Q: & A: The people’s business

Sen Chuck Grassley

Dec 23, 2016

~with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q:  What are some highlights from the 114th Congress?

A:  When visiting with Iowans during my 99-county meetings, I hear a common refrain from people across the state.  Households are working harder than ever to get ahead and stay ahead. Putting gas in the car, buying groceries and medicine, shouldering student debt, absorbing double-digit insurance premiums and saving for retirement contribute to the troubled mindset among working families who are scraping to get by from paycheck to paycheck.

And when taxpayers are reminded about the $19 trillion federal debt and their exposure to waste, fraud and abuse running rampant in the federal bureaucracy, it strikes a raw nerve.

As Iowa’s watchdog, I make it my business to hold government to account and work for openness and transparency whenever and wherever the federal bureaucracy conducts the people’s business. For 36 years straight, I’ve listened to Iowans in every county, at least once, every year.

Throughout 2016, Iowans shared their concerns about emerging threats to public safety and national security, the growing size and scope of the federal government – from Obamacare to Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and restoring the American Dream for generations to come.

The bigger Washington’s bite, from cumbersome taxes to burdensome regulations and abusive government surveillance, it seems the more that personal freedoms are on the line.

Just as importantly, policymakers entrusted with the public good must uphold the integrity of our justice system, our system of free enterprise and the rule of law to ensure fairness, security, certainty and stability on our streets, in our schools and throughout our communities and to foster growth in the U.S. economy, from agriculture to housing, banking, pharmaceuticals, clean energy and trade.

From my leadership position as chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, I work to uphold core principles of our republic relative to life in 21st century American society. Many Iowans know that I place a high priority on government oversight and whistleblower protections.

During the 114th Congress, I continued aggressive oversight of the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and the FBI, for example, to expose and correct wrongdoing. I secured authority for Inspectors General, the internal watchdogs tasked with conducting audits and investigations from within federal agencies, to access all agency records, not just those presented by department heads.

Transparency is the best way to clean house and sweep away misconduct that, for example, contributed to scandalous wait times for veterans and allowed for the political targeting of taxpayers at the IRS to take root.

To that end, I led the FOIA Improvement Act through the Senate that aims to prevent the executive branch from keeping the people’s business out of the public eye through excessive exemptions that lead to expensive litigation at taxpayers’ expense.

Americans have every right to expect the government to work for them, such as making sure that standards of care are followed in taxpayer-funded nursing homes, that laws against sexual assault and human trafficking are enforced and that free market principles work to keep drug prices down and innovation up in the pharmaceutical industry.

Along those lines, I’ll continue my crusade in the Senate to fight fraud, restore good government and ensure compliance and enforcement within our system of checks and balances.

For example, my advocacy for whistleblowers benefits the taxpaying public and Federal Treasury. In fact, my amendments reforming the False Claims Act have recouped more than $53 billion that otherwise would have been lost to fraud.

In other examples, taxpayers should not foot the bill for the misuse of paid administrative leave that idles federal workers indefinitely, nor should they be put on the hook for misclassified pharmaceuticals under the Medicaid Drug Rebate program. Specifically, at the behest of Iowa families strained by steep price hikes for their children’s EpiPens, I have learned that taxpayers may have been overcharged by hundreds of millions of dollars for this particular drug administered under federal programs. I will continue to keep my nose to the grindstone to prevent misconduct from being swept under the rug.

When Washington works together for the common good, good things can happen. Unlike the partisan vote for Obamacare, the 114th Congress adopted landmark bipartisan laws to address the opioid epidemic (CARA) and to advance cures and treatments for chronic diseases affecting millions of Americans with passage of the $6 billion 21 Century CURES Act.

Q:  What’s in store for the 115th Congress starting in January?

A:  The first order of business is opening day of the new session. On Tuesday, Jan. 3, I will be sworn in for my seventh term representing the people of Iowa. I look forward to leveraging my advocacy for rural America, from agriculture, to health care, renewable energy and flood protection.

We have unfinished business to consider, such as repealing and replacing Obamacare, as well as opening up work on a new farm bill and enforcing immigration policy. Policymakers must prioritize U.S. sovereignty to protect public safety, American jobs and national security. That means we must secure our borders, close loopholes in visa programs, stop reckless sanctuary policies and certify refugee resettlement procedures.

It’s expected I will be selected in January to resume chairmanship of the Senate judiciary committee. From here I will lead nomination hearings for the new administration and judicial appointments to the federal bench, including the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. I will continue bipartisan work on reforming federal criminal justice and sentencing laws, adopting juvenile justice improvements, and strengthening victims’ rights.

In the 115th Congress, I will retain my seat at the table on the Senate finance, agriculture and budget committees. These key assignments will allow me to influence policy decisions that may be considered, from overhauling the tax code, to restructuring health care policy, rebuilding infrastructure, updating trade deals, renewing the farm bill and expanding clean energy.

As always, my door is open and I encourage Iowans to share your views. I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you face-to-face at one of my 99-county meetings in 2017.   To contact Senator Grassley, visit his website at grassley.senate.gov/contact. In addition to his office at 135 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510, Senator Grassley will maintain six state offices in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Sioux City and Waterloo.

 

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