Charles Ernest Grassley (born September 17, 1933) is an American politician serving as the president pro tempore of the United States Senate, and the senior United States senator from Iowa. He is currently in his seventh term in the Senate, having first been elected in 1980.
A member of the Republican Party, Grassley previously served eight terms in the Iowa House of Representatives (1959â€“1975) and three terms in the United States House of Representatives (1975â€“1981). He has served three stints as Senate Finance Committee chairman during periods of Republican Senate majority. When Orrin Hatch's Senate term ended on January 3, 2019, Grassley became the most senior Republican in the Senate. He was appointed president pro tempore of the Senate for the 116th United States Congress, making him third in the presidential line of succession after the vice president and speaker of the House.
Grassley has stated that he considers himself to be pro-life and has expressed concern regarding the potential for abortions to be paid for with federal funds. In December 1981, Grassley voted for a proposed constitutional amendment by Orrin Hatch that would allow both Congress and the states to ban or regulate abortion. In 2019, he co-sponsored reintroducing the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
In April 2019, Grassley was one of seven senators to sign a letter led by Debbie Stabenow and Joni Ernst to United States secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue urging the Agriculture Department to implement conservation measures in the 2018 Farm Bill "through a department-wide National Water Quality Initiative, which would build off the existing initiative housed at the Natural Resource Conservation Service."
Energy and environment
Grassley has expressed concern about the impact of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency on farming.
In September 2015, Grassley received the Dr. Harold D. Prior "Friend of Iowa Wind Energy" award from the Iowa Wind Energy Association for his commitment to supporting wind energy development in Iowa. Also in 1992, Grassley authored the federal wind energy tax credit. Grassley supports federal ethanol subsidies.
"I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether itâ€™s on booze or women or movies." Chuck Grassley, The Hill.
Grassley is in favor of repealing the estate tax, which is a tax on inherited assets above $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. Grassley has argued that the estate is potentially ruinous for farmers and small business owners. According to the Des Moines Register, Grassley's argument does not "match the reality found in federal tax data â€“ particularly for Iowa. The estate tax applies to around 5,000 taxpayers across the entire country each year, and very few of them come from Iowa. Of the Iowans subject to the tax, only a fraction are actually farmers, and a vanishingly small number of them face a tax bill requiring them to sell off farmland or other assets... The number of small businesses impacted by the estate tax is similarly small... about 94 estates annually that hold half or more of their assets in a small business that heirs will continue to operate after the owners die. And fewer than half of these donâ€™t have the cash on hand to pay the tax."
Grassley during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives
Grassley has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his consistent support of NRA-supported gun-related laws and ongoing sponsoring and authoring of legislature.
Grassley is a staunch believer that gun laws will not prevent gun deaths or gun-related violence without improved mental health care.
In 2016, one month after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Grassley proposed legislation to expand state-to-state access to background check data and to make it illegal for government officials to sell criminals guns as part of sting operations. Both proposals were rejected by the Senate. Additionally, he voted against the Democrats' Feinstein Amendment, which would make it illegal to sell guns to individuals on the terror watchlist and a Republican-sponsored bill that expanded funding for background checks.
In early 2017, Grassley sponsored legislation that expanded access to mentally disabled individuals, claiming that the previous ban against mentally ill individuals purchasing guns "mistreats disabled Americans."
In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Grassley stated that it was unlikely that gun laws would change in the wake of the shooting due to Congress being Republican-dominated.
A day after the Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, Grassley claimed the government had not done enough to prevent individuals with a mental illness from obtaining firearms.
Grassley has been critical of the Affordable Care Act but does not believe the law can be completely repealed. He believes some degree of bipartisanship will be necessary to make changes to the law. He believes a solution will likely involve removing unpopular aspects of the law, like the individual mandate, while keeping popular aspects of it that deal with pre-existing conditions and the ability for children to remain on their parents' plans longer. Grassley believes that the Senate's version of the AHCA (the repeal of the ACA passed by the House), will provide health insurers certainty. Asked if not passing legislation would also provide certainty, he replied that it would, but at higher premiums. He said that with the proposed legislation premiums "maybe wouldn't go up or would go up a heck of a lot less than they would without a bill."
In July 2017, Grassley stated that Senate Republicans should be ashamed for not having passed their healthcare bill and this could translate to a loss of their majority in the 2018 elections.
In August 2018, Grassley was one of ten Republican senators to cosponsor legislation intended to protect ObamaCare provisions for people with pre-existing conditions. Health experts said that the bill did not prevent insurers from excluding coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions.
In 2015, Grassley voiced his opposition to a bipartisan senate bill, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act, that would move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II. This bill would allow states with medical cannabis laws to legally prescribe it and allow for much easier research into its medical efficacy.
Israel Anti-Boycott Act
In April 2017, Grassley co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (s. 720), which would make it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank if protesting actions by the Israeli government.
Russian interference in 2016 elections
Main articles: Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections and Foreign electoral intervention
In February 2017, Grassley said that while Russian interference in U.S. elections was "bothersome", the United States did not have clean hands and had, for instance, interfered with the 1948 Italian election. In May 2017 after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, Grassley advised people suspicious of the Trump administration to "Suck it up and move on." On October 31, 2017, while a group of Republicans were facing questions from reporters concerning recent indictments, Grassley ignored the questions and left the room.
In January 2018, and in the first known congressional criminal referral in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Grassley, along with Lindsey Graham, recommended charges against Christopher Steele, one of the people who sought to expose Russian interference. Grassley and Graham said that they had reason to believe that Steele had lied to federal authorities. According to The New York Times, "It was not clear why, if a crime is apparent in the F.B.I. reports that were reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department had not moved to charge Mr. Steele already. The circumstances under which Mr. Steele is alleged to have lied were unclear, as much of the referral was classified."
In January 2018, when Grassley and Judiciary Committee Republicans were refusing to release the full transcript of an August 2017 ten-hour interview that the Judiciary Committee had conducted with Glenn Simpson, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the full transcript unilaterally. Simpson is the co-founder of the political opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which produced the so-called Steele Dossier on alleged connections between Trump and Russia. Grassley condemned Feinstein, saying that her decision was "confounding" and that it deterred future witnesses in the Russia 2016 investigation. Simpson himself had requested that the full transcript of his interview be released, saying that Republicans had selectively leaked portions of the testimony to conservative media outlets in order to portray Simpson in a negative light and discredit the Steele dossier.
In January 2018, Grassley was one of thirty-six Republican senators to sign a letter to President Trump requesting he preserve the North American Free Trade Agreement by modernizing it for the economy of the 21st Century.
The author of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Grassley has campaigned to increase protection and provide support for "whistleblowers". He has supported a number of FBI whistleblowers, including Coleen Rowley, Sibel Edmonds, and Jane Turner, although not supporting Department of Defense whistleblower Noel Koch.
Grassley received a lifetime achievement award on May 17, 2007 from the National Whistleblower Center. In April 2014, Grassley announced plans to create a caucus in the Senate dedicated to strengthening whistleblower protections.
Grassley defended the whistleblower in the Trumpâ€“Ukraine scandal, breaking up with his party line when he declared on October 1, 2019 that "the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected".
In 2018, Grassley suggested that no women were serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee because of the heavy workload. The following week, Grassley added that he would "'welcome more women'" to serve on the Committee "'because women as a whole are smarter than most male senators. And they work real hard, too.'"