Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)

 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

Monday, July 27, 2020

CBO: Extending Increased Unemployment Benefits Weakens Economy, Increases Unemployment in the Long-Run as Benefits Exceed Wages for Most

The Congressional Budget Office Predicted that the Increased Benefits Would Pay 5 of 6 Recipients More Than Working,

Discouraging a Return to Work and Resulting in Lower Employment and Less Economic Activity in 2021

According to an analysis released today by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an extension of increased unemployment benefits would result in more unemployment and lower economic productivity in 2021 and would “weaken incentives to work as people compared the benefits available during unemployment to their potential earnings, and those weakened incentives would in turn tend to decrease output and employment.”

“Unemployment insurance is meant to help Americans who lose their job until they can get back on their feet and return to work,” Grassley said. “Democrats’ proposal would turn that upside down and encourage unemployment, government dependence and reduced productivity. That’s unhealthy for the economy and it’s unhealthy for the individual. As we begin to safely re-open our economy, it should be the goal of Congress to get America back to work, while helping those who can’t in a more targeted and efficient way. A strong economy and a healthy population are not competing goals; they go hand-in-hand.”

Next week, Grassley will lead a hearing on unemployment insurance. Details about that hearing can be found HERE.

Key findings from CBO analysis of Democrats’ proposal include:

·      Five of every six recipients would receive benefits exceeding the amount they could expect to earn from working.

·      In 2021, the nation’s economic output would be lower than it would be without the extension.

·      In 2021, employment would be lower than it would be without the extension.

The analysis from CBO can be found HERE.

Thursday, July 20, 2020

Bipartisan Bill Helping Families of First Responders Lost to COVID Clears Congress

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed bipartisan legislation led by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to improve timely access to financial assistance for families of public safety officers lost to COVID-19. The Senate unanimously passed the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) in May. The legislation clarifies certification requirements for survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program to account for the unique challenges presented by the current coronavirus pandemic. It must now be signed by President Trump to become law.
“Law enforcement and first responders face inherent dangers in their jobs each day. The ongoing pandemic has only added to the level of risk they take to promote health, safety and security in our communities. Losing a first responder in the line of duty is always devastating. Families of those lost to COVID-19 shouldn’t face an uphill struggle to access financial support promised to them. With the House’s unanimous vote today, our bill to help these families is one step closer to becoming law,” Grassley said.
The Public Safety Officers Benefits Program, administered by the Justice Department, provides death benefits to survivors of police officers and first responders who perish in the line of duty or as a result of a work-related event. It also provides disability benefits to those who are permanently disabled due to their work. The program requires evidence linking deaths or disabilities caused by an infectious disease to work-related activity. In many cases, the origin of an infection can be easily identified but determining where and when someone contracts COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic presents a unique challenge.
SAFR works to overcome this challenge by establishing a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections will be considered to be contracted while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days of an officer’s last shift. The legislation ensures that families of officers and first responders lost or disabled while fighting the pandemic don’t face unnecessary barriers to benefits they’ve already been promised.
The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Cruz (R-Texas), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tillis (R-N.C.), Coons (D-Del.), Daines (R-Mont.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Scott (R-Fla.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Loeffler (R-Ga.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Moran (R-Kan.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), Collins (R-Maine), Tester (D-Mont.), Capito (R-W.V.), Hassan (D-N.H.), Cramer (R-N.D.), Shaheen (D-N.H.), McSally (R-Ariz.), Peters (D-Mich.) and Stabenow (D-Mich.). It’s endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Officers, Federal Law Enforcement Officer Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York, the National Association of School Resource Officers, the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations. The legislation also received support from 52 state Attorneys General.
Grassley has long worked to improve the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program by expediting death payments and improving uniformity to disability benefits.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

ICYMI: History Gives Us Hindsight in 2020

As we approach Independence Day, let’s remember why we celebrate and defend our blessings of freedom, liberty and justice for all. In these uncertain times, America’s promise is more important than ever.

There’s a saying among the faithful that God won’t give us more than we can handle. Arguably, 2020 is putting this message to the test.

When Iowans rang in the New Year, no one realized the nation’s historic employment, wage growth and record-setting economic expansion would be uprooted by a pandemic, causing historic unemployment and more than 122,000 American deaths — so far.

The public health emergency disrupted society in almost every way imaginable. And yet, hope springs eternal.

Americans in the private and public sectors pulled together. Congress passed historic relief to triage the devastating economic fallout, pumping more than $3 trillion into the economy to help Americans pay their bills, put food on the table and deliver a lifeline to hospitals and small businesses to survive.

Lawmakers listened to feedback from millions of small businesses who received funding from the Payroll Protection Program. Congress increased the loan forgiveness period from eight weeks to 24 weeks and expanded flexibility for loan forgiveness. Giving America’s engines of economic development and job creation greater flexibility to reopen and rehire their workforce will help accelerate the recovery.

As vaccine development for COVID-19 and the economic rebound show signs of promise, the horrific killing of a Black American in police custody added yet another test to America’s resilience and social cohesion. George Floyd’s murder has captured the world’s attention and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to exercise their constitutional rights to assemble peaceably. It’s wrong that looters, arsonists, and vandals hijacked this moment with criminal violence. Riots sow discord at a time when Americans of all backgrounds are coming together, calling on America to, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

Congress must build on public policy to end racial inequality, such as my bipartisan work to support educational opportunities for all children and help black farmers more than a decade ago who were discriminated against in the Pigford v. Glickman settlement. Most recently, I secured landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform with the passage of the First Step Act, voted to create Opportunity Zones that foster entrepreneurialism and job creation in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and reintroduced the Walter Scott Notification Act that would require states receiving federal law enforcement dollars to report details involving officer-related shootings. As former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ll represent Iowans during the ongoing debate on policing reform.

Recently, the Iowa legislature unanimously passed policing reforms. Washington should take a cue from Iowa leaders and pass urgently needed changes to our law enforcement system. I’ve co-sponsored commonsense legislation authored by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. The JUSTICE Act improves accountability and increases transparency in policing across the country. It also includes many bipartisan proposals, such as designating lynching as a federal hate crime and penalizing states for allowing police to use chokeholds. Americans across the country have made their voices heard and demanded action. Congress must rise to the occasion.

In times of hardship, history shows Iowans plow ahead to cultivate peace and prosperity. Just during my lifetime, Iowans have survived financial collapse in the Great Depression and the 1980s farm crisis; catastrophic natural disasters, including the 1993, 2008 and 2019 Iowa floods; five pandemics; dozens of wars and military conflicts to combat tyranny and terror; and, civil rights movements that have changed the course of history.

A century ago, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment, affording women the right to vote. My mother was among the first women in Iowa to cast her ballot. Home to the nation’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, Iowans appreciate that our system of self-government and way of life are on the line every Election Day. Earlier this month, Iowa voters set a statewide turnout record in the June primary.

Despite the challenges knocking at our door in 2020, I have great hope for America.

Our republic is built to last. It’s up to each of us to keep it. For generations, Iowans have built institutions and organizations that strengthen family and civic life. The pandemic and protests for racial equality challenge us to keep building.

With open minds and open hearts, we can listen and lift up one another to overcome the stain of racial inequality and “form a more perfect union.”

Iowa tilled the soil of freedom 181 years ago with a landmark ruling delivered on Independence Day, July 4, 1839. The Territory of Iowa’s Supreme Court declared a former slave, Ralph Montgomery, a free man. The court affirmed human liberty, writing the laws “should extend equal protection to men of all colors.”

Together, Iowans will meet these historic challenges and till the soil of freedom, equality, and prosperity for all. How we choose to respond to this moment in 2020 will shape how our children and grandchildren celebrate Independence Day and strengthen America’s promise for generations to come.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Grassley Applauds Trump Administration Order Prioritizing American Workers in Pandemic

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expressed support for President Donald Trump’s recent proclamation extending and expanding a temporary freeze on certain categories of visas as millions of American workers remain sidelined by the ongoing pandemic. In May, Grassley joined Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and others in calling on the administration to expand President Trump’s April 22nd proclamation to include additional categories of guest worker visas until unemployment caused by the pandemic returns to normal levels.

 “As businesses slowly begin to reopen after pandemic-induced closures, many Americans are still out of work, and unemployment across the nation remains at near-record levels. We must do everything we can to ensure Americans have jobs to go back to as the economy begins to rev back up. I’m grateful that President Trump acted to preserve opportunities for American workers. We’ve seen how the H-1B and H-2B visa programs have created a drag on jobs, job opportunities, and wages for American workers – even in normal times. Our first priority must always be to protect American workers and their livelihoods, and I think this new proclamation helps us do that,” Grassley said.

 The President’s proclamation extends an earlier visa freeze through the remainder of 2020 and expands the moratorium to nonimmigrant work visa programs such as H-1B, H-2B, L, and J visas. It also contains a number of exemptions for workers providing essential services or for individuals whose entry is determined to be in the national interest.

 Grassley recently led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in proposing reforms to immigrant visa programs to better protect American workers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Grassley, Durbin Statement on Appeals Court Ruling Striking Down HHS Policy to Require Disclosure of Prescription Drug Prices in TV ads

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today released the following statement regarding the ruling in the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that required direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertisements to include the list price of the drug:

“Even in the midst of a pandemic that threatens all of us, Big Pharma fought for months in court to prevent patients from knowing the price of their drug. Look no further than this lawsuit to understand what matters most to the pharmaceutical industry. If Big Pharma wants to bludgeon American consumers with ad after ad about their products, the least they could do is disclose what that product costs. We will continue to advance our bipartisan legislation to get American patients the information they deserve to hear about drug prices.”

The pharmaceutical industry spends $6 billion each year to flood the airwaves with drug ads in order to steer patients to specific, high-cost drugs. The average American sees nine DTC prescription drug ads each day. Studies show that patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name medication, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one when they have been marketed directly with drug advertisements. The 20 top-advertised drugs on TV cost Medicare and Medicaid $34 billion in 2018.

In May 2019, Grassley and Durbin, along with Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), introduced the bipartisan Drug-price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act to codify the HHS regulation at the subject of yesterday’s litigation, which would require pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in DTC advertisements. The bill would ensure long-term implementation and clarity of this commonsense price transparency requirement, and builds off Durbin and Grassley’s bipartisan legislative efforts over the past several years, including a similar amendment that passed the Senate unanimously in August 2018, but was ultimately removed from the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education appropriations “minibus” package.

The Grassley-Durbin legislation has been endorsed by AARP, American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing.

Grassley Seeks Broader Watchdog Review of State Unemployment System Failings

Request follows letter from Senate Democrats seeking targeted review of only Florida system

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is today requesting an expanded review of problems in state unemployment systems from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (OIG), broadening a similar previous request from Democratic colleagues.

 “A recent letter to you from Senators Schumer and Wyden requested that you investigate Florida’s delivery of unemployment benefits and temporary expanded benefits provided in the CARES Act,” Grassley wrote. “I support a review of how state systems have performed in this unprecedented time. However, I am concerned that a focus solely on one state’s experience will limit the usefulness of the investigation and could be perceived to be politically motivated.”

 Citing multiple reports of problems or failings in a number of states, Grassley asks that any OIG review include a broader sweep of states so Congress can have a more accurate picture of what needs improvement across the country.

 Full text of Grassley’s letter to Dahl follows or can be found HERE.

Grassley Bill to Aid Victims of Identity Theft Unanimously Clears Senate

 The U.S. Senate last night unanimously approved the Improving Social Security’s Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act. The bipartisan bill, introduced last month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would require the Social Security Administration to provide a single point of contact for Americans whose social security numbers have been misused following identity theft.

 “When an American calls up the Social Security Administration for help after identity theft, they can get bumped from contact to contact in the agency with each one having to retake details. Starting over with each call like this would be frustrating for anyone, especially folks dealing with the stress of identity theft. This bill fixes this problem and makes the government work better for the people. I urge the House to pass this legislation quickly,” Grassley said.

 The Improving Social Security’s Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act has the endorsement of numerous groups, including AARP; the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC); the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM); the National Council of Social Security Management Associations (NCSSMA); National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR); and, Social Security Works.

 Read more about the legislation HERE.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Iowa Leaders Call for Support for State’s Turkey Producers

In a letter to USDA, Senators Ernst and Grassley, along with Governor Reynolds and Ag Secretary Naig, are urging the department to provide federal assistance to farmer-owned cooperatives and independent turkey growers.

U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, along with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide assistance, through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), to turkey producers across the state.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, the Iowa leaders write: Plant closures and reduced flocks remain a growing threat to our turkey growers, and food supply chain. Our independent turkey growers stand to lose disproportionately compared to other corporate-owned growers due to increased exposure…There are numerous farmer-owned cooperatives and independent growers who are being left out of assistance in CFAP and we ask that USDA recognize the unique business structure of many turkey operations and help find a solution in order for these producers to receive federal assistance.”

Ernst, Grassley, Reynolds, and Naig also say: “We would ask economists at USDA to work to devise a methodology and formula that allows this niche sector of the nation’s poultry industry to have the same opportunities provided to others in the pork, cattle, and sheep industry. We are convinced a verifiable formula structure can be developed. USDA already has demonstrated an ability to calculate the value of turkeys when indemnifying for animal disease losses and making Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) payments. Those formulas almost certainly could serve as a basis for calculating lost value.”

To read the full letter, click here.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Iowa Senators Respond to FDA’s Temporary Hand Sanitizer Rule

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today addressed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) revised guidance regarding the manufacturing of alcohol-based hand sanitizer products during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grassley and Ernst sent a letter to FDA last week requesting clarification on its temporary policy and the agency’s scientific justification relating to the recommended levels of acetaldehyde used in hand sanitizer products.

 “During this trying time, we need all hands on deck. Many communities in Iowa and around the country are answering the call by shifting their ethanol production to create alcohol-based hand sanitizers. While I appreciate hearing from the FDA, setting such a high standard for acetaldehyde is concerning. Acetaldehyde occurs naturally in the distillation process and at this current standard, many common alcoholic beverages would be deemed out of compliance. I plan to continue to work with FDA to set a reasonable standard that protects public health and gives Iowa ethanol producers the flexibility to aid Iowa hospitals and communities,” Grassley said.

 “Iowans continue to step up and help one another out during COVID-19, and that certainly includes our ethanol producers and distillers who have used their resources to help create hand sanitizer,” Ernst said. “I’m glad that FDA heard our concerns and those of industry and provided much-needed clarity, but I’m concerned this guidance may be too restrictive, leaving ethyl alcohol produced by Iowa’s ethanol industry on the sidelines when the need for hand sanitizer remains high. I’ll continue to push FDA to provide additional flexibility so our producers can aid in the fight to defeat COVID-19.”

 Grassley and Ernst previously highlighted that Health Canada – the Canadian government’s equivalent to FDA – published a temporary standard that slightly relaxes limitations on acetaldehyde so that ethanol producers may help meet the growing need for hand sanitizer. Canada’s temporary acetaldehyde level is 20 times higher than the current FDA recommendation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Grassley Joins Bipartisan Letter Urging the Administration to Provide Paperwork Relief for Small Businesses who Utilized the COVID-19 Relief Program

 Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today joined Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and 43 senators in sending a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza urging the administration to ease paperwork requirements for small businesses seeking loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The letter specifically requests that the loan forgiveness application for loans under $250,000 to be no longer than one page in length.

 “When Congress created the PPP, its purpose was clear: get immediate funding into the hands of small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so their employees could stay on the payroll and maintain benefits and so that businesses could resume normal operations as soon as it was safe to do so,” the senators wrote.

 “The Administration’s intentions to scrutinize PPP loans above $2 million is an appropriate oversight of taxpayer resources. Failing to streamline the loan forgiveness application for loans that are worth a mere fraction of that will not only leave millions of small business owners without the relief that they were promised by Congress, but it will also introduce a needless complication to our nation’s economic recovery,” the senators concluded.

 Full text of the letter is below and can be found HERE.

 Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

 The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been critical for helping small businesses remain viable and keeping Americans employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we would like to make you aware of a serious problem with the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. We have received feedback from a number of businesses and lenders that the forgiveness application is difficult to understand and to complete. We ask that the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) urgently revise the application so that it is no longer than one page for any loan under $250,000.

When Congress created the PPP, its purpose was clear: get immediate funding into the hands of small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so their employees could stay on the payroll and maintain benefits and so that businesses could resume normal operations as soon as it was safe to do so. Given the innumerable challenges that small business owners face, PPP loans were designed to be forgiven to prevent small business owners from incurring additional debt, provided employees were kept on payroll.

 The text of the CARES Act, which was approved unanimously by the Senate, specified three criteria that the PPP forgiveness application was required to include:

1.     Documentation verifying the number of full-time employees on payroll and their respective pay rates;

2.     Documentation verifying payment of mortgage, lease, and utility payments for which the business owner sought PPP funds; and

3.     A certification that the information presented in the forgiveness application is true and correct.

While the Small Business Administrator was also given the ability to require additional documentation necessary to verify the proper use of PPP funds, we believe it is beyond the program’s intent to require the information solicited in the 11-page forgiveness application that the SBA recently released. We appreciate the interest in appropriately auditing the use of government money. However, the loan forgiveness application – which understandably needs more information for loans worth significantly more than $250,000 – is three times longer than the original application for the PPP. Many of our constituents and the financial institutions who processed their PPP loan applications have reported that the existing forgiveness application will be difficult to complete and could cost business owners several thousand dollars in professional tax advice.

The Administration’s intention to scrutinize PPP loans above $2 million is an appropriate oversight of taxpayer resources. Failing to streamline the loan forgiveness application for loans that are worth a mere fraction of that will not only leave millions of small business owners without the relief that they were promised by Congress, but it will also introduce a needless complication to our nation’s economic recovery.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and the Administration in supporting our country’s small businesses and their employees during this difficult time. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Des Moines Office, 721 Federal Building, 210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, Phone: 515-288-1145; Fax: 515-288-5097.

Tuesday, May 22, 2020

Grassley’s Memorial Day Message

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released the following video message in honor of the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country.

 

Transcript is available below.

 “This Monday is Memorial Day. In ordinary times, this weekend would bring parades and community events.

 “It would be a time to gather with friends and family and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.

 “After all, what’s now a federal holiday began as spontaneous community tributes to the fallen following the Civil War.

 “I’ve had the honor of attending local Memorial Day services across Iowa over the years.

 “These services provide a meaningful opportunity to remember the individuals who gave their lives for us.

 “This year, it looks a little different. But, while we may not be able to gather together, each and every American can still set aside time to reflect on those who died for our country.

 “These are our fathers and brothers, our sons and daughters.

 “Since the Revolutionary War, over 1.3 million American soldiers have died in war. Some are remembered for their heroic actions in battle.

 “All are remembered by their friends and families, or in stories passed down by generations.

 “They’re remembered for their sense of humor, their love for their family and for the selfless willingness to sacrifice everything.

 “No headstone in a cemetery or ribbon tied around a tree can fill the hole that they left behind.

 “But by remembering their sacrifice, we can ensure that they’re never forgotten or taken for granted.

 “This year, I’ll be thinking of those that have gone before us, and saying a prayer for our men and women in uniform who are even today risking their lives for this great country.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Grassley on the World Health Organization Aiding in China’s Coronavirus Cover-up

I’m deeply concerned about reports that China began hoarding medical supplies in early January while working to prevent the World Health Organization from sounding the alarm about the pandemic.
By analyzing international trade data, the Department of Homeland Security assessed that the Chinese government intentionally concealed the severity of COVID-19 from the world in early January in order to stockpile medical supplies.
Furthermore, the Chinese Communist Party government tried to hide its actions by denying there were any export restrictions.
They even tried to obscure and delay their trade data so they wouldn’t get caught.
These acts are outrageous.
Even worse, the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies have found evidence that China threatened the World Health Organization to stop cooperating on efforts to combat COVID-19 if the Organization declared a global health emergency early on.
This is simply unacceptable behavior.
The Chinese Communist Party ought to be held accountable for the countless lives lost around the globe due to its nontransparent, aggressive and inhumane behavior.
The World Health Organization is comprised of many honorable and dedicated medical professionals who believe in the WHO’s mission.
If any of them were privy to what was going on, they ought to step forward and shine the light on any misdeeds by the Organization’s leadership.
Whistleblowers are necessary to prevent corruption within any institution, which is why I have a longstanding reputation for protecting whistleblowers.
The world deserves to know what the World Health Organization leaders knew and when they knew it.
The evidence is quickly becoming crystal clear. China is responsible for tremendous suffering worldwide through its lies and active cover-up.
Telling the truth about the Chinese Communist Party does not, as some have suggested, have any bearing on how we analyze our domestic response.
We should learn from democratic countries that have been successful in containing outbreaks, like Taiwan and South Korea.
However, going forward, everyone around the world should have their eyes open about the true nature of the Chinese regime.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Prepared Floor Remarks by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa On the World Health Organization Handling of COVID-19

The World Health Organization’s mission is to promote worldwide health, reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and provide access to health care, especially for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The World Health Organization states as its guiding principle that all people should enjoy the highest standard of health, regardless of race, religion, economic or social condition, or political belief.

It serves primarily as a coordinating body to share information and best practices by connecting experts in different countries.

The novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, which causes the disease now known as COVID-19, has had a devastating impact on the health of people worldwide as well as the global economy.

Nations, including the United States, have been scrambling to deal with this impact since the beginning of the year.

Without a doubt, worldwide efforts to combat COVID-19 would have greatly benefited from independent, unbiased, and informative data from the world’s leader in health, the World Health Organization.

Unfortunately, information coming from this organization since the beginning of the year has left a lot to be desired. Often providing information that we now know to be inaccurate or incomplete.

The American people and citizens of every country, all of whom rely on direct and truthful information, deserved better from Dr. Tedros and his team.

China, where the current crisis began, has not done its part in seeking or providing that crucial information.

For example, a doctor in Wuhan, China, by the name of Dr. Li Wenliang raised concerns about a growing pandemic in early January.

Dr. Li tried to blow the whistle on the spread of one of the world’s deadliest diseases, only to be punished by the Communist Chinese government for “spreading rumors.” 

Tragically, Dr. Li passed away in early February due to COVID-19.

After the death of Dr. Li, he became a rallying point for Chinese citizens upset about their government’s cover-up.

Only then did the Chinese government apologize to his family and posthumously drop Dr. Li’s reprimand.

Neither was the World Health Organization interested in accurate and verifiable information on the true dangers of this virus.

We now know that in late December 2019, Taiwanese officials had sounded the alarm about human-to-human transmission of the virus directly to the World Health Organization.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control sent an email to the organization, which was forwarded to my office and has been widely reported, warning of “at least seven atypical pneumonia cases .in Wuhan, China.” 

Additionally, the communication noted that these individuals had been isolated for treatment, which is said to be the standard operating procedure for preventing human-to-human transmission.

Taken together, this information should have been a red flag for the World Health Organization’s leadership that the virus was capable of human-to-human transmission.

Unfortunately, the World Health Organization chose to ignore these warnings and failed to pass on this critical information to other countries.

Instead, the World Health Organization was complicit in the Chinese government’s cover-up stating the opposite.

In fact, the World Health Organization even retweeted Chinese propaganda on January 14th that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human” transmission.

Misleading the public like that is simply egregious.

By sidelining Taiwan’s participation, which has one of the lowest known COVID-19 infection rates per capita despite its proximity to mainland China, the World Health Organization stymied information about a more effective response to the pandemic in the critical early days when the spread of the virus could have been greatly slowed or even contained.

This gross mishandling of the Organization’s most important mandate – to coordinate responses and facilitate information sharing during a health emergency – has cost countless lives around the world.

While China covered up the extent of the virus’s spread, the World Health Organization continued to praise the country for its so-called proactive response and transparency.

General Secretary Xi Jinping waited a crucial six days until January 20 before announcing findings by China’s National Health Commission about the danger of widespread human-to-human coronavirus contagion.

His government also delayed an access request for World Health Organization experts to visit affected regions at the end of January by almost two weeks and has continually fed disinformation to foreign citizens, via several misleading tweets by the foreign ministry spokesperson and multiple unfounded claims posted on state-run media websites.

Despite this and other evidence that China actively silenced whistleblowers and doctors domestically, and that Communist Party officials were aware of the spread well before reporting it, World Health Organization officials continued to praise China’s response and transparency.

They lauded China for releasing the virus’s genome in mid-January while neglecting to mention that it took China at least 14 days to do so.

Even as the virus continued spreading across Europe and reached America, Dr. Tedros said in early February that there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” in trying to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Time and time again the World Health Organization endorsed and repeated Chinese government talking points, to the rest of the world’s detriment.

We now know that there was a continual flow of misinformation coming from the Chinese government since the onset of the pandemic, with little to no pushback by the World Health Organization on whether that information was accurate.

In mid-February, officials from the World Health Organization yet again uncritically parroted Chinese government propaganda by stating that there were signs that confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 had declined in China.

The United States Intelligence Community has, in fact, asserted that China misrepresented both the number of cases and its death toll from the virus, concealing the real extent of the outbreak in its country and that China intentionally hid or even destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a dossier that was leaked to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, it’s alleged that China began censoring information as early as December 31, 2019, precisely when Taiwan was sounding the alarm to the World Health Organization.

Previously, Chinese leaders came under incredible scrutiny by the World Health Organization back in 2003 for the SARS outbreak.

China was not transparent with SARS.

The Chinese government made sure that information regarding the outbreak was not made public.

The World Health Organization publicly reprimanded China.

Chinese leaders then quickly fell in line with the rest of the world in sharing its data with other World Health Organization member countries.

However, we are seeing a very different approach to the organization’s handling of China’s information-suppression campaign, with the World Health Organization often praising China for its information sharing.

But make no mistake, China has been nothing but deceptive in its handling of COVID-19.

We must remember that China has a long history of not being transparent with respect to outbreaks of viruses, and there is little to no evidence suggesting we should start believing China’s communist leaders now.

Global leaders are now coming to realize that China is responsible for this pandemic, with global sentiment against the Chinese Communist Party at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

It’s important that world leaders, including President Trump, keep the pressure on China to finally be transparent with its data so that we can join together in combating this deadly disease.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security said that China “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world.

To make matters worse, the report further states that while China continued to downplay the pandemic, it began to increase imports and decrease exports of medical supplies, suggesting that China was beginning to hoard these medical supplies from the rest of the world.

Secretary Pompeo recently stated that there is a significant amount of evidence that this virus came from the laboratory in Wuhan, China, contrary to what Chinese Communist Party propagandists have been pushing.

On April 9th, I wrote to the World Health Organization seeking answers to several questions regarding the organization’s handling of COVID-19.

I wanted to know what the World Health Organization knew and when.

I asked that my questions be answered no later than May 1st.

Much to my dismay, the World Health Organization has refused to answer my questions about its handling of the virus.

It would seem that the organization is much more focused on covering for China than it is in answering questions that every single American has the right to know.

I will continue to push the World Health Organization for answers.

Ultimately, the primary responsibility for this pandemic lies with Chinese government authorities, who actively concealed the outbreak since the fall of 2019 and suppressed the spread of accurate information about it.

But the World Health Organization also bears responsibility for aiding and abetting the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up.

That is why I support a full congressional investigation into how the World Health Organization has bowed to Chinese pressure with the COVID-19 outbreak.

The leaders of the World Health Organization need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping China cover up a global pandemic.

Americans deserve to know what the World Health Organization leaders knew, and when they knew it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Grassley Joins Bipartisan Push for Relief for Rural Broadcasters, Local Newspapers During Coronavirus Pandemic

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Steve Daines (R-Montana) and 72 of their Senate colleagues sent a bipartisan letter urging support for rural radio and televisions broadcasters and local newspapers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Our radio and television broadcasters and rural newspapers provide local and national news, emergency alerts, educational programs, and more to all corners of the United States. In many rural areas, broadcast stations are the predominant or only form of local information. We encourage the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations in order to help ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote.

The full letter can be found HERE.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The novel coronavirus has upended the way of life across this country and the globe. Nothing, it seems, is immune from the virus’ impact as everyone takes steps to limit its destruction.

But there is one tradition in Iowa politics that its creator hopes will survive the pandemic: The Full Grassley.

Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, for the entirety of his 40-year career in the U.S. Senate, has visited each of the state’s 99 counties annually.

And while the coronavirus pandemic has thrown Grassley’s 99-county tour off schedule – in Iowa, gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited – that has not stopped the senator from planning to complete his annual tour.

Grassley’s spokesman, Michael Zona, said the Republican senator still plans to visit all 99 counties this year in person – once the virus is contained and while still observing any required or recommended social distancing measures.

“Despite the logistical challenges, Sen. Grassley expects to hold in-person Q&As with Iowans in all 99 counties when the COVID-19 crisis is contained,” Zona said. “All meetings will be held in accordance with state and federal public health guidelines. The health and safety of Iowans will be the No. 1 consideration at every county meeting.”

In the meantime, Grassley will continue communicating with Iowans by phone and working on their behalf remotely, Zona said.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Iowa agriculture plows ahead on front lines of pandemic

As crop farmers charge ahead into the spring planting season, livestock producers are putting in longer hours to keep meat, dairy and eggs on the grocery store shelves. As a leading producer of corn, soybeans, pork, eggs, meat and renewable fuels, consumers around the world depend on Iowa to feed their families, stock their pantries and fill their gas tanks. Thankfully, we have the people and resources to get the job done.

Community stewardship defines the renewable fuels industry in Iowa, as well. Renewable fuels producers across the state have shifted production to manufacture hand sanitizer to help meet the needs of Iowa hospitals and local communities. When these companies flagged a regulatory hurdle to doing this, we worked to cut red tape so they could help. 

The nationwide efforts to “flatten the curve” and save lives have delivered a financial setback to the renewable fuels industry and to Iowa farmers who were already battling Big Oil for a level playing field at the pump. Idled ethanol and biodiesel plants deliver a damaging ripple effect that includes a lost market for farmers, lost jobs for workers and lost production of the Dried Distillers Grains (DDGS) that biofuels plants deliver to livestock producers as a high-quality feed component. We’re fighting tooth and nail to ensure the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is implemented as the law requires. We strongly support nationwide application of the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling on small refinery exemptions to uphold the integrity of the RFS.

From our leadership positions in the U.S. Senate and as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, there’s no daylight between our efforts to support Iowa farmers and our state’s renewable fuels industry. At the federal level, we’re making the case to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to use the Commodity Credit Corporation funds to help the biofuels industry get through this crisis. We’re also working in lock-step with Iowa’s leaders in our state’s food, agriculture, fuel, and critical manufacturing industries to keep supply chains up and running.

At the state level, that means working with Gov. Kim Reynolds to support the entire food and agriculture community. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is providing information to ag producers and businesses while also supporting consumer protection through essential inspections.

At the federal level, this also means holding the line for our cattlemen while minimizing disruptions to the food supply. Protecting the health and safety of employees who work at processing plants is of the highest importance. At the same time, we have to make sure this emergency isn’t giving cover to market manipulation and other illegal activity by meat packing executives. Attorney General William Barr and USDA Secretary Perdue have the authority to launch an investigation into this and we’re glad the USDA has launched its look into price-fixing by beef packers. Cattle producers need competitive markets to get a fair price. We look forward to the USDA’s report as soon as possible.

The third phase of federal coronavirus relief provided $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation and $9.5 billion specifically for agricultural producers. Making sure these funds reach Iowa food and agriculture producers and businesses is a top priority for us.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to either of our offices with your ideas, concerns and questions.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Coronavirus-damaged businesses deserve financial relief

For the first time in our nation’s history, a pandemic has closed the economy, shutting down businesses, schools and our way of life.

Congress acted swiftly to respond to the public health emergency and triage the economic fall-out. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act won unanimous passage in the U.S. Senate. It provides emergency relief to families, workers and businesses to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

The American people deserve political leadership driven by integrity, not partisanship. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I led a bipartisan group of lawmakers who negotiated in good faith to hammer together a broad range of tools to help Americans and employers stay afloat. The result was a major part of the CARES Act.

The CARES Act includes direct payments to individuals and families, expanded unemployment insurance benefits for jobless workers, and lending programs for businesses of all sizes.

Americans who have lost their job through no fault of their own shouldn’t be left behind, no matter if they worked for a small business or a larger one. The same goes for employers.

Our bipartisan package developed targeted, temporary tax relief to help businesses continue operations and keep workers on payrolls. It wasn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel. As we drafted the CARES Act, we modified existing provisions of the tax code so that businesses could apply them easily and quickly.

We didn’t pick winners and losers. The tools included in the CARES Act recognize all types and sizes of businesses – from farmers and sole proprietors to pass-through businesses like partnerships, LLCs and S corporations, to larger corporations.

One-size-fits-all is not the way the U.S. economy operates. But nearly every sector is bearing the burden of social distancing and stay-at-home orders across the country.

We tapped bipartisan tax measures that were deployed in previous economic crises. For example, we expanded the ability of businesses to use net operating losses or NOLs, just like we did in 2002 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in 2005 for taxpayers affected by Hurricane Katrina, and yet again in 2009 after the financial crisis.

These proven, effective tax tools were enacted in the CARES Act with bipartisan support, allowing businesses to use losses to offset income earned in prior years. Combined with the broader relief measures in the CARES Act, they will help millions of American families and businesses survive.

Unfortunately, while countless heroes across the nation are putting their lives and livelihoods on the line for the health and welfare of their neighbors to fight the coronavirus pandemic, others are simply pandering for votes in the November election.

Driven by class warfare, they’re taking aim at pass-through businesses. Never mind that more than 90 percent of American businesses operate as pass-through entities, according to the Tax Foundation. This includes many of those hardest hit by the pandemic, like farmers, restaurants, manufacturers, retailers and health care providers.

These businesses are facing cash-flow catastrophes. What’s more, they employ more than half of the U.S. workforce. And yet, the partisan critics don’t want to allow some Main Street businesses to get a tax break for their losses if the losses are too great.

Shouldn’t these employers who are seeing enormous losses as a result of the economic crisis our nation is experiencing be able to carry the losses back to the fullest extent, just like big corporations, to help keep their doors open and their employees paid?

This partisan attack threatens the relief intended for businesses in every industry across America. The attempt to paint this tax provision as a boon for real estate and hedge fund investors completely misses the mark. Notably, the CARES Act did not change the longstanding limits on investors being able to benefit from passive investment losses.

Instead, critics of fair treatment for businesses in distress want voters to believe the pass-through provision is a tax loophole for the rich. This misleading talking point ignores the unimaginable economic losses that are painfully occurring across my state of Iowa and the rest of America.

The magnitude of lost revenue threatens to pull under our farmers, restaurant owners, S corporation manufacturers, and too many other businesses up and down Main Street.

And even worse, what’s to stop anyone from going after other important relief measures in the CARES Act, like the employer retention credit or the Paycheck Protection Program, if relief measures help a business that critics now deem to be of the wrong size, type or industry?

The CARES Act threw a much-needed financial lifeline to businesses of all sizes, types and industries so they have the best chance to survive, preserve jobs of their workers, and join the recovery that’s on America’s horizon.

Instead of working together to help the business community support their employees and regain their financial footing, partisan spoilers are using the pandemic to score political points. We shouldn’t let these theatrics distract us from the important work of securing a strong economic recovery.

That’s where I will focus my efforts.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Grassley Celebrates Wind Energy Becoming Iowa’s Largest Source of Electricity

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), “father” of the wind energy production tax credit and a longtime advocate for homegrown renewable energy, issued the following statement on wind energy becoming the leading source of electricity in Iowa.

“The proof is in the pudding. Harnessing wind power to generate more than 40 percent of the state’s electricity is a big milestone. Wind is a critical part of our nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. It creates thousands of jobs, supports economic development, boosts tax receipts, attracts investment in our state and puts extra money in farmers’ pockets. It delivers affordable energy for consumers that’s also safe for the environment and helps build American energy independence.

“During this pandemic, I’m especially grateful for our wind energy workers. They provide essential services to keep the lights on, homes heated and internet services up and running. Iowans have sown ingenuity, innovation and investment into the wind energy industry and today are reaping the benefits of pollution-free electricity.”

According to the American Wind Energy Association, in 2019 the wind industry employed over 9,000 Iowans and provided over $69 million in land lease payments. Those lease payments diversify income for Iowa farmers, and are particularly important as farm commodity prices decline during coronavirus-related market disruptions.

Grassley authored the Wind Energy Incentives Act of 1993, which established the first-ever wind energy production tax credit. His leadership paved the way for wind energy to power Iowan’s homes and businesses with pollution-free energy, shrink the carbon footprint and harvest an abundant, renewable, fossil-free resource.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in 2003, Grassley spearheaded the effort to include an environmentally responsible energy package including nearly $15.5 billion in federal tax incentives to grow America’s renewable energy sector.

“U.S. wind power has grown significantly over the past decade and Iowa has been a key part of the industry’s expansion. Iowa made one the country’s earliest commitments to wind energy and residents have reaped benefits in rural economic development, new manufacturing jobs, and affordable, clean electricity as a result. Forward-thinking initiatives from Senator Grassley and other local leaders have allowed the Hawkeye state to harness the economic and clean air benefits of wind energy. This bipartisan policy leadership in supporting wind power is an example of success for the rest of the country. We are proud to say that wind is now the largest source of electricity in Iowa, providing reliable, low-cost, and zero-carbon power to communities throughout the state,” American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan said.

Over his years advocating for wind and renewable energy, Grassley has received the Jobs Champion Award, the Dr. Harold D. Prior “Friend of Iowa Wind Energy” award, the U.S. Wind Champion Award, the Holmberg Lifetime Achievement Award and the Fueling Growth Award.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Grassley Becomes 10th Longest-Serving U.S. Senator in History

BUTLER COUNTY, IOWA – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and President pro tempore of the United States Senate is now the 10th longest-serving Senator in U.S. history with 39.3 years of service. Iowans have placed their trust in Grassley since 1980 when voters first elected him to serve in the United States Senate.

“I’m honored to represent Iowans in the people’s branch of the federal government. I wake up every morning ready to work for Iowans and bring our commonsense values to the policymaking tables in Washington. The coronavirus pandemic underscores how important it is to keep open lines of communication with my constituents. It’s my job to ensure all Iowans have a voice at the table,” Grassley said.

Iowans have remained his highest priority throughout his public service. Grassley leverages his hard-earned seniority to deliver for Iowans as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, working to expand access to foreign markets for agricultural exports, lower prescription drug prices and increase the use of renewable fuels such as wind and biofuels. Most recently, Grassley led negotiations on the $2 trillion CARES Act to provide emergency tax relief to small businesses and their employees who are facing lay-offs and reduced hours through no fault of their own during the public health emergency. He also led the emergency one-time recovery payment to provide short-term relief to most U.S. households. Last year, more Grassley-led legislation became law than any other senator. Grassley is only the second Iowan to hold the position of President pro tempore, Grassley is only the second Iowan to hold the position of President pro tempore, a position that has historically been held by the most senior member of the majority party in the upper chamber of Congress. Upon his swearing in, Grassley became third in the line of presidential succession following the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

As former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley tirelessly shepherded through confirmation both current sitting Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. He continues to serve as a senior member on the committee.

Grassley is currently one of only two farmers serving in the U.S. Senate and he brings that perspective and Iowans’ work ethic to Washington. In this spirit, he has not missed a vote since 1993 when he was in Iowa with President Clinton assessing the need of Iowans to respond to the devastating floods.

While Grassley works in Washington when the Senate is in session, he returns to Iowa nearly every weekend. Grassley has held at least one question-and-answer session with Iowans in each of Iowa’s 99 counties once a year since he was first elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Though he is currently not holding meetings to comply with public health guidelines, he is in his 40th year of his annual 99 county meetings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Grassley Urges More Information Sharing Between Health, Intelligence Agencies

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is urging the leader of the U.S. intelligence community to further incorporate and provide intelligence access to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of National Security (ONS) to strengthen the governmental response to the COVID-19 public health crisis and future health concerns.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies the need to have a robust intelligence apparatus that must include HHS, and specifically ONS, as a full partner in the fight and that partnership must extend beyond the current pandemic. The cooperation that you facilitate today between federal health agencies and the Intelligence Community will strengthen ties between them for decades to come and the American people will be better served by the increased communication,” Grassley wrote.

 In a letter sent today to Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Grassley praises the recent pandemic-related information access granted to ONS but continues his push for full, complete and consistent ONS access to all intelligence community information as well as continued incorporation into missions related to the full scope of public health concerns—not just COVID-19.

 Last week, Grassley called for greater information sharing between U.S. federal health and intelligence agencies in a speech on the Senate floor. He specifically counseled against the over-classification of information so that federal health officials charged with combatting the coronavirus pandemic can access relevant information. Following a classified briefing in February on the coronavirus, Grassley highlighted the hard work done by the intelligence community but raised concerns about that work going to waste if federal health officials could not access the full range of information they need to do their jobs. The senator also raised this issue at a recent Finance Committee hearing with HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

 Full text of Grassley’s letter to Grenell follows or can be found HERE

March 24, 2020

 

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

Ambassador Richard Grenell

Acting Director

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

 

Dear Ambassador Grenell:

 I want to thank you for your service to the Intelligence Community during these challenging times. Our country faces an extraordinary threat from COVID-19 and the administration’s all-hands-on-deck public and private sector approach is the exact response that is necessary to defeat the virus and keep the public safe.

 During the course of my oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I have engaged extensively with its Office of National Security (ONS) which protects HHS from numerous threats. For example, ONS provides oversight, policy direction and performance valuations in intelligence, counterintelligence, insider threats, cyber threat intelligence, information security and homeland security. Moreover, ONS functions as the Federal Intelligence Coordination Office for HHS and works to ensure personnel security and the safeguarding of classified information. In addition, the ONS Division of Operations works to identify and combat insider threats and foreign intelligence and economic espionage against HHS assets. Accordingly, ONS is tasked with countering national security threats and has an important role to play in the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Most recently, I have publicly stated that federal health agencies must have access to all Intelligence Community information that could help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve noted that to help with that access, the Intelligence Community must guard against classifying information in such a way that ONS, for example, is unable to access relevant information. I have also noted my concern that ONS was not adequately incorporated into the Intelligence Community’s response to the pandemic; however, I have recently been made aware that this issue has been rightfully resolved.

 The healthcare landscape has evolved considerably in the past several decades. Threats to healthcare now include cyber, intelligence, and counterintelligence threats. That is why ONS is a critical part of HHS’s mission. The COVID-19 pandemic exemplifies the need to have a robust intelligence apparatus that must include HHS, and specifically ONS, as a full partner in the fight and that partnership must extend beyond the current pandemic. The cooperation that you facilitate today between federal health agencies and the Intelligence Community will strengthen ties between them for decades to come and the American people will be better served by the increased communication.

 Accordingly, I request that you immediately use your authorities to ensure that ONS is given full, complete, and consistent access to all Intelligence Community information and continues to be fully incorporated into missions involving threats to the nation’s healthcare, not just COVID-19. No later than March 31, 2020, please provide me an update on the steps you have taken to resolve these issues. Should you have questions, please contact Joshua Flynn-Brown of my Committee staff at 202-224-4515.

Thursday, March 17, 2020

Grassley op-ed: Lessons are unfolding from the coronavirus pandemic, a test of our civic duty
This week, I scheduled a dozen county meetings in keeping with my annual tour across the state to keep in touch with Iowans. Like many events, my meetings are postponed. The coronavirus outbreak is disrupting society and everyday life.
From canceled sporting events to school closings, travel restrictions and nixed St. Patrick’s Day parades, Iowans are coping with a new normal to mitigate the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Although it seems inconceivable a virus would shutter Disneyland, March Madness, the Iowa Legislature and even houses of worship, closures will save lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four pandemics in the previous century emerged from novel influenza viruses, including the 1918 outbreak that killed 675,000 Americans. For most people, the CDC says this highly contagious coronavirus will cause mild symptoms. However, the risk from serious complications from the disease COVID-19 poses life-threatening harm for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
As the number of confirmed cases and mortality rates swell across the country, a coordinated response is mission-critical. Over the weekend, Gov. Kim Reynolds confirmed Iowans have contracted the disease from community transmission. This delivers a reality check to our state. There’s clear and present urgency behind the effort to slow its transmission.
That’s why I’ve encouraged people to heed guidance from our public health professionals. Listen to the experts in epidemiology and infectious diseases when they say to regularly wash hands for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching the face and shaking hands, disinfect surfaces and practice social distancing. Lessons from the 1918 pandemic teach us that control efforts are essential for saving lives when no pharmaceutical treatment is yet available. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its phalanx of federal agencies, from the CDC to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have all hands on deck to respond to this 21st-century public health crisis. Every American must get on board.
Congress passed an initial emergency $8.3 billion response package to purchase medical supplies and equipment, accelerate the development of therapeutics and vaccines, and send federal aid to state and local health agencies. President Trump on Friday declared a national emergency, freeing up to $50 billion and cutting red tape to give hospitals flexibility to serve patients.
This week, Congress is poised to deliver a second package to alleviate hardship on American families who miss work and wages stemming from the public health crisis. Specifically, the bipartisan bill would provide free testing for the virus, increase food assistance, extend unemployment insurance and ensure employees have access to employer-paid sick and family leave by providing small- and medium-sized businesses a payroll tax credit to fully cover these costs.
As the United States works to protect the public health, the pandemic is infecting the economy, particularly the travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m developing additional fiscal measures for consideration to help inoculate small businesses and their workers from the fallout and address volatility in the stock markets amid shocks to global supply chains, effects on businesses of social distancing, and lowered consumer demand. As always, I’m keeping watch over federal agencies and their efforts to mitigate risk for nursing home residents, veterans, and inmates.
Don’t forget, the 2020 Census is underway. The federal government’s response to the coronavirus includes billions of dollars in federal aid that will be distributed based on census data. Census forms will be mailed to every household by March 20. For the first time, Americans may choose to complete the survey online, by phone or mail. The decennial headcount provides vital data for federal spending formulas that Iowa communities count on to pay for public services and public works, such as highways and hospitals, food stamps, Head Start, Medicaid and more.
Lessons from the 2020 pandemic underscore my work at the policymaking tables on behalf of Iowans, including:
  • Broadband infrastructure is more important than ever. From telemedicine to telecommuting and online school instruction, rural America can’t be left behind. I applaud the Federal Communications Commission and the private sector who are working together to ensure Americans don’t lose access to their internet service during the pandemic. In August, I participated in an event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center and UnityPoint in Des Moines about barriers to health care in our rural communities. Many Iowans travel long distances to reach a hospital or health clinic. Shortages of physicians and specialists in our rural communities further underscore the accessibility gap. Expanding telehealth services would help bridge the divide, improving patient outcomes and saving money. The emergency spending package Congress approved earlier this month paves the way for telehealth services to better serve patients and prevent exposing others to the virus.
  • The coronavirus pandemic brings even more urgency to my bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act I’ve co-authored with Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. When lifesaving vaccines and pharmaceutical treatments are prescribed to patients, they need to be affordable to be effective. Our bill caps out-of-pocket costs for senior citizens. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office updated its analysis and reported the bill would save taxpayers $95 billion, reduce out-of-pocket spending by $72 billion and reduce premiums by $1 billion.
As we navigate these uncertain times, embrace the pioneer spirit. Be governed by grit, sacrifice, and fortitude to thrive and protect hearth and home. Iowans are of sturdy stock, civic-minded and good neighbors.
Nearly a century ago, in an address to the 42nd General Assembly, the son of a pioneer family who had served in the Statehouse and represented Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District shared a bit of wisdom that rings true today as Iowans are called to act in solidarity for the public good. The farm boy from Bremer County, Burton E. Sweet, praised the “great inheritance” transmitted from our predecessors who embraced a governing philosophy “for the benefit of one is the benefit of all, and the neglect of one is the neglect of all.”
The closures and cancelations may seem extreme or excessive to many Iowans. Consider this a test of social responsibility and civic duty. Let’s pass with flying colors, especially for the sake of loved ones, neighbors and co-workers who are at greater risk of serious complications and for those on the front lines who deliver life-saving health care. Although this pandemic may worsen before times get better, I have every confidence America’s best days are yet to come.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

On His Office’s Accessibility to Iowans

This is my 40th year holding a Q&A in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. My regional staff is also committed to holding meetings across Iowa.

My Iowa staff serve as my eyes and ears when I’m working in Washington, D.C. 

That’s why they host mobile office hours in every county and attended roughly 1,400 meetings across the state last year.

My regional directors’ tour hospitals, businesses and child care centers. 

They meet with disaster victims, government officials and senior citizens. They attend ribbon cuttings, community forums and legislative discussions. 

Serving Iowans is my top priority. I encourage Iowans to contact any of my six offices across the state if I can be of assistance on a federal matter.

Regional Offices

Cedar Rapids

111 7th Avenue SE, Box 13
Suite 6800
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
(319) 363-6832
Fax: (319) 363-7179

Council Bluffs

307 Federal Building
8 South 6th Street
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
(712) 322-7103
Fax: (712) 322-7196

Davenport

201 West 2nd Street
Suite 720
Davenport, IA 52801
(563) 322-4331
Fax: (563) 322-8552

Des Moines

721 Federal Building
210 Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 288-1145
Fax: (515) 288-5097

Sioux City

120 Federal Building
320 6th Street
Sioux City, IA 51101
(712) 233-1860
Fax: (712) 233-1634

Waterloo

210 Waterloo Building
531 Commercial Street
Waterloo, IA 50701
(319) 232-6657
Fax: (319) 232-9965

Washington, D.C.

135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224-6020

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Wall Street Journal: To Stay Awake in Trial’s Wee Hours, Grassley Sleeps In—Until 7:20 a.m.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, 86, is usually in bed by 8:30 or 9 p.m., so the late nights he has been keeping at the impeachment trial of President Trump haven’t been easy for him.

The Iowa Republican says his secret for staying awake has been to sleep in longer—and then take a bracing run through his northern Virginia neighborhood.

Typically Mr. Grassley rises at 4 a.m. to run. He manages 3 miles, four times per week. But on Thursday he woke at the indulgent hour of 7:20 a.m.

There are some benefits to the later wake-up time, he said. “I’m able to do it in daylight.”

A reporter asked if he ponders the trial’s evidence and arguments while he is jogging. The answer, Mr. Grassley said, is decidedly no.

“This is going to sound sentimental to you, but my period of running is not only for exercise,” he said. “It’s a time when I discuss things with God.”

LINKhttps://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/trump-impeachment-trial/card/1579811812

 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Q & A: New Year, New Tax Season – Chuck Grassley 

“Americans are ringing in the New Year with rising wages, historic low unemployment rate, robust stock markets and low inflation. Rolling back the Trump tax cuts would usher in a climate of uncertainty and dial back economic prosperity. As chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I’ll continue to advance efforts to make the 2017 tax reform permanent and correct technical errors in the bill so individuals, farmers, and small businesses enjoy the full benefit of the new tax law,” Senator Chuck Grassley wrote in his weekly Q&A.

Q: What’s in store for 2020?

A: Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 delivered across-the-board tax relief and more take-home pay for American workers, helping families make ends meet and small businesses to grow and invest in their operations. For U.S. households, the overhauled federal tax code increased tax credits for families with children, expanded the standard deduction and limited the alternative minimum tax. It also restored fairness and a competitive tax regime for corporations, lowering the federal rate from 35 percent, restricting offshore tax havens and encouraging companies to bring their overseas profits back to the United States. Across the country, the Trump tax cuts expanded consumer purchasing power, helping drive the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. Americans are ringing in the New Year with rising wages, historic low unemployment rate, robust stock markets and low inflation. Rolling back the Trump tax cuts would usher in a climate of uncertainty and dial back economic prosperity. As chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I’ll continue to advance efforts to make the 2017 tax reform permanent and correct technical errors in the bill so individuals, farmers, and small businesses enjoy the full benefit of the new tax law. We’ll also pursue other priorities that we began last year, such as retirement and pension reform, building on the passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act and helping ensure that multiemployer pension plans like Central States can provide retirement benefits over the long term.

Additionally, I’ll continue pressing forward in 2020 as a taxpayer watchdog. These efforts include my oversight work to uphold the integrity of federal tax laws and strengthen accountability at the IRS, including sharpening the effectiveness of the IRS whistleblower protection program to hold tax cheats accountable and restore even more revenue to the federal treasury. Since 2007, the IRS whistleblower program has recovered $5.7 billion. I’ve also stepped up my oversight of nonprofit hospital systems to ensure they’re fulfilling charitable care obligations as well as investigating unlawful tax avoidance schemes that cheat the taxpaying public and erode voluntary compliance.

Q: Why are syndicated conservation easements on your radar?

A: With many years of legislative and oversight experience under my belt writing federal tax policy, I work to ensure tax laws are administered as fairly and effectively as possible. As chairman of the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, our bicameral committee considers tax expenditures and tax revenue estimates to inform lawmakers throughout the stages of writing tax policy. It’s vital for Congress to know how proposed changes would affect taxpayers, government benefits and programs. I also work to hold the federal tax-collecting agency accountable and have spearheaded laws to restore customer service at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That’s why I’ve written several updates to my Taxpayer Bill of Rights to ensure taxpayers are treated with fairness. Our system of voluntary compliance depends on all taxpayers to fulfill their tax liability. As I often say, that means not a penny more and not a penny less. The tax gap reflects taxes that are owed compared to taxes that are paid. Last year the IRS reported a net tax gap of $381 billion, for a net compliance rate of nearly 86 percent. The IRS says the vast majority of noncompliance is attributed to underreporting income, thereby understating the amount of taxes owed. The private debt collection program that I helped create in 2004 has helped to improve IRS enforcement efforts and make the system fairer for law-abiding citizens. The IRS reports the private debt collection program collected nearly $213 million in 2019, which underscores the success of this public-private partnership. Wrongdoers who engage in illicit tax shelters create a bigger burden for law-abiding taxpayers to shoulder. It’s unfair and it’s illegal. Every year the IRS issues what it calls a “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams and abuses. I’m actively investigating syndicated conservation easements with the committee’s top Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Here’s how it works. Promoters appear to be twisting a legitimate tax tool called a conservation easement and distorting the tax benefit to game the system for profit. They appear to be selling bogus tax deductions on inflated appraisals, depriving the federal treasury of billions of dollars of revenue and besmirching the public good of charitable conservation. Conservation easements promote land conservation for public benefit by shielding land from development and preserving treasured lands for generations to come. A landowner redeems a charitable tax deduction for permanently removing the land from development. However, syndicated conservation easements appear to involve promoters overvaluing land to allow investors to scam the tax code for big-time profit. From the most recent IRS data available, approximately $20 billion in questionable tax deductions were claimed using conservation easements from 2010 to 2016. I’m investigating these transactions to find out what’s really going on in this area. When used as intended, conservation easements serve the public good by protecting natural resources and preserving cherished places for posterity. As the 2020 tax filing season gets underway, I’ll continue my legislative and oversight efforts to ensure the nation’s tax laws and federal tax-collecting agency are working effectively for Americans.

Opening day for paper and electronic tax returns is Monday, January 27, 2020. The IRS expects to process 150 million individual tax returns. Go to IRS.gov to check out available tools and information.

Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Des Moines Office, 721 Federal Building, 210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, Phone: 515-288-1145; Fax: 515-288-5097.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Grassley Supports Resolution Praising Successful Mission to Eliminate Qasem Soleimani

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and 41 Senate colleagues in supporting a resolution honoring the members of the military and intelligence community who carried out the successful mission that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and a designated terrorist.

The resolution is modeled on a resolution unanimously supported by the U.S. Senate in 2011, after American forces killed Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

“The U.S. response to Iran’s increasing provocations had been too measured, to the point that we risked Iran’s leaders mistaking restraint for weakness and encouraging further escalation. I support President Trump’s action and am proud to join this resolution honoring our men and women in uniform who led this successful mission,” Grassley said.

Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Des Moines Office, 721 Federal Building, 210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, Phone: 515-288-1145; Fax: 515-288-5097.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Senator Chuck Grassley released statement regarding House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Articles of Impeachment

Senator Chuck Grassley, Senate president pro tempore and Senate Finance Committee Chairman, today released the following statement regarding House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that she will soon transmit articles of impeachment to the United States Senate.

“Speaker Pelosi threw the United States Congress into unnecessary chaos with this pointless delay. From the beginning, it’s been unclear what the goal of this hurry-up-and-wait tactic was or what the country stood to gain. We now know the answer was nothing. We’ve had three needless weeks of uncertainty and confusion, causing even more division.

“After House Democrats delayed passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for nearly a year, the speaker’s indecision on impeachment will now keep the trade deal from being ratified for even longer. Farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and all American workers will pay the price.

“Regardless, I will take my role as a juror seriously and review the evidence presented by both sides before making any determination.”

 

Charles E. Grassley, Chairman, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Des Moines Office, 721 Federal Building, 210 Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50309, Phone: 515-288-1145; Fax: 515-288-5097.

 

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