United States Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa marked a series of policy and oversight accomplishments in the 115th Congress.
“Serving the people of Iowa as their United States Senator is my first priority and it’s an honor that I take seriously,” Grassley said. “As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and through my extensive oversight efforts, my work focuses on making government more transparent, efficient and accountable to Iowans and all Americans.”
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 2018, Grassley completed his annual county meetings for the 38th year in a row. 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, Grassley attended or convened a variety of events and forums, including:
In 2018, Grassley created a social media series called #CornWatch that gave followers an insider look at farming operations and tracked the progression of the corn crop grown on the Grassley family farm in New Hartford, Iowa from planting through harvest.
When the Senate is in session, Grassley sets aside eight 15-minute meetings every Monday through Thursday to meet with Iowans in Washington, D.C., including advocacy groups, associations, chambers of commerce and local business leaders, students and families. During the 115th Congress, Grassley met with more than 2,000 groups of Iowans visiting the nation’s capital and discussed a variety of policy issues affecting Iowans such as trade, tax reform and health care. Grassley also joined 26 Iowa schools for Q&As via video conferencing and, as an avid fan of Iowa universities, attended dozens of sporting events.
Highlights of Grassley’s legislative and oversight work follow here:
As the senior senator of one of the top agricultural states in the country, Grassley has been an outspoken advocate for farmers and Rural America. He has consistently called for a new Farm Bill that would include commonsense reforms to ensure federal assistance only goes to farmers who truly need it instead of millionaire non-farmers gaming the system.
Grassley, along with Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, raised concerns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency over potentially wasteful payouts made to the estates of deceases farmers.
Grassley was also a leading supporter for the confirmation of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to be Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Grassley introduced Northey at his nomination hearing, praised his qualifications and congratulated him at his long-overdue confirmation.
Grassley joined fellow Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst in introducing the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018, which was largely enacted in the 2018 Farm Bill. It refocuses conservation spending on marginal cropland to benefit soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat. It also protects rural economies and ensures greater farmland access for beginning and young farmers.
Grassley and Ernst, along with other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review the proposed purchase of National Beef Packing Co. by a Brazilian meat company.
During the fall of 2017, Grassley reintroduced the Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act of 2017 to reverse a Supreme Court ruling (Hall v. United States) that made it harder for family farmers to reorganize their finances after declaring bankruptcy. The bill was included as part of the supplemental appropriations package and was signed into law by President Trump.
Also in 2017, the USDA withdrew two rules related to the Packers and Stockyards Act, commonly referred to as the “GIPSA rules.” As the only two farmers currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Grassley, along with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to express their disagreement over the agency’s decision to withdraw these rules. Grassley also offered legislation to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act to make it unlawful for a packer to own, feed or control livestock intended for slaughter.
Grassley introduced the Food Security is National Security Act of 2017, which would give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on CFIUS. It would also include new agriculture and food-related criteria for CFIUS to consider when reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company, ensuring the U.S. has the tools and people it needs to safeguard the nation’s food security, food safety, biosecurity and bring security to Iowa farmers and the U.S. farm sector as a whole.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Grassley wrote a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an update of its 2013 report on farm program eligibility in advance of the Farm Bill. In 2014, Grassley led an effort to fix loopholes that allowed farmers to exploit the system by using non-farming family members to receive additional subsidies from the government. Both chambers of Congress passed his bipartisan amendment that included reforms to farm program eligibility, but the amendment was significantly watered down during conference and ultimately became law as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. In 2018, Grassley introduced the same payment limit loophole amendment, but again it was left out of the final text of the Farm Bill.
In his capacity as Senate Judiciary chairman, Grassley, along with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, requested input from the Justice Department’s (DOJ) antitrust division on a proposal to hold the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members accountable for antitrust violations. In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the lawmakers touted the bicameral, bipartisan support for the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, which Grassley introduced.
Grassley and Goodlatte also sent a letter to President Trump regarding the impact of foreign antitrust enforcement on American citizens and businesses abroad. In the letter, they requested the President establish a “White House Working Group on International Competition” to coordinate international competition and trade policy with the United States. They also requested the development of a comprehensive and consistent strategy to address misuse of foreign competition law by foreign governments.
In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons, Grassley requested the FTC conduct an assessment of recent and ongoing consolidation in the pharmaceutical supply chain and its potential impact on prescription drug prices for American consumers. Grassley also called on the DOJ’s antitrust division to conduct a vigorous review of the proposed mergers of Cigna Corp. with Express Scripts Holding Co., and CVS Health Corp. with Aetna Inc. due to the potential influence the mergers could have on the price of prescription drugs.
Grassley also sent a letter to Chairman Simons requesting the FTC conduct an assessment of potentially anticompetitive contracting practices between insurers and hospital systems in the United States deliberately designed to prevent consumers’ access to quality, lower cost care.
The Senate passed Grassley’s Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which would extend whistleblower protections for employees who provide information to the DOJ related to criminal antitrust violations. This is part of Grassley’s decades-long effort to protect and empower whistleblowers. The legislation passed the Senate the past two congresses, but has not been taken up by the House of Representatives.
Grassley and Goodlatte called on the DOJ and FTC to work with the U.S. Trade Representative to make strong competition provisions a central part of upcoming trade negotiations. In their 2017 letter, Grassley and Goodlatte encouraged the federal antitrust agencies to include a competition chapter in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to establish a high standard for competition chapters in future trade negotiations.
Criminal Justice Reform:
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley, along with Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Mike Lee of Utah, Corey Booker of New Jersey, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, introduced the bipartisan First Step Act. The legislation – the most significant criminal justice reform effort in a generation – passed the House and the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump, will reduce recidivism, promote public safety and improve fairness in sentencing of federal crimes.
Grassley, along with a bipartisan group of senators, reintroduced the landmark Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017, which would recalibrate prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, target violent and career criminals and save taxpayer dollars. The bill would allow increased judicial discretion at sentencing for offenders with minimal criminal histories and help inmates successfully re-enter society. It would also tighten penalties for violent criminals and preserve key prosecutorial tools for law enforcement. The legislation advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2018 with broad support.
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.
Grassley has repeatedly pressed Secretary of Defense James Mattis to follow through on his commitment to end waste, fraud and abuse at the Department of Defense (DOD). Along with Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ron Wyden of Oregon, Grassley requested the GAO conduct an independent review of the reasons behind DOD’s failure to acquire modern financial information technology systems capable of generating reliable information and supporting credible financial statements.
In the fall of 2018, the Pentagon released the results of a full financial audit, showing it failed to produce a clean audit. Grassley commented on those results, saying that they were “disappointing but not surprising.”
The results of the audit follow multiple calls from Grassley for the DOD to make the changes necessary to pass a full financial audit. In early 2018, Grassley received the results of an audit he requested in 2016 along with then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The results were alarming, showing poor recordkeeping, lack of mission, poor planning and incomplete projects, among other dissatisfactory conclusions. One example of note is the $43 million DOD spent on a gas station in Afghanistan.
Throughout 2018, Grassley engaged repeatedly with DOD leaders, including Principal Deputy Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson, seeking answers as to why the department was wasting $14,000 of taxpayer dollars on individual toilet seat covers and $1,280 on individual water-heating cups – an expense that totaled nearly $326,785 over three years. After Grassley’s inquiry, the Air Force stopped purchasing the exorbitantly-priced cups. It still has not provided a complete response for its purchasing of $14,000 individual toilet seat covers.
Grassley raised questions about a DOD Inspector General (IG) audit report on TRICARE overpayments. The report cited improper payments of up to $81.2 million made by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to TRICARE providers in 2015 and 2016. Despite providing a number of pointed questions aimed at getting to the bottom of these overpayments, Fine side-stepped providing detailed and specific answers in his response letter to Grassley. In fact, the letter did not include a timetable requested for recovering the TRICARE overpayments, it did not acknowledge accountability for the overpayments and did not recommend solutions to ensure accountability moving forward. DOD currently estimates that it would cost $182 million of taxpayer money to recover the improper payments.
Grassley also pressed Mattis to review which employees were responsible for wasting at least $64.8 million on a plane intended for counter-narcotics work in Afghanistan that never flew a single such mission and was later put up for auction.
As a watchdog of the federal bureaucracy, Grassley continues staunch oversight of the Justice Department the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 2017. He also built upon longstanding efforts to protect whistleblowers by pressing the FBI to explain why it has failed to update its whistleblower policies, employee trainings and internal communications to comply with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (FBI WPEA).
Grassley introduced the new protections last congress to bring FBI whistleblower policies in line with those at other federal agencies. The bipartisan bill was signed into law on December 16, 2016. Grassley also pressed the DOJ regarding the FBI’s implementation of whistleblower protections. In a letter to DOJ, Grassley outlined a series of concerns about whistleblower protections that have gone unaddressed despite government reports drawing attention to these problems and recommending changes.
Grassley called on the FBI to explain its advance knowledge and any plan to thwart a 2015 terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, and pressed for answers on how an FBI translator was reportedly able to travel to Syria and marry the ISIS operative whom she was supposed to be investigating.
With Whitehouse and Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and John Cornyn of Texas, Grassley introduced the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017. The legislation would modernize and strengthen criminal laws against money laundering, update criminal money laundering and counterfeiting statutes and promote transparency in the U.S. financial system.
Grassley and Feinstein also introduced the Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act of 2017. The legislation would authorize for the first time the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI), which provides law enforcement with techniques and best practices for handling digital forensics evidence.
Grassley introduced the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, legislation that would put in place stricter rules to deter harmful, abusive and frivolous litigation.
Grassley continued to be a leader in the fight to decrease prescription drug costs during the 115th Congress. Along with Durbin, Grassley introduced an amendment, which passed the Senate, to bolster efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require pharmaceutical companies to disclose prescription list drug prices in television ads.
Grassley introduced the Right Rebate Act of 2018 with Wyden. The legislation will close a loophole in Medicaid that has allowed pharmaceutical manufacturers to misclassify their drugs and overcharge taxpayers by billions of dollars and provide HHS with additional authorities to ensure drugs are properly classified. Grassley first became aware of the issue during the Obama administration when Iowans regularly contacted him regarding the exorbitantly high cost of the anti-allergy EpiPen device.
Grassley applauded the approval of the first generic version of the EpiPen, an emergency auto-injector of epinephrine used to treat severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. Grassley has been a critic of EpiPen’s high cost. After conducting years-long oversight of the issue, Grassley learned that Mylan, EpiPen’s distributor, classified its popular anti-allergy medicine as a generic instead of as a brand name product in the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program (MDRP). That incorrect classification allowed Mylan to pay smaller rebates to States and government programs, such as the MDRP. Grassley’s investigation also found that the HHS and the HHS Inspector General (IG) did not have adequate authorities to properly oversee the MDRP and ensure drugs were properly classified. The costly practices were confirmed by the HHS IG when it found, at Grassley’s request that taxpayers may have overpaid for the EpiPen by as much as $1.27 billion over 10 years. The IG also found that additional drugs could be misclassified. The costly practices were confirmed by the government’s internal watchdog when it found that taxpayers may have overpaid for the EpiPen by as much as $1.27 billion over 10 years.
Grassley continually pressed for the accurate classification of prescription drugs under the MDRP. He sought answers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on whether it sought to recoup tax dollars overpaid for EpiPens from Mylan. He sent a follow-up letter after receiving no response from CMS, reiterating his initial request for information. Grassley continued pressing for answers when news broke that EpiPen maker Mylan was in discussions with the DOJ to settle a case and repay the taxpayers for over-charging for EpiPen. Grassley sent a letter to then-President-elect Trump urging appropriate classification under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program. That letter is available here. Grassley also sent a letter to the outgoing Administration on the issue, which is available here. His Oct. 3, 2016 letter to the prior administration on the EpiPen misclassification is available here. When the DOJ and EpiPen maker Mylan settled its case over the drug’s misclassification, Grassley issued a statement of disappointment, saying it shortchanged taxpayers.
On behalf of Iowans, Grassley also wrote to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller seeking clarification regarding his office’s ability to determine the value of reimbursement to the state necessary to make Iowa whole from EpiPen’s apparent misclassification. A few months later, Grassley followed up with another letter seeking additional details and accompanying documentation regarding the state’s receiving $1.5 million as part of a DOJ settlement with Mylan.
In his capacity as Senate Judiciary chairman, Grassley shepherded the bipartisan Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act through the committee. The legislation, cosponsored by Grassley, would combat anticompetitive practices used by some brand-name pharmaceutical and biologic companies to block lower-cost generic drugs from entering the market.
Grassley introduced the Ensuring the Value of the 340B Program Act to increase transparency in a targeted way into the 340B program, which was created by Congress in the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 and allows hospitals and other health care entities to receive discounted prices on prescription drugs and biologics from drug manufacturers. By law, these drug manufacturers must offer 340B discounts to covered entities in order to participate in the Medicaid program. The statute does not require hospitals to track or report savings or how they are used, however. It also doesn’t require hospitals to report the level of charity care they provide to patients. The lack of reporting requirements have resulted in a lack of transparency in this program. This legislation addresses the problem by requiring participating hospitals to report the total acquisition costs for drugs collected through the 340B program, as well as revenues received from all third party payers for those same drugs.
With Ernst and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Grassley introduced the bipartisan Access to Increased Drug Disposal (AIDD) Act of 2018. The legislation is designed to increase participation in the federal prescription drug take-back programs to help combat prescription drug abuse and the growing opioid epidemic.
Grassley pushed back on prescription drug price discrepancies between the United States and other countries, saying “there’s no reason that Americans should pay more than anyone else for exactly the same medications.”
An advocate for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, Grassley, along with the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota urged then-Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price to use his statutory authority to fast track the importation of prescription drugs from Canada under certain circumstances as a remedy to recent drastic drug price increases in the United States. Earlier this year, HHS announced it would create a task force to explore prescription drug importation as a way to reduce drug prices in the United States.
At the start of the Congress, Grassley cosponsored the bipartisan Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, which would crack down on anti-competitive agreements between branded and generic companies to postpone entry of generic drugs in the marketplace. These pay-off settlements delay consumer access to generic drugs, which can be as much as 90 percent cheaper than brand-name drugs. The legislation would stop these anti-competitive pay-off agreements to keep more affordable generic equivalents off the market and make sure consumers have access to the cost saving generics they need.
In April, 2017, Grassley asked health insurer CareFirst to explain an apparent practice of charging customers more for receiving a brand name prescription drug than a generic drug when the insurer’s own doctors explicitly prescribed the brand name drug for medical reasons. Grassley also noted due process concerns about this potential practice if the insurer was not complying with its own policies. He also wrote a letter to Kaléo Pharmaceuticals, the maker of epinephrine injector Auvi-Q, to explain its pricing, including which entities in the health care system will pay the cited price of $4,500 for a two-pack when consumers without insurance will pay $360 for the product. Grassley said the pricing of Auvi-Q “appears to draw parallels with concern about EpiPen’s pricing structure.”
As part of his extensive oversight work, Grassley sought answers from then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on whether the DOJ has made efforts to look into Confucius Institutes. These institutes are controlled by the government of China and exist within colleges and universities under the guise of teaching Chinese language, culture in history, but too often their activities are political in nature and intended to influence American policy and public opinion.
Grassley sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis S. Collins seeking information about the vetting processes in place at NIH regarding foreign researchers and public grants and the steps NIH has taken to ensure the integrity of taxpayer funded research. Grassley cited a case from 2013 in which foreign researchers were charged with conspiring to steal research funded by a multi-million dollar NIH grant for the benefit of a Chinese governmental entity and a direct competitor of the American university where the research was conducted.
Grassley sent a letter to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asking for information on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that allows private institutions to manage visas for foreign students seeking enrollment in a U.S.-based school with limited oversight. The program creates a perverse incentive for the foreign students, the schools that recruit them and the employers that hire them, all of whom benefit from the program at the expense of American workers and taxpayers. There is no cap for the number of foreign students who can enroll in the program.
Grassley also introduced a series of bills aimed at providing students and their families a better idea of the true costs of higher education and giving them 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 award letter so that students could easily compare financial aid packages between schools. It would clarify what financial aid families would receive from a school 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, before rather than after signing up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt to Uncle Sam.
Grassley cosponsored the Teachers Are Leaders Act, which would create partnerships between colleges and high-need schools to develop and support innovative teacher leader roles, which would support efforts already underway in Iowa.
Additionally, Grassley and fellow legislators have worked with federal agencies to clarify that nonprofit lenders, including state-run or state-chartered organizations, can use tax-exempt bonds for student loan refinancing, which will expand the number of options for those seeking to refinance federal student loans. Along with 14 fellow senators, Grassley urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department to make technical clarifications to rules on refinancing options for student debt.
Grassley also offered a resolution designating March 3, 2017 as “National Speech and Debate Education Day,” which passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Grassley also offered a resolution designating the week beginning October 15, 2017, as “National Character Counts Week,” which passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
As a champion of renewable fuels and an all-of-the-above American energy policy, Grassley continued his extensive work to enact responsible energy policies during the 115th Congress.
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, President Trump announced in October 2018 that he has instructed the EPA to begin the process of allowing year-round use of E15.
Grassley has also led the fight to maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He led efforts to put pressure on 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 November 2018, the EPA announced its 2019 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the RFS. Grassley applauded the increases projections and noted them as a “bright spot in the agricultural economy and for farmers” after regularly underwhelming and often disappointing news from then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Prior to the Administration taking action on E15, Grassley, along with Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, introduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would extend the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver to ethanol blends above 10 percent, increasing market opportunities for higher blends of ethanol. It would also allow retailers to sell E15 and other higher-ethanol/gasoline fuel blends year-round.
Much of Grassley’s energy agenda focused on the RFS. 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.
Under new proposed rules, America’s commitment to biofuels would have been decreased, resulting in less renewable fuels being blended. In a letter, Grassley and a bipartisan group of 23 senators urged President Trump to maintain the point of obligation under the RFS and reject changes that would upend the current successful system. In November 2017, EPA announced it would maintain the point of obligation.
Grassley also sent a letter to Pruitt asking him to support a strong RFS as the agency worked toward finalizing its rule on biofuels volume requirements for 2018 under the RFS. The letter urged the continued implementation of the RFS as intended by Congress and the release of a strong final rule that would give consumers more choices at the pump, strengthen the economy and make the country more secure.
Grassley continued to put pressure on the EPA by joining Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington and a bipartisan group of 29 senators in a letter urging the agency to increase its proposed 2019 RVOs for biodiesel. The move would encourage growth in the industry and diversity in the nation’s energy supply.
Grassley raised concerns to Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding a study he directed that appeared geared toward undermining the wind energy industry. The study was meant to explore issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electricity grid, including an investigation of “market-distorting” federal policies that “create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate baseload generation and have impacted reliable generators of all types.” Grassley asked a series of questions about the study, including which organizations that analyze grid reliability and security would be involved, whether a contractor would conduct it, the cost to taxpayers and whether stakeholders would be able to comment on a draft.
Grassley and other Midwestern senators received several assurances in a letter from Pruitt ensuring that the EPA would not follow through on a proposal that would have undermined the integrity of the RFS. The letter from Pruitt can be found here. This came after Grassley led several letters and meetings on the issue.
Grassley led a bipartisan group of senators urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to work with the Brazilian government to end a recently reinstated 20 percent tariff on ethanol imports in excess of 600 million liters (158 million gallons) annually. The United States is the primary exporter of ethanol into Brazil. U.S. producers called Brazil’s tariff plan “a trade barrier that threatens over $750 million in U.S. exports and American jobs.”
Grassley was presented with the 2018 “Fueling Growth” award by Growth Energy for his strong support and consistent work on behalf of ethanol.
Grassley was presented with the 2018 American Wind Energy Association’s “U.S. Wind Champion” award by the American Wind Energy Association for his support for wind energy technologies.
Grassley was presented with the 2018 “Innovator in Biotechnology” award by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, recognizing his contributions to the biotechnology industries.
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, 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 endeavored to nominate constitutionalist and textualist judges who understand the role of the judiciary in our constitutional system. Under Grassley’s leadership, the 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. 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, missing children, families and elder care:
Throughout his career, Grassley has been a staunch advocate for children and families. He continued his work on these issues in the 115th Congress by introducing a number of bills aimed at protecting special needs children, preventing elder abuse, encouraging elder independence and funding programs to improve family health.
Grassley and Klobuchar introduced Kevin and Avonte’s Law, named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering from safety. This bipartisan bill unanimously passed the Senate and later was enacted as part of an omnibus spending measure. The legislation will help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, Autism and related conditions. It would also support training for caregivers to prevent and respond to instances of wandering.
Grassley, along with Feinstein, Klobuchar and Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio, introduced the bipartisan Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 2018, which would make resources available for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to continue its fight against child abduction and exploitation. The bill became law in October of 2018.
Grassley and Feinstein pressed Sessions to enforce the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act and ensure all American children are returned to the United States after international parental child abduction. Grassley and Feinstein, along with Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, introduced a bipartisan resolution designating the month of April as International Parental Child Abduction Month, which passed the Senate.
Grassley, along with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Assistant Secretary for Family Support Lynn Johnson, urging her to implement recommendations from a recent HHS IG report that would help foster children who appear to be overprescribed psychotropic medications.
Along with Stabenow and Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Todd Young of Indiana, Grassley sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking him to ensure that the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) will help older youth avoid foster care entry or re-entry, and successfully transition out of care.
Grassley, along with Menendez, introduced the bipartisan Building Capacity for Family Focused Residential Treatment Act, a grant program to help child welfare agencies, treatment centers or non-profit organizations establish evidence-based, family-focused residential treatment programs. This legislation was signed into law as part of a package of bills to help alleviate the opioid crisis.
Grassley continued his aggressive oversight of elder care in nursing homes. After the death of an elderly woman in Buffalo Center, Iowa, reportedly due to neglect by nursing home staff, Grassley repeatedly sought answers from CMS Administrator Seema Verma about the agency’s oversight efforts of nursing homes.
Grassley introduced the Strong Families Act of 2017, legislation which would re-authorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, a program that provides grants to states, territories and tribal entities to develop and implement evidence-based, voluntary programs to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse and promote child development and school readiness.
A strong advocate for fostering and adoption programs, Grassley introduced the Foster Youth Independence Act of 2017, which allows states to provide assistance and services under the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to young adults who have aged out of foster care until the age of 23. This bill was signed into law as part of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
Grassley also introduced the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act of 2017, legislation which would grant priority preference for federal housing assistance to foster youth who are aging out of care and allow youth in foster care to apply for housing assistance at the age of 16, prior to aging out.
Focusing on the health and well-being of America’s senior citizens, Grassley introduced the Community-based Independence for Seniors Act, legislation that would allow older Americans to receive individualized care that would help them continue to stay in their own homes rather than nursing homes.
Grassley also introduced the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, which became law. The law enhances enforcement against perpetrators of crimes targeting senior citizens. Specifically, it increases training for federal investigators and prosecutors and calls for the designation of at least one prosecutor in each federal judicial district who will be tasked with handling cases of elder abuse. It also ensures that the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and the DOJ will both have an elder justice coordinator and increases penalties for perpetrators.
Grassley sought information from a Florida assisted living facility about criminal charges filed against an employee who allegedly violated the privacy of two residents using Snapchat. The case is one of the latest examples of exploitive videos or photos involving elder care facilities on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
Along with Ernst, Grassley sent a letter to the DOJ asking for an explanation regarding penalties against an Iowa nursing home that was ordered closed and to pay $100,000 to federal taxpayers over “grossly substandard care” that was essentially “without value.” Grassley and Ernst said the Abbey of Le Mars was on a federal watch list for two years during the Obama administration because of concerns about care.
Grassley also offered a resolution recognizing National Foster Care Month as an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges of children in the foster-care system, and encourage Congress to implement policies to improve the lives of children in the foster-care system. It passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
Good Government and Transparency:
Grassley introduced the American Red Cross Transparency Act of 2017, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would give the Government Accountability Office complete access to American Red Cross records for oversight purposes. The bill also responds to concerns that the Red Cross tried to quash a GAO review of its practices, successfully limiting the scope of the review.
In his continuing effort to “drain the swamp,” Grassley excoriated the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in its attempt to insulate unelected government bureaucrats from questions by the people’s elected representatives in Congress and called on President Trump to rescind the OLC opinion. In his letter, Grassley laid out the constitutional case for every member of Congress to exercise their powers of inquiry and oversight of the executive bureaucracy, regardless of committee membership or chairmanship. He emphasized the importance of oversight and inquiry regardless of partisan affiliation. In response to his inquiry, the White House has committed to voluntarily answer all congressional inquiries, not just those from committee chairmen.
Grassley urged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney to ensure that any executive branch ethics pledge waivers granted by the Trump administration are immediately provided to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) and made publicly available. Grassley made a similar request of the Obama administration in 2009. Those waivers were ultimately published on OGE’s website following Grassley’s request.
Grassley also sent letters to HHS, Mattis and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding issues relating to wasteful government spending by bureaucrats and government efficiency and accountability.
Grassley introduced the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017, legislation which would end the practice of creating new federal red tape outside of the public rulemaking process, shine a light on sue-and-settle litigation and restore the transparency, public scrutiny and judicial review protections of the rulemaking process.
Grassley also introduced the bipartisan Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2017, which would require the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court. The legislation allows the Court to restrict cameras only if it decides, by a majority vote that televised proceedings would constitute a violation of the due process rights of one or more of the parties before the Court.
Grassley offered two resolutions pertaining to classified documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which were being held by the National Archives and Records Administration. The first urged the National Archives and Records Administration to publicly release records detailing the assassination, the second commending the National Archives and Records Administration and its staff for working to comply with the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 and release all records related to the assassination.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley has worked to find solutions to prevent gun violence at schools. Grassley is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, but has continued to be a leader in the effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. Grassley held a hearing entitled “See Something, Say Something” in the aftermath of the Parkland Shooting to discuss legislative steps to improve school safety.
In addition, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs shootings, Grassley held a hearing entitled “Firearm Accessory Regulation and Enforcing Federal and State Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).” Grassley also supported the Administration’s regulatory effort to restrict the sale of bump stock devises such as those used in the Las Vegas shooting.
With Hatch and a group of bipartisan senators, Grassley introduced the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018. The legislation funds school security improvements and invests in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence before it happens. Grassley successfully negotiated with appropriators and the White House to make sure that this program received the funding it deserved and fought for its inclusion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which the President signed into law in March of 2018.
Along with Cruz, Grassley reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2018. 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). Grassley also cosponsored Cornyn’s bill, the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which gives incentives for state and federal government agencies to improve their reporting into the NICS system. The legislation was signed into law in March of 2018.
Grassley joined Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and a group of senators in introducing the School Safety & Mental Health Services Improvement Act. The legislation would allow 100,000 public schools to improve school safety by using federal dollars for school counselors, alarm systems, security cameras and crisis intervention training.
Grassley introduced the EAGLES Act, along with Hatch and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, to expand the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center to help communities proactively mitigate threats of violence at schools by establishing a national program on targeted school violence prevention and providing additional resources to expand research and training on a national scale. The bill also requires Secret Service to develop an expansion plan and to provide periodic progress reports to Congress.
Grassley pressed the FBI, Facebook and Google Inc., which owns YouTube, to explain why warnings about threats by the man who later carried out the Parkland shooting did not result in preventative action.
Grassley signed on to the bipartisan Facilitating Accessible Resources for Mental Health and Encouraging Rural Solutions For Immediate Response to Stressful Times (FARMERS FIRST) Act, legislation introduced Ernst and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin that would provide the nation’s agricultural community with critical mental health support and resources.
Grassley introduced the bipartisan Accelerating Access to Kids Care Act with Bennet. The legislation, would provide an optional service for families of children with complex medical needs that would improve the coordination of their care across multiple health care providers. Grassley and Bennet, along with Portman, Blunt, Murray, Brown and Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Bill Nelson of Florida and Cory Gardner of Colorado, also reintroduced the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act. The legislation will improve health care delivery for children with complex medical needs by streamlining the credentialing process, in Medicaid, for certain pediatric health care providers, across state lines.
Grassley joined Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina in introducing the Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act, legislation that would guarantee Americans have health care coverage, regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions.
After the outbreak of a mysterious, polio-like illness, Grassley joined Ernst, Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota in sending a letter to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urging them to investigate and respond to recent cases.
Along with Hatch, Grassley requested specific information from the IRS regarding their oversight activities of nonprofit hospitals after media reports brought forward questions about whether some nonprofit hospitals were meeting the criteria for tax-exempt status, serving their communities appropriately and serving individuals in need regardless of ability to pay.
Grassley joined Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and a bipartisan group of senators of the bipartisan Senate health care price transparency working group, in releasing draft legislation called the Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills Act, which aims to protect patients from surprise medical bills. The draft bill is intended to jumpstart discussions in Congress about how to best stop the use of balanced billing to charge patients for emergency treatment or treatment provided by an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility.
With Warren, Grassley introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which became law as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act. The bipartisan measure requires the FDA to write regulations ensuring that the new category of over-the-counter hearing aids meets the same high standards for safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing protections as all medical devices, providing consumers the option of an FDA-regulated device at lower cost.
Along with Brown and Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Grassley reintroduced the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, bipartisan legislation which would encourage pharmacists to serve older Americans in communities lacking easy access to doctors or where pharmacists are more convenient to visit for certain services than doctors.
Grassley also reintroduced the Provider Payment Sunshine Act, legislation that would require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose their payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting and other interactions. The disclosures already apply to doctors, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, co-authored by Grassley and enacted in 2010.
Along with Klobuchar, Grassley introduced the Reducing Drug Waste Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation which would require the FDA to coordinate with CMS to develop a joint action plan to reduce waste generated by single use drug vials and better manage costs with respect to drug vial sizes and other drug delivery systems, such as eye-drops.
In his continued support for rural health care, Grassley introduced the Rural Hospital Access Act of 2017, which would permanently extend key Medicare rural hospital programs critical to five Iowa hospitals and many others around the country. He also reintroduced the Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital (REACH) Act, which would help rural hospitals stay open while meeting the needs of rural residents for emergency room care and outpatient services.
Grassley, along with Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, reintroduced the Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that would apply accreditation and other standards for orthotics and prosthetics, such as prosthetic limbs, under Medicare, helping to guarantee access to quality products for beneficiaries.
Grassley continued his oversight of TARP’s Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), a $9.6 billion program that began in 2010 to help homeowners who suffered during the housing crisis. Wasteful spending of these funds by state agencies persisted unchecked for many years of the Obama administration, and the need for accountability remains. In a continuation of Grassley’s request to audit state agency expenses, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) is reviewing state agency spending on travel, conferences and other administrative spending. Grassley also pressed the Treasury Department on why it has recovered only one percent – $113,592 of $11 million – wasted on restaurant meals, employee gifts and a $500-per-month company Mercedes from the HHF.
Grassley asked the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and newly-confirmed Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson to explain potentially excessive travel and conference expenses by the housing authority, including that the executive director reportedly has spent 158 days over four years attending conferences. Grassley also called on the HUD OIG to complete its investigation into the mismanagement at the Alexander County Housing Authority (ACHA) in Cairo, Illinois, and make its findings public.
Grassley met with Carson prior to his confirmation, at which time he raised concerns about millions of dollars of wasteful spending at HUD. In an effort to assist public housing authorities (PHAs), the federal government allows PHAs to establish nonprofit affiliates through which development activities are conducted. However, PHAs throughout the country often use taxpayer dollars to fund personal priorities and feather their own nests rather than to provide safe, affordable housing for those in need.
Grassley wrote to Carson concerning the agency’s two failed projects to update its financial management system. HUD spent 14 years and more than $131 million only to pull the plug on both projects prior to completion.
Illegal and illicit drugs:
Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which included seven separate bills approved earlier this year by the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Grassley’s leadership, including:
The Access to Increased Drug Disposal Act of 2018, which will encourage increased participation of authorized collectors in drug take back programs by awarding grants to states. It will focus particular attention on states within the lowest quartile of participation in take back programs.
The Opioid Quota Reform Act, which will empower the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to consider additional factors when setting annual quotas for opioid drug production in the United States. Currently, DEA can only consider past sales and estimated demand. This bill allows the agency to take into account diversion, abuse, overdose deaths and public health impacts when setting quotas.
The Substance Abuse Prevention Act, which will reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), keeping the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) and High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) programs within that office. It will also boost public awareness of opioid and heroin addiction as authorized under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), provide resources for families to stay together when one is battling substance abuse and require the attorney general and HHS to complete a plan for educating and training health care providers in best practices for prescribing controlled substances.
The Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances Act of 2017, which will close a legal loophole that inhibits the prosecution of opioid analogue traffickers by clarifying when a controlled substance analogue is or is not intended for human consumption.
The Using Data to Prevent Opioid Diversion Act of 2018, which will require DEA to use anonymized data to track and prevent the diversion of prescription opioids into illegal sales. The data will be available to registrants, and will include the total number of distributors serving a single pharmacy or practitioner and the total number of opioid pills distributed to a single pharmacy or practitioner.
The Preventing Drug Diversion Act of 2018, which will amend the Controlled Substances Act to define “suspicious order” and will require registrants to design a system to identify suspicious orders, and notify DEA of those orders.
The Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act of 2018, which will prohibit sober home and substance abuse treatment centers, as well as their employees, from receiving or providing kickbacks for patient referrals. While this bill was referred to but not voted on in committee, Grassley worked closely with its lead sponsor Rubio, during its formulation and helped shepherd it into the final package passed by the Senate.
Grassley introduced the bipartisan Addiction Treatment Quality Improvement Act with Warner and Nelson. The legislation would require CMS to work with a coalition of health care providers to identify quality measures to be used to assess the effectiveness of substance use disorder treatment programs.
Along with Brown and Blumenthal, Grassley introduced the bipartisan Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine Act, which would increase transparency in the prescription drug payment process by requiring drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose the same payments made to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, and other interactions.
Grassley continued to raise awareness about the flow of fentanyl into the United States from China as part of Congress’s larger effort to curb the opioid epidemic. Grassley also applauded President Trump’s 2018 agreement with Chinese President Xi to have the Chinese government crack-down on this issue and help stem the flow of the deadly drug into the United States.
Along with Feinstein, Grassley re-introduced the Protecting Kids from Candy-Flavored Drugs Act, legislation that would increase the criminal penalties for marketing candy-flavored drugs to appeal to children. It would provide an enhanced penalty when a person manufactures, creates, distributes, dispenses or possesses with intent to distribute a controlled substance combined with a beverage or candy product, marketed or packaged to appear similar to a beverage or candy product, or modified by flavoring or coloring to appear similar to a candy or beverage product.
Grassley and Feinstein also introduced the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act of 2017, which would allow substances that are substantially similar to controlled drugs to be rapidly regulated without additional time-consuming testing and analysis. Grassley also led a group of senators in a call for the Trump administration to prioritize the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The letter cited the previous success of the office in preventing use of illicit drugs in American communities. This important effort has only increased in light of the ongoing opioid epidemic across the country.
As part of that ongoing effort to fight opioid abuse, Grassley joined a bipartisan group of legislators in a letter to Sessions asking him to provide Congress with information detailing how the DOJ is supporting and prioritizing forensic science service providers across the nation as part of a broader approach to combat the opioid epidemic.
Along with Ernst, Grassley urged the Office of National Drug Control Policy to include an evaluation of drug take back programs in the final report of the President’s Commission on Combatting Opioid Abuse, correcting a shortcoming in the interim report. At Grassley and Ernst’s request, the GAO is studying the DEA’s implementation of the law allowing local pharmacies to accept unused controlled substances for public convenience, amid concerns that regulations present barriers to participation.
Grassley has been a vocal advocate for disaster relief funding on behalf of Cedar Rapids since the floods in 2008. Grassley, along with Ernst and Congressman Rod Blum, pressed the Army Corps of Engineers for answers on funding for the project after regular delays by the Army Corps of Engineers. In June of 2018, the Army Corps of Engineers announced its plans to move forward with disaster recovery efforts in Cedar Rapids. A history of Grassley’s efforts on this issue is available here.
Grassley, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and lifelong family farmer, joined Blunt and Baldwin in sending a letter to Mulvaney urging the Administration to include sufficient funding in its fiscal year 2019 budget request to continue preconstruction engineering and design for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP). Grassley worked with a bipartisan group of Senators to get the NESP Program, a multi-purpose program aimed at upgrading critical Upper Mississippi River System navigation lock and dam infrastructure and providing an integrated approach to addressing Mississippi River ecosystem restoration, authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. Grassley has advocated for funding to improve Iowa’s aging waterways for more than a decade. Grassley also joined Durbin in sending a bipartisan letter to James of the Army Corps of Engineers urging it to provide sufficient funding for NESP for fiscal year 2019 while ensuring the timely completion of the project’s economic update funded by the fiscal year 2018 work plan.
Immigration and Visas:
Grassley called on the Trump administration to seek an agreement with Mexico to assist in accommodating a steady stream of migrants traveling through Mexico seeking asylum. The senators noted acknowledgements by Obama administration officials that potential security threats are exploiting immigration vulnerabilities to enter the United States. An agreement was announced in December 2018. Grassley also called for briefings from the Departments of State and Homeland Security on potential national security threats relating to the migrant caravan.
Grassley and a group of senators introduced the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act, which would require that children and their parents remain together during immigration or asylum legal proceedings. Grassley advocated for the repealing of the Flores v. Reno settlement in order to stop family separations at the border and hosted a Judiciary member briefing on family reunification. Along with Feinstein, Grassley also sought an investigation into allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and HHS detention facilities charged with holding unauthorized immigrants.
Grassley, along with Ernst, Cornyn, Tillis, Cotton and Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and James Lankford of Oklahoma, introduced the Secure and Succeed Act, which would appropriate $25 billion for real border security such as physical and virtual fencing, radar and other technologies. It would provide for additional personnel for border control and ends key loopholes in current law that allow dangerous criminals to enter our country. It would also prospectively limit family-based immigration to the nuclear family and reallocates the Diversity Visa lottery, while grandfathering in all pending family-based visa applications in order to reward those who chose to follow the law and immigrate legally.
Grassley sought information on a number of cases in which illegal activity was conducted by someone in the United States illegally. Grassley wrote to Nielsen seeking details on a man and 13 year-old girl who were apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol after illegally crossing the southern border. After the man fraudulently claimed the young girl as his daughter, both were released under conditions that they maintain contact with federal officials as an “alternative to detention” (ATD). The girl was later found to have been sexually abused.
In a letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Grassley asked how a man illegally in the country with a long, violent criminal record and multiple encounters with immigration officials could be allowed not only to remain in the country, but also be granted a work permit. The man, Armando Rodrigo Garcia-Ramirez, was charged in the murder of his 15-year-old stepdaughter, who was nine months pregnant with their second child. Grassley also requested the records of two teens who entered the country illegally and were charged with brutal raping a high school classmate, as well as information about the criminal and immigration history of an unauthorized immigrant who nearly killed a 6-year-old child while drunk driving.
Grassley and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire requested the reauthorization of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who have supported U.S. military or diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan, asking leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language in a forthcoming appropriations package that would allow for an additional 4,000 visas.
Grassley reintroduced the Taking Action Against Drunk Drivers Act, legislation that would require federal immigration authorities to take action against undocumented immigrants arrested for driving under the influence. Grassley first introduced the bill following several tragedies involving immigrants who were arrested for drunk driving, including one incident that claimed the life of 21-year-old Iowan Sarah Root.
In 2017, Grassley introduced the Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts, (SECURE) Act, legislation which would protect and provide certainty to DACA recipients, and improve the lawful immigration system by targeting illegal immigration and criminal aliens. The bill contains provisions from several immigration proposals, including Durbin’s bipartisan BRIDGE Act, which would protect DACA recipients from deportation.
Grassley reintroduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act, which would permanently authorize and require employers to use the E-Verify program, an Internet-based system that assists employers in determining the eligibility of employees to work in the United States.
Grassley wrote oversight letters to Lighthizer, Kelly, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, acting director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on a wide range of issues related to visas and immigration. Several letters focused on obtaining information regarding the Diversity Visa program, the process by which DHS reviews the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, and the O visa program. Grassley also raised questions about the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and H-2B foreign worker and EB-5 investor visa programs.
Grassley introduced the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2017 to improve protections for minors who come into contact with the justice system and led the bicameral negotiations that resulted in the final version of the legislation. The final version, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, is now headed President Trump to be signed into law after passing both chambers unanimously earlier this month. Its passage represents the first time in 16 years that Congress has reauthorized this federal grant program.
In honor of the service and sacrifice made by the men and women in law enforcement, Grassley introduced a resolution designating the week of May 15 through May 21, 2017, as “National Police Week,” which passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act, which became law in June 2017, helps families of fallen first responders receive the survivor benefits they’d been promised. Congress established the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program in 1976 to provide death benefits to survivors of officers who die in the line of duty. Grassley’s oversight revealed, however, that many of these survivors were waiting years to receive their benefits. His legislation will reduce this wait time and provide greater accountability in the process.
Thousands of U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) officers tasked with hunting down dangerous fugitives are relying on expired protective and trauma gear and insufficient training, according to information obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite repeated warnings about the increased risks to employees and public statements prioritizing safety, agency leadership has reportedly failed to follow through with critical steps to ensure officers are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out often-dangerous duties. In two separate letters to USMS leadership, Grassley called on the agency to explain how the lapses were allowed to occur.
Along with Goodlatte, Grassley urged the Trump administration to put American victims of terrorism first by securing a binding commitment from Sudan to compensate for its historical support of international terrorism that has killed and injured Americans serving abroad. In a joint letter to Tillerson, Grassley called on the Administration, as a condition of lifting any terrorism-related sanctions, to accept nothing less than a binding commitment from the government of Sudan to resolve or settle the terrorism judgments entered against it in U.S. courts and meet its obligations to compensate American victims.
Grassley offered a resolution of disapproval via the Congressional Review Act which would repeal a Social Security regulation that unfairly stigmatizes people with disabilities and violates the Second Amendment. The resolution was approved in the Senate.
Grassley was an original cosponsor of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, a bill that permits qualified individuals to carry concealed handguns in other states that also permit concealed carriage of handguns.
Grassley introduced a key whistleblower amendment that would end the double-taxation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whistleblower awards and awards provided by states under State False Claims Acts. Grassley’s amendment to clarify that the recovered funds, which the IRS uses as the basis for whistleblower awards known as collected proceeds, includes unpaid taxes under title 26 and fines and penalties collected under criminal and civil cases, passed. Both amendments were included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
As a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, 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. Two Grassley-led amendments were included in the bill’s final passage.
The first amendment regards increasing the time period in which taxpayers may seek to have proceeds from the sale of wrongfully levied property returned to them. The IRS is authorized to levy on property to satisfy a tax debt in certain instances. While the IRS is authorized to return property at any time, it is only authorized to return the monetary proceeds from a sale for up to nine months from the date of the levy. Similarly, if a third party believes the property levied or seized belongs to him/her and not the person against whom the tax is assessed, the third party generally only has nine months from the time of the levy to bring an administrative wrongful-levy action to seek the return of monetary proceeds. In many cases the nine-month period is insufficient for individuals and third parties to discover a wrongful or mistaken levy and seek to remedy it. This amendment extends from nine months to two years the time period that individuals and third parties have to seek the return of proceeds on the sale of wrongfully levied property.
The second amendment included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expands provisions relating to the non-deductibility of fines and penalties to prohibit a tax deduction for any amount paid or incurred to, or at the direction of, any governmental entity relating to the violation of any law or the investigation or inquiry into a potential violation of law. It exempts from such prohibition: (1) restitution or amounts paid to come into compliance with any law that was violated or otherwise involved in the investigation or inquiry, (2) amounts paid pursuant to a court order in a suit in which the governmental entity was not a party, and (3) amounts paid or incurred as taxes due.
After the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, it came to light that a provision intended to ensure farmers would benefit under the laws new small business deduction, whether they were doing business with a co-op or a private elevator, unintentionally gave an unfair advantage in the marketplace to co-ops. Grassley was a leader in the effort, working with fellow colleagues and representatives from both the co-op and for profit grain industry, to fix the issue and restore the competitive balance. It was corrected in the March 2018 appropriations bill.
Grassley was instrumental in creating the IRS’ bipartisan Private Debt Collection Program as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2004 as well as its reinstatement in 2015 after the IRS terminated it in 2009 following a flawed study. Data released by the IRS on the program regularly show that the program continues to demonstrate that it can more than pay for itself with revenues returned to the Treasury.
Along with Enzi and Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Grassley reintroduced the IRS Accountability Act of 2018, which gives the IRS Commissioner clear authority to fire senior officials for misconduct or poor performance.
Grassley also reintroduced the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Enhancement Act of 2017, comprehensive legislation which would improve customer service at the IRS, create new taxpayer protections and update and strengthen existing taxpayer protections.
In an effort to protect taxpayers, hold corporate wrongdoers accountable, and deter future fraud and abuse, Grassley, along with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, introduced the bipartisan Government Settlement Transparency & Reform Act, which would rescind tax write-offs for illegal corporate behavior by closing a loophole that has allowed some corporations to reap tax benefits from payments made to resolve allegations of illegal conduct.
Trade took center stage during the 115th Congress and Grassley was a prominent figure in the debate, advocating on behalf of Iowa’s interests.
Grassley warned against blanket tariffs and supported efforts to renegotiate NAFTA and commended President Trump on his ability to secure a new trade pact called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Grassley applauded the signing of USMCA in November 2018, and as incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will review the agreement and work with committee members and the Trump administration to guide it through Congress.
Grassley was a leading voice on trade with China. He stressed the importance of the Chinese market for Iowa soybeans while continuing to encourage the United States to defend its interests concerning trade discrepancies and China’s consistent abuse of American intellectual property. Grassley also joined a bipartisan group of 37 senators urging USDA to push the Chinese government to end its ban on the sale of American poultry products. The ban was instituted by China in 2015 due to the detection of a wild duck with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influence (HPAI) and continues to be enforced today, in contradiction of World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards.
With Brown, Grassley introduced the United States Foreign Investment Review Act, which would allow more foreign investments in the United States to be subject to review ensuring they are in the long-term economic interests of the United States.
Grassley, along with Ernst, Hatch and Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, introduced the Ensuring Quality Care for Our Veterans Act, to ensure that those hired to care for America’s veterans have a proven record of providing quality health care. The legislation would require a third party reviews of each case where a veteran was treated by a VA provider who was later found to have a revoked license.
With Ernst and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Grassley introduced the bipartisan Veterans’ Second Amendment Rights Restoration Act of 2018, legislation that would ensure that veterans do not lose their constitutionally protected right to own firearms simply because they require help with their finances.
Grassley fought for veterans living in VA nursing homes by co-sponsoring an amendment with Cassidy and Jones that requires the VA to release detailed information about the quality of its 133 nursing homes nationwide. The amendment was filed in response to a story first published by USA Today and The Boston Globe revealing that the VA collected data revealing very poor quality at some nursing homes, but did not release this information to the public.
Grassley co-sponsored a provision led by Ernst in the VA MISSION Act of 2018 that would help VA health care professionals provide telemedicine services to veterans and service members in rural communities. This legislation, which also created a new community care program and expanded the VA caregiver program to veterans of all eras, was signed into law.
Grassley, along with Ernst, has continued to press the VA for answers regarding unauthorized waiting lists outside of the VA patient tracking system. Inquiries by Grassley and Ernst led the VA to more thoroughly assess the situation, particularly at the Iowa City VA, and present its findings.
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.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley met with sexual assault survivors and leaders of victims’ advocacy organizations to discuss policies supporting victims of sexual violence. Grassley also convened a congressional hearing to advocate for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, as well as a hearing to discuss the Survivors’ Bill of Rights and how to ensure that victims of sexual violence are treated fairly in the criminal justice system.
Grassley worked to prevent the sexual abuse of young athletes throughout the 115th Congress. Grassley and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, to require amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department. Grassley also convened a Judiciary Committee hearing on the same issue and testified before the Commerce Committee about the importance of doing additional oversight in this area. The bill was signed into law in February of 2018.
Grassley led 22 Senate colleagues in calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision undermining the ability of U.S. victims of international terrorism to seek justice. The appeals court’s decision effectively nullified the Antiterrorism Act of 1992, a law passed by Congress—and championed by Grassley—specifically to protect Americans abroad and to provide victims with a tool to bring terrorists to justice in U.S. courts. Grassley introduced the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed in the House of Representatives, unanimously passed the Senate and became law in October of 2018.
Grassley, along with Heller, Casey, Coons and Cornyn, introduced legislation to aid victims of domestic violence that would extend programs and activities that were established under the Family Violence Prevention Services Act. The legislation directs federal resources to emergency shelters for survivors of domestic violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Grassley and a bipartisan coalition of senators introduced legislation called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would combat sexual assault on college and university campuses.
Grassley introduced and both chambers of Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017. The bipartisan legislation would renew existing programs that make federal resources available to human trafficking survivors and establish new prevention, prosecution and collaboration initiatives to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
Grassley and Klobuchar introduced legislation making sexual harassment training mandatory in the Senate. It passed unanimously in November of 2017.
Grassley and a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Military Justice Improvement Act to address military sexual assaults.
Grassley, Ernst and Feinsten introduced a bipartisan resolution to commemorate April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Grassley offered two resolutions in support of victims’ reform. The first was a resolution supporting the mission and goals of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in 2017, which includes increasing public awareness of the rights, needs, and concerns of, and services available to assist, victims and survivors of crime in the United States. The second was a 2017 resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, commending domestic violence victim advocates, domestic violence victim service providers, crisis hotline staff, and first responders serving victims of domestic violence for their compassionate support of survivors of domestic violence, and expressing the sense of the Senate that Congress should continue to support efforts to end domestic violence, provide safety for victims of domestic violence and their families, and hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable. Both resolutions passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Grassley joined Ernst, Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska in reintroducing Sarah’s Law, legislation to honor Sarah Root, an Iowan who was killed by a drunk driver who was in the country illegally. Grassley also applauded the Department of Homeland Security’s launch of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office.
Grassley and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York reintroduced the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act to hold the DOJ accountable for its handling of the benefits claims of fallen public safety officers. Mainly, the bill would increase transparency in the program. It passed the Senate during Police Week 2017 and became law later that year. In each of the last four years, Grassley also introduced and the Senate passed a resolution commemorating National Police Week.
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, Grassley has long championed whistleblowers. In 2018, Grassley embarked on a summer long initiative to highlight the importance of whistleblowers and government transparency as part of his ongoing efforts.
For more than four years, Grassley pressed to declassify two congressional notifications indicating that, during the Obama administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) obtained congressional communications about pending and developing whistleblower complaints. Those two notifications were finally declassified during the 115th Congress.
In 2017, Grassley, along with Wyden and Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, introduced the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act, which would permanently extend the program requiring a dedicated official in each inspector general office focused on whistleblower protection issues. The bill was signed into law in 2018.
In October of 2017, Grassley and Johnson wrote a letter to then-U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, asking him to respond to allegations of severe retaliation of a Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblower who reported serious patient waitlist improprieties at the facility. Earlier this year, Grassley and Johnson received confirmation that the whistleblower seeking a transfer to a new VA facility after allegations of retaliation was re-assigned to a new facility at the same pay level.
Grassley called on Sessions to update instructions provided to the DOJ’s component agencies that were instructed not to communicate with “Senators, Representatives, congressional committees, or congressional staff without advance coordination and consultation with OLA (Office of Legislative Affairs).” While Grassley recognizes the need for coherence, consistency and timeliness of official communications with Congress, the instructions to component heads did not appropriately address the rights of federal employees to make direct protected disclosures to Congress.
Grassley sent several oversight letters to the DOJ and the DEA requesting information on issues such as why it took the DOJ’s IG nearly five years to complete an investigation into the Osorio and Barba trafficking rings. He pressed for answers regarding unaccountability in addressing sexual misconduct and harassment in the DOJ, and inquired about what steps the agency has taken to address the problem.
With McCaskill, Grassley also pressed the Missouri National Guard for answers on what it will do to address findings that one of its contractors retaliated against contractor employee Michael Sandknop after he made disclosures that were protected under whistleblower statutes.
Grassley, along with Wyden, introduced the bipartisan IRS Whistleblower Improvements Act of 2017, legislation that would improve IRS communication with tax fraud whistleblowers and protect those whistleblowers from workplace retaliation. The bill is based on the Grassley-Wyden amendment included in the Taxpayer Protection Act of 2016. The Taxpayer Protection Act, along with the Grassley-Wyden amendment, passed the Senate Finance Committee in April 2016 but was never considered by the full Senate.
Grassley sent many oversight letters in support of whistleblowers and increased transparency in government. Grassley led a bipartisan group of 11 senators on the Whistleblower Protection Caucus in a letter to 19 federal agencies calling on government leaders to promote a culture that welcomes whistleblower disclosures and condemns attacks on whistleblower rights. Grassley also sent a letter to Acting Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Christopher Giancarlo, requesting a formal briefing of CFTC’s efforts to address the systemic weaknesses of internal data security policies and procedures, as well as efforts to eliminate whistleblower reprisal.
In honor of the critical service whistleblowers provide for good governance and our nation, Grassley introduced a resolution designating July 30, 2017, as “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day,” which passed the Senate with unanimous consent.