencies that have jurisdiction over the area in which a portable family is seeking to use the voucher received from the initial public housing agency to absorb them or cover the full cost if they have the funds available to do so. Iowa public housing agencies lost 530 vouchers in 2018 with housing-assistance payment-funding of $209,575 per month and administrative fees funding of $9,617.10 per month. This means that the housing authorities have less vouchers and funding to help Iowans in need.
Illegal and illicit drugs:
In October, Sen Grassley convened a Finance Committee hearing on the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a new statute which passed Congress with overwhelming support. The Surgeon General testified to HHS’s efforts to implement the statute’s provisions to combat the national opioid crisis, while other witnesses discussed instances of addiction treatment fraud in a growing number of states. In a June letter to HHS and CMS, Sen Grassley also pressed for implementation of recommended strategies to combat opioid misuse and abuse in Medicare and other health-care programs.
Sens Grassley and Wyden also continued their investigation into the financial relationship between opioid manufacturers and tax-exempt organizations. They sent letters to 10 tax-exempt organizations, seeking to understand how pharmaceutical manufacturers’ donations to these organizations affected their advocacy for specific pain-treatment strategies.
In addition, Sens Grassley and Ernst sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to address the increased volume of methamphetamine being smuggled from Mexico into the United States. Grassley also met with the US Drug Czar, Jim Carroll, in Iowa to discuss methamphetamine and how to combat the addiction crisis in Iowa.
Sen Grassley introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Stop Importation and Manufacturing of Synthetic Analogues (SIMSA) Act. The proposal is designed to help law enforcement more rapidly respond to the fast-paced modification of synthetic drugs such as analogues to fentanyl, which have contributed to a spike in overdose deaths in the opioid epidemic.
Sen Grassley partnered with Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in introducing the bipartisan SARMs Control Act of 2019. The bill’s purpose is to crack down on synthetic variations of performance-enhancing drugs that are illegally marketed as dietary supplements. Selective androgen receptor-modulators, or SARMs, are synthetic drugs designed to mimic controlled substances and are often used as performance enhancers. SARMs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use.
Sen Grassley joined his colleagues, Sens Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), and Durbin (D-IL), to introduce the Preventing Pill Mills Through Data Sharing Act. This legislation would equip the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with additional tools to hold drug distributors, manufacturers, and pharmacies accountable for identifying, reporting, and stopping suspicious orders of controlled substances.
Sen Grassley also partnered with his colleagues Sens Feinstein and Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce a bill to expand cannabidiol and marijuana medical research.
In 2019, Iowa faced devastating flooding across the state. Sen Grassley visited many of the affected areas and authored an amendment, which was included in the final disaster-relief package, to assist Iowans affected by the flooding.
Sens Grassley and Ernst held a hearing in Southwest Iowa, focused on Corps of Engineers management of the Missouri River. They closely monitored the situation along the western border and sent multiple letters to the Corps, seeking updates. They also sponsored several bills regarding flood recovery and management of the Missouri River. They continue to work with affected communities, the State of Iowa, and federal departments and agencies on recovery and resiliency.
Sens Grassley and Ernst also pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the FCC’s role in ensuring the accuracy of broadband maps. “According to your 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, more than three in four rural Iowans have access to broadband. More broadly, the report indicates that 90.5 percent of all Iowans have access to broadband. As much as we wish that were the case, we can tell you that the FCC data drastically overstates broadband-access throughout our state,” the senators wrote. Congress passed the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act to help the FCC accomplish the goal of enhanced reporting and more accurate data, which will ensure federal broadband funding is able to serve Iowa communities that need it.
Grassley cosponsored the congressionally passed, bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. This legislation will bring some much-needed relief from robocalls and enhance enforcers efforts to pursue and punish violators and scammers.
Immigration and Visas:
On the third anniversary of Sarah Root’s death, Sens Grassley and Ernst joined Sens Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) in reintroducing Sarah’s Law, to allow federal law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person. On January 31, 2016 — the night of her graduation — Sarah Root, a twenty-one year-old Iowan from Council Bluffs, was struck and killed in Omaha, Nebraska, by Edwin Mejia, who entered the country illegally and was driving drunk. He was three times over the legal limit.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Leahy to tackle fraud, abuse, and national-security threats in the EB-5 Investor Visa Program. The EB-5 Reform and Integrity Act reauthorizes the EB-5 regional center program through 2024. It also expands DHS authorities to evaluate EB-5 applications and includes additional transparency and integrity measures to improve accountability of applicants, project managers, and the projects themselves.
Sen Grassley has been a long-time supporter of the E-verify program and reintroduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act, which would permanently authorize and require employers to use the E-Verify program. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that assists employers in determining the eligibility of employees to work in the United States.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in authoring legislation to prevent exploitation of children who enter the country without parents or guardians. The Accountability for Care of Unaccompanied Alien Children Act strengthens background checks of potential sponsors seeking custody of a migrant child.
Sen Grassley also joined Rep Thomas Tillis (R-NC) to introduce the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, legislation that holds sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for jeopardizing public safety and failing to comply with lawful detainer and release notification requests made by federal authorities.
Sen Grassley sought information on a number of cases in which a crime was carried out by someone who was in the United States illegally. Sen Grassley sought details on the immigration history of Marvin Oswaldo Esquivel Lopez, who allegedly murdered Rossibeth Flores Rodriguez and her two children in Des Moines, Iowa. According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Esquivel Lopez was previously deported from the United States in 2010 and 2011.
Sen Grassley partnered with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to introduce Singh’s Law, legislation that would bar criminal aliens associated with a criminal gang from entering the United States. Foreign nationals with gang associations would also be disqualified from receiving asylum, temporary protected status, special immigrant juvenile visas, and other forms of relief from removal. The bill is named in honor of Corporal Ronil Singh, a police officer in Newman, California, who was killed on December 26, 2018. An illegal immigrant with known gang affiliations and two prior DUI arrests has been charged with murdering Corporal Singh.
To honor the service and sacrifice made by the men and women in law enforcement, Sen Grassley supported a resolution designating the week of May 12 through May 18, 2019, as "National Police Week." It passed the Senate by unanimous consent. During Police Week, Sen Grassley also cosponsored the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Gillibrand to introduce the Protecting America’s First Responders Act, which would update the definition of disability to ensure that officers who are permanently unable to secure meaningful gainful employment following a catastrophic injury in the line of duty remain eligible for benefits. This bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and also passed the full Senate. It now awaits consideration by the House. Sen Grassley had previously sent a letter to Attorney General Barr raising concerns about this program.
Sen Grassley, with Sens Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Roy Blunt (R-MO), introduced a bill to track law-enforcement suicides. The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act requires the FBI to collect voluntarily-submitted, anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Collecting this data will help inform policy solutions to promote prevention of law-enforcement suicides.
Sen Grassley cosponsored the bipartisan Defending Elections against Trolls from Enemy Regimes (DETER) Act. It makes “improper interference in US elections” a violation of US immigration law, preventing violators from obtaining a visa to enter the United States. A provision authored by Sen Grassley also makes violators deportable. This legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen Grassley joined Sen Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in writing Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan to express concern over the rise in domestic non-Foreign Terrorist Organization-inspired terrorism over the last few years. Their letter also requests information about DHS efforts to mitigate and prevent this threat in order to protect the safety and security of Americans.
Sen Grassley also joined Sens James Lankford (R-OK) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to introduce the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which seeks to promote justice for US victims of international terrorism and encourage security cooperation among US, Israeli, and Palestinian security forces. The bill is designed to ensure access to courts for Americans who were injured or killed by acts of terrorism while abroad. Recent federal-court decisions created loopholes in longstanding US anti-terrorism law, allowing certain foreign actors to evade US court jurisdiction when they support or carry out acts of terrorism against American citizens.
On June 10, 2019, Sens Grassley and Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote to the HHS OIG to request a review of whether CMS has made payments for genetic testing to US entities with ties to the Chinese government. The letter also asks about whether CMS considers national-security risks when determining whether payments to entities linked to the Chinese government are permissible. The HHS OIG has agreed to perform a review of whether CMS considers national-security risks before certifying laboratories that conduct genomic testing.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Whitehouse to introduce legislation that would make it more difficult for criminals and foreign enemies to hide assets from law enforcement and tax authorities. The True Incorporation Transparency for Law Enforcement (TITLE) Act would require states to obtain information on the true owners of corporations and LLCs formed within their borders.
As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen Grassley carried out the Senate’s constitutionally-mandated “advice and consent” responsibilities respecting presidential nominations to many key departments and agencies. During 2019, the Finance Committee reported 15 individual nominations to the full Senate and 14 of those have been confirmed, including:
- The first Commissioner of Social Security to be confirmed by the Senate in over a decade;
- The Chief Counsel to the Internal Revenue Service;
- The Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation;
- Two nominees to the International Trade Commission;
- Three nominees to the U.S. Tax Court; and
- Other nominations to important positions at the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce, and the Social Security Administration.
Reform to Victims Rights Laws:
Sen Grassley in 2019 continued his work to prevent abuse of young athletes, by calling on the US Olympic Committee in January to detail its efforts to support amateur athletes affected by a recent sexual-assault scandal. Sen Grassley met with the Olympic Committee’s CEO, and in a January 2019 letter, pressed for changes to prevent future abuses in sports. Sen Grassley issued his letter a year after Dr Larry Nassar was first sentenced for sexually abusing scores of young gymnasts — several of whom who had testified before a 2017 hearing that Sen Grassley convened as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Sen Grassley this year introduced legislation, the Stopping Abuse From Entering Sports, Promoting Oversight, Responsibility, and Transparency (SAFESPORT) Act Of 2019. It builds on an earlier measure that Sen Grassley cosponsored and shepherded through the Judiciary Committee in 2018, during his tenure as that committee’s chairman. His latest proposal includes funding-accountability measures, anti-retaliation protections, child-abuse reporting requirements, and other reforms. The Senate Commerce Committee approved many of its provisions during consideration of a larger package of reforms to the Ted Stevens Act in November.
Sen Grassley also sponsored bipartisan legislation to aid victims of domestic violence. The bill, which Sens Klobuchar and Capito joined as cosponsors, extends funding for programs authorized by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), a landmark law enacted in 1984 that directs funding to states and tribes to make supportive services such as emergency shelters, counseling, and more available to survivors of domestic abuse and their dependents. The bill also extends funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It was merged with a related measure, introduced by Sen Casey and incorporated into a broader CAPTA reauthorization package, which cleared the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in December.
Sen Grassley also joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate to introduce legislation to promote justice for additional survivors of crimes of sexual violence across the country. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act encourages states to adopt the same protections for survivors of state sex crimes that already exist at the federal level (under related legislation that Sen Grassley championed several years ago).
Sen Grassley and a bipartisan coalition of senators also reintroduced legislation, entitled the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would combat sexual assault on college and university campuses.
Congress this year continued, in a year-end spending-package, funding for federal grant programs to combat domestic human trafficking, which Sen Grassley led the Senate in adopting during his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman. These include the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017, which Sen Grassley sponsored, and the complementary Abolish Human Trafficking Act, both of which President Trump signed. One provision of Sen Grassley’s legislation calls for the creation of a new Public-Private Council to End Human Trafficking, to which an Iowan was appointed with Sen Grassley’s support.
Sen Grassley also joined his colleagues in introducing several bipartisan Senate resolutions to support victims of sexual and domestic violence. One expresses support for National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month; a second supports the goals and ideals of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; and a third designates January 2019 as National Stalking Awareness Month. These measures passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Sens Grassley and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced bipartisan legislation in 2019 to restore veterans’ Second Amendment rights. Under current practice, once the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns a fiduciary to help a veteran manage benefit payments, the VA will report that veteran’s name to the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS), commonly known as the national gun ban list. Once on the gun-ban list, a veteran is outlawed from owning or possessing firearms, resulting in some veterans who are perfectly safe to own firearms being denied their constitutional rights. The Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights Restoration Act of 2019 would require that before the VA reports a veteran’s name to the DOJ for placement on the NICS, the VA must first find and prove that a veteran is a danger to self or others.
Sen Grassley was instrumental in the crafting and passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Trump. Throughout 2019, tax-payers across the country saw the benefits of these important tax reforms.
After assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee in January, Grassley worked closely with the Treasury Department as it issued regulations and other guidance related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which provided clarity to farmers, cooperatives, and businesses — small to large — on changes to the business tax rules including the 20-percent deduction for pass-through businesses, the opportunity zones initiative, and international tax laws.
Sen Grassley joined the Finance Committee’s ranking member, Sen Wyden, to address temporary tax policies this year. They introduced bipartisan legislation to extend retroactively tax provisions that expired at the end of 2017 and 2018 through the balance of this year and provide disaster tax-relief benefits to individuals and businesses affected by major disasters occurring in 2018. While most of the provisions were extended through 2020 in the year-end spending, the package also included longer-term extensions for the biodiesel and short-line railroad credits, and the disaster relief was also included. Additionally, the Finance Committee launched bipartisan taskforces to find long-term solutions to temporary tax policy. Summaries of their findings can be found here.
Sen Grassley worked with Sen Wyden to support the Treasury Department’s participation in the multilateral process at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is intended to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the global economy. In letters and other communications throughout 2019, Sens Grassley and Wyden expressed their strong bipartisan opposition to unilateral digital services taxes (DSTs) that target and discriminate against US-based companies operating around the world. Sen Grassley continues to support the OECD multilateral process so that a global consensus on a modern international-tax architecture can be achieved, unilateral DSTs can be repealed or otherwise not implemented, and the potential for US responses to DSTs, such as the US Trade Representative’s proposed duties on certain French products in response to France’s enactment of its DST, can be avoided.
Sens Grassley and Wyden also partnered to introduce the Tax-Payer First Act of 2019, major bipartisan legislation to modernize the IRS, improve tax-payer services and strengthen tax-payer protections. The legislation is the product of years of bicameral, bipartisan work between the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. This critical bill passed Congress and was signed into law by the President in June.
Sens Grassley and Wyden have opened an investigation into syndicated conservation-easement transactions, which are transactions that use the charitable-deduction provision of the tax code to encourage landowners to conserve their properties for future generations. But according to the IRS and some conservation groups, these types of transactions can easily turn into abusive tax-shelters, and this investigation focuses on getting to the bottom of such allegations.
Sen Grassley was instrumental in creating the IRS’s bipartisan Private Debt Collection Program (as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2004) and in ensuring its reinstatement in 2015, after the IRS terminated the program in 2009 following a flawed study. Data released by the IRS on the program shows that the program is succeeding at increasing government tax-revenue collections by collecting taxes due and owed, and all without raising taxes.
Sen Grassley also joined several of his colleagues in re-introducing legislation to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, more commonly known as the death tax.
Throughout his time in Congress, Sen Grassley has advocated for retirement savings reform. He authored the Retirement Enhancement and Savings (RESA) Act of 2019, which formed the basis of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 that passed the House in June and was included in the year-end appropriations package. The legislation will help more Americans save for their retirement and allow more American businesses to invest in their employees’ future financial security, by improving access to retirement savings plans through the creation of multiple employer plan retirement programs.
Sen Grassley also joined Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate Health, Labor, and Pensions Committee, in releasing a comprehensive reform package to address the financial crisis in the multi-employer-pension plan system. The Multiemployer Pension Recapitalization and Reform Plan would provide targeted financial assistance to a number of large severely-underfunded multi-employer plans and reform the overall system to protect workers and retirees from financial hardships resulting from the failure of their multi-employer pension-plan. With the release of the plan, Sen Grassley began discussions to develop a bipartisan consensus.
The state of trade policy took center stage in 2019. Sen Grassley was a central figure in the debate, advocating vigorously on behalf of Iowa’s interests. The Washington International Trade Foundation recognized Sen Grassley with its Congressional Leadership Award this year in light of his “extraordinary contributions in the field of international trade.”
In the last two years, Sen Grassley provided extensive support to the President’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. The new trade pact reached by the President is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and provides a host of new benefits for American’s farmers, workers, and manufacturers. The nonpartisan International Trade Commission estimates that USMCA will add more than $68 billion to US gross-domestic product, and generate 176,000 jobs. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen Grassley worked closely with committee members and the Administration to guide USMCA through Congress. Unfortunately, Democrats in the House of Representatives unreasonably delayed passage of USMCA until the end of the year. Sen Grassley looks forward to getting USMCA passed in the Senate and ratified early next year.
As part of ensuring that USMCA was passed, Sen Grassley made clear that the Administration’s national-security steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico would have to be dropped — as would those countries’ retaliatory tariffs on US agricultural products. All sides’ tariffs came down in May — and Iowa’s farmers regained access to two of their most important markets.
Sen Grassley has long recognized that the World Trade Organization (WTO) can be a powerful tool to remove foreign trade barriers. However, the WTO needs significant reform — particularly in light of its failure to address China’s abusive trade practices. Sen Grassley held the first Senate Finance Committee hearing of the 116th Congress on the road ahead for the WTO.
Sen Grassley also supported the President in confronting China on its abusive trade practices. Sen Grassley welcomed the Phase 1 deal the President reached with China, and looks forward to implementation of the deal in early 2020. Iowans, especially hog, corn, and soybean farmers, will benefit from provisions in the deal that remove trade barriers, and commit China to increasing purchases of agricultural products. Sen Grassley will continue to push in 2020 for a strong and enforceable agreement that address the remaining issues we have with China.
To ensure that the President’s tariffs on Chinese goods minimized unnecessary harm on Americans, Sen Grassley has also carefully monitored and supported the US Trade Representative’s process to exclude certain products from the tariffs.
Sen Grassley welcomed the Administration’s Phase 1 deal with Japan. Under the deal, farmers and ranchers stand to gain from tariff eliminations and reductions on more than $7 billion of US food and agriculture products, including beef, pork, ethanol, poultry, and egg products. Next year, Sen Grassley will press the Administration to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement with Japan.
Sens Grassley and Wyden also partnered on a bipartisan investigation into counterfeit goods sold online and then issued a report, The Fight Against Fakes, detailing five findings and two legislative recommendations. Their report outlines the harm posed to consumers by counterfeits and discusses statutory barriers that prevent information sharing between the Federal government and its private industry partners with respect to counterfeit goods seized and/or detained at US ports of entry.
Sens Grassley and Klobuchar introduced the bipartisan Veterans Access to Care Act, which would help improve veterans’ medical facilities by allowing facilities with a need for additional health care professionals to apply to be designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). Once designated, these facilities have access to National Health Service Corps, which provides service-obligated scholarships and loan forgiveness to health professional students who pledge to practice in a HPSA for at least two years. The bill would also require HHS and VA to establish a process for veterans’ facilities to qualify as HPSAs.
Sen Grassley also joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to introduce the Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need (HAVEN) Act to protect the economic security and well-being of veterans and their families who rely on disability benefits and may be experiencing financial hardship. The HAVEN Act complements recent congressional efforts to combat service member and veteran mental-health issues, addiction, suicide, poverty, and homelessness — all of which are exacerbated by financial hardship.
In 2019, Sen Grassley continued hosting Iowa veterans to participate in the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project. Established by Congress in 2000, the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. To date, more than 1,200 stories from Iowans have been recorded by the project. In November 2018, Sen Grassley’s office interviewed Iowa veterans at the Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge in Des Moines to document their service to the nation. In May, he delivered 20 veterans’ recorded interviews and documents. In November of 2019, Sen Grassley’s office interviewed Iowa veterans at Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. In December, he delivered 11 veterans’ recorded interviews and documents.
Sen Grassley also hosted a ceremony in Urbandale, Iowa, where he presented nine Iowa veterans or their family members, with their medals of service.
As a staunch proponent of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government, and as a founding member of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Sen Grassley has long championed the cause of whistleblowers.
Sen Grassley sent a letter to DoD Secretary Mark Esper, urging action on DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG) recommendations regarding cases of whistleblower retaliation.
Sen Grassley also joined his colleagues, Sens Johnson and Mike Lee (R-UT) in sending a letter to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, to push for answers related to the intelligence community’s decision to change requirements for whistleblowers seeking to report “urgent concerns” to Congress.
Having over four decades of experience working with whistleblowers, Sen Grassley introduced the Whistleblower Programs Improvement Act of 2019. This legislation strengthens whistleblower protections for whistleblowers working in a variety of key sectors, including our securities and commodities industries, and the Foreign Service.
To honor the critical role played by whistleblowers in promoting good governance, Sen Grassley introduced a resolution designating July 30, 2019, as "National Whistleblower Appreciation Day." It passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
In honor of the critical service whistleblowers provide for good governance and our nation, Sen Grassley introduced a resolution designating July 30, 2019, as "National Whistleblower Appreciation Day," which passed the Senate with unanimous consent.