Monday, November 16, 2020
Grassley Continues to Press USDA on Farm Payments, Active Engagement Compliance
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today highlighted the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farm payment program. Following Grassley’s request for review, the GAO report concluded that USDA has improved its completion of eligibility compliance review, but additional oversight is needed.
“As a lifelong family farmer and taxpayer watchdog, I’ve fought to close loopholes that have allowed some operations to exploit federal farm payments at taxpayer expense. It’s situations like this that undermine the purpose and support for farm safety net programs that help farmers weather downturns in the market and survive natural disasters, such as the derecho that wiped out tens of millions of acres of crop acres and damaged grain bins across 57 Iowa counties,” Grassley said. “Farm payments should only go to those with dirt under their nails. Congress must fix this broken system in the next Farm Bill. I look forward to continuing to work with the USDA as they address much-needed changes to FSA office operations to implement these recommendations.”
The report found several issues primarily in the FSA state offices. One devastating finding is that the USDA does not systematically monitor its performance of compliance reviews. This lack of oversight and accountability has created a welfare system for some joint-ventures and general partnerships, particularly in the South. The report shows that 19 of the top 20 farms that received payments in 2016 and 2017 are in the South. Following these findings, GAO made an additional five recommendations for USDA and FSA to implement so that only those actively engaged in farming are utilizing the payments and the program is used for its original purpose.
Grassley has been a longtime advocate for farm payment limitations. A Grassley amendment to close a loophole allowing an unlimited number of so-called managers to qualify for federal subsidies was included in the last two farm bills during Senate consideration. In both of the last two farm bill negotiations, Grassley’s amendment was removed from the final bill. Before the last farm bill, the GAO documented that at least $259 million was paid out through the actively engaged loophole Grassley’s amendment sought to close.
Recently, USDA announced its final rule on the implementation of payment limitations and definition of “actively engaged” in farming as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Last year, Grassley and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska sent a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to use his existing regulatory authority to implement the Farm Bill in order to ensure that individuals receiving farm payments are actively engaged in farming. While this is an important step, it’s clear based on this GAO report that there is much more work to be done.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Q&A: EV Mandate Zeroes Out Biofuelsssley Calls Out Democrat Disinformation on the Social Security System
Q: What would the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act mean for farmers and consumers?
A: The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act is a one-size-fits-all solution that would cut Rural America out of the clean energy economy. This far-reaching proposal would ban the internal combustion engine and result in a national mandate for electric vehicles (EV). The ideologically-driven effort underscores why the founders created a bicameral legislature. The 100-member U.S. Senate helps foster consensus-building to protect less populated states and put a check on government overreach. As Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator, I’ve long championed farmers and families who earn their livings and livelihoods in rural communities across America. I’ve secured clean energy laws to boost energy efficiency, protect our environment, grow energy independence and strengthen national security. My clean energy legislative victories score an extra advantage of expanding the farm economy and creating jobs in Rural America. We can’t allow coastal state lawmakers to dictate to Middle America how to live our lives or take away the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy. About half of the corn crop goes to make ethanol and other byproducts. Banning gasoline-powered cars would gut that market and lower corn prices. If ethanol plants shut down, they’d also stop producing a byproduct known as distillers grains, which are used as livestock and poultry feed. If biodiesel engines were outlawed, the demand for soybean oil would fall and lower the cash price of a bushel of soybeans. Consider the merits of the Renewable Fuel Standard. This clean energy policy has proven its effectiveness to help lower greenhouse gasses, expand consumer choice, strengthen the farm economy and enhance our energy independence.
President Bill Clinton famously said the era of Big Government is over. His proclamation didn’t age well in today’s Democratic platform. The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act would mandate the types of vehicles that automobile manufacturers are allowed to produce and sell. By definition, that impacts jobs in the car-making and auto services industry. Specifically, it would require 50 percent of sales for new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2025 and mandate 100 percent of new sales for the U.S. passenger transportation fleet by 2035. To show how unworkable this is, consider 326,000 electric vehicles were sold in 2019, representing less than two percent of 17.2 million new vehicles sold in the U.S. last year. We would need to see approximately 2,500% increase in electric vehicle sales from 2019 to meet this government mandate by 2025. Requiring every American car buyer to purchase an electric vehicle would price lower-income families out of the market, force taxpayers to pay for subsidies, grants and incentives, zero-out the revenue stream for public infrastructure, roads and bridges and widen the rural-urban divide. Quite simply, this far-left scheme is extreme government overreach that would strip away consumer freedom and take away opportunities for Rural America to continue innovating and fueling the world with clean, affordable, renewable energy.
Q: Why is the biofuels industry so important to Iowa?
A: Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of biofuels. Every year, Iowa produces more than 4.5 billion gallons of cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels to give motorists an affordable alternative at the pump. Iowa’s 43 ethanol refineries and 11 biodiesel facilities support 50,000 jobs. The electric vehicle mandate would zero-out liquid biofuels and void Iowa’s biofuels industry. It also ignores salient facts. First, renewable fuels can already reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent. That’s a sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy solution grown in America’s heartland. A federal EV mandate would plow under the stalks of farm-based innovation, slam the brakes on new efficiencies and reduce demand for corn and soybeans. It also ignores the fact that the majority of battery-operated cars would depend on fossil fuel-generated electricity to recharge. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2019, 63% of electricity is generated by fossil fuels. That doesn’t compute to net zero-emissions. The proposal also stirs up an expensive hornet’s nest to build out a new electricity grid and power charging infrastructure, not to mention the challenges Iowa’s climate presents in the dead of winter. Iowans know that cold temperatures drain the juice out of batteries, and in the wintertime when motorists drive with the heater on, that sucks up more energy and means less range for battery-powered cars between recharging. No one behind the wheel of a car in Iowa in the middle of January wants to worry about a dead battery with no charging station available within 50 miles. A federal mandate is unfair and unreasonable in remote, rural areas. Biofuels are a leading partner in our nation’s all-of-the-above energy policy. They are protecting the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rural America can’t afford an all-or-nothing approach to achieve clean energy. That’s why Sen. Joni Ernst and I fight tooth and nail for our farmers and biofuels producers and all Iowans who take part in conservation and take pride in protecting the environment.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On the Democrats’ Refusal to Move Forward on COVID-19 Relief, Insistence on Bailing Out Irresponsible State Governments
There is widespread agreement on the need for more COVID relief for families, small businesses, farms, schools and colleges and additional funding for testing and vaccines.
These non-controversial items are being held up by the Democrat leaders’ all or nothing negotiating position.
One controversial item they insist on is bailing out irresponsible state governments.
Iowa’s years of sound governance and fiscal responsibility, including a rainy day fund, has paid off in times like this.
A study for the Council of State Governments ranked every state’s ability to weather the economic impact of the pandemic.
It found Iowa to be the most fiscally sound, most resilient state in the country.
The CATO Institute ranked our governor’s fiscal policy second out of all 50 states.
Other states haven’t made the same tough decisions and were in the red even before the pandemic.
Now Democrats want Iowans’ federal tax money to bail out irresponsible state governments?
And this is worth holding up relief for struggling families?
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
We have recently seen yet another manufactured crisis from Democrats.
As usual during an election season, if there aren’t any real issues regarding Social Security, Democrats make one up to scare people into believing that some people want to destroy the program
We saw it in the last presidential election where Secretary Clinton didn’t have a basis to attack then-candidate Trump on Social Security since Trump wants to protect the program.
Lacking any real ammunition, Clinton’s allies in the Senate decided to manufacture a crisis.
At that time, three prominent Democratic Senators conjured up false claims about a nominee for the position of public trustee of Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
That nominee was a Republican who was nominated for another term by President Obama.
The false claims, published in the Huffington Post, were that the nominee was a Koch-brothers funded individual because he worked at an educational institution that had received grants from the Koch foundation.
And, the Democrats claimed that this single individual somehow duped all the other trustees, including Obama administration officials, into buying off on assumptions that would lead to an overstatement of the financial challenges facing Social Security.
This, according to the three Democrat Senators, was so bad that the Chief Actuary of Social Security felt compelled to write special notes to trustee reports identifying how shocking the assumptions were.
Of course, that would have meant that one single public trustee, who happened to be Republican, was able to dupe Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and the Democrat public trustee.
If you bought into the Democrats’ allegations at the time, it would have meant that all those Obama officials were duped and too inept to see what was going on, and only the Chief Actuary could see the light.
Well, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at the time investigated those allegations and showed that they were flat-out lies. Even the Washington Post identified the lies in an op-ed titled “The Showdown Democrats Don’t Need to Have.”
The Post concluded that the ultimate victim of what they called “petty politicization” will be “the perceived nonpartisanship and objectivity of key government reports – that is, the very values Senate Democrats claim to be upholding.”
Democrats used their misinformation campaign to run a smear job on a very qualified and well-respected nominee.
They also used it to run ads against anyone who voted in favor of that nominee, including ads against me in my most recent reelection.
Unfortunately, even though Social Security’s Chief Actuary was clearly implicated in the Democrat lies, he remained silent, as then-Chairman Hatch and even the Washington Post identified how ridiculous and false the Democrats’ claims were.
The Chief Actuary’s position, apparently, is that even if his office is being implicated to support clearly false and very public claims during an election season, he’ll just sit quietly and let it go.
Well, here we are in another presidential election season and, like clockwork, we are getting another round of misinformation from the Democrat candidate and his supporters in the Senate.
Here’s how the Washington Post’s fact-checker labels the current scheme, in a headline that says “Biden campaign attacks a Trump Social Security ‘plan’ that doesn’t exist.”
This time around, the misinformation stems from a letter written to Social Security’s Chief Actuary by four Democrat Senators, including the minority leader, the ranking member of the Finance Committee and Senator Sanders who has been counseling former Vice President Biden.
In the letter, the Democratic Senators ask the Chief Actuary to analyze “hypothetical legislation,” which they say even they wouldn’t support, to eliminate payroll taxes.
Of course, those Senators could easily find the information they were seeking by looking at the latest Social Security trustees report. Instead, for purely political reasons, they wanted to draw in the Chief Actuary.
And, the Chief Actuary at Social Security seems to gladly have played along and wrote a response.
He said that his office was not aware that anyone had proposed the hypothetical legislation.
Nonetheless, he identified that, without payroll tax revenue and no replacement from the general fund, the trust funds would run out of money pretty quickly.
That is obvious to anyone with even a slight knowledge of the programs.
But information was not the aim of the Democrat Senators’ letter. Instead, it was to put forward a silly hypothetical case that doesn’t correspond to anything that anyone has or is proposing, and attribute it to the President.
They used the Chief Actuary’s response to claim that authoritative sources have shown that President Trump has a plan to essentially defund Social Security.
And, in due course, they engaged the cottage industry of groups that exists in Washington who regularly scare seniors and the disabled, especially before elections, about some sort of “back door” plan or “Trojan horse” effort to destroy Social Security.
And, the Democrat Senators used the Chief Actuary’s response to feed the Biden campaign with a false talking point about Social Security.
The Biden campaign ran ads stating, among other mistruths, that “If Trump gets his way, Social Security benefits will run out in just three years from now.”
Even the Washington Post’s fact-checker gave those ads four Pinocchios, meaning that they contain a whopper of a lie.
The fact-checker also concluded that “To make a long story short, Democrats ginned up a letter from the chief actuary to describe a plan that does not currently exist.”
In a follow-up letter that ranking member Kevin Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee and I wrote to Social Security’s chief actuary, we expressed our concerns about the Democrats once again using his office for political purposes.
From his response, we learned a few things.
First, we got confirmation that no one has a plan to defund Social Security, including the President. That confirms that the Democrats’ letter was just plain silly and pure politics.
Second, we got confirmation that the Democrat Senators during the 2016 election published lies in a Huffington Post article invoking the chief actuary in an effort to smear a trustee nominee.
Third, we learned that Social Security’s chief actuary feels compelled to respond to any hypothetical posed to him by any Senator, independent of how silly or blatantly political it may be.
With that latter lesson, it would be easy for a Republican Senator to ask the chief actuary to analyze hypotheticals corresponding to allegations made by Senator Sanders, one of the authors of the letter concerning the “hypothetical legislation,” about Vice President Biden’s history on Social Security.
Senator Sanders has run political ads characterizing Biden’s record on Social Security, saying that Biden’s claims that he has always protected Social Security are “patently false.”
It wouldn’t be hard to send a hypothetical in for analysis by the Social Security’s chief actuary to get an answer to reinforce Senator Sanders’ view that former Vice President Biden has not acted to protect Social Security.
It wouldn’t be hard to send a letter to the chief actuary asking about how Senator Sanders’ plan to reform Social Security, which Senator Harris has co-sponsored, would harm the middle class by raising payroll taxes, with no corresponding Social Security benefit, on people with incomes below Biden’s $400,000 threshold for defining who is rich and who is not.
It certainly wouldn’t be hard to construct politically charged hypothetical legislation and ask the chief actuary about it in order to make political points and use the actuary’s position for political purposes.
In my view, though, that is not a proper use of Social Security taxpayer resources, in the same way that the Democrats are wasting resources using of the chief actuary for political purposes.
Democrats should stop wasting Social Security’s resources trying to construct false and misleading political points to use in elections to feed to their political base and dark-money groups who then use the points in social media and attack ads against Republicans. They should stop politicizing Social Security’s actuaries and the Social Security trustee positions in their transparent attempts to mislead the public and try to score political points about Social Security.
And, the American public should, especially during even years in the run-up to elections, turn a deaf ear to the scare tactics that Democrats continue to use on Social Security beneficiaries.
As well, reporters should be more responsible when reporting on these political shenanigans, though I will note that even the most recent ploy was at least called out by fact-checkers and given four Pinocchios.
Rather than acting like demagogues on Social Security, we should do what we can to improve its programs.
Social Security trustees across administrations have consistently recommended addressing the projected trust fund shortfalls, since projected benefits will continue to outpace revenues.
So, some sort of reform is inevitable.
But outside of broad reforms, there are many programmatic improvements that can help make the programs work better for beneficiaries and today’s workers.
While not as encompassing as broad reforms, there are plenty of areas that we and Social Security Commissioner Saul continue to monitor and work on to reduce backlogs and improve service.
Just recently, for example, the Senate passed by unanimous consent the Improving Social Security’s Service to Victims of Identity Theft Act that I sponsored with Senator Sinema.
This bipartisan effort will help people who fall victims of identity theft by providing improved service from Social Security with a single point of contact.
In my view, more bipartisan work to improve the programs is the way to go.
Partisan attacks to scare beneficiaries into believing that people are out to destroy people’s retirement and disability benefits do nothing to help working, disabled and retired Americans.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Grassley on the Signing of the Abraham Accords
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
ICYMI: For 40 years and counting, I’ve visited every county, every year
Holding in-person meetings provides a reality check on what really matters in people’s lives.
By Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa
From flat tires and empty gas tanks, to icy roads, speeding tickets, and yes, deer in the headlights, I’ve enjoyed every minute of every mile. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I’ll go the extra mile — following public health guidelines — to continue meeting with Iowans in every county, every year.
On Thursday, in Clinton County, I wrapped up my 40th consecutive year holding at least one Q&A in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. No matter the setting, whether the courthouse, hospital, school, factory floor, coffee shop, nonprofit center, service club, or local business, Iowans who take time out of their busy schedules to talk to me set the agenda.
My 99 county meetings originated as a way for me to hold myself accountable and keep in touch with “We the People.” As a United States senator for Iowa, I’m one-half of representative government. Iowans are the other half. Throughout four decades listening to people who’ve attended 4,000 or so county meetings — I reach many counties more than once a year — I can vouch Iowans are well-informed and have a lot on their minds. 2020 is no exception.
Getting to all 99 counties in a single year brings its fair share of challenges. First, my availability is dictated by the Senate calendar, where I haven’t missed a single vote since 1993 and hold the longest consecutive voting streak in Senate history. After many seasons on the road, I learned not to schedule county meetings in the dead of winter in the northwest corner of Iowa. Road construction and harvest traffic are factors during the summer and fall.
No matter the season, I strive to uphold three Golden Rules: Be punctual. Be honest. Be respectful.
Some people ask what keeps me going year after year, from one county to the next. The simple answer: I love my work. I enjoy helping people and making sure government works for Iowans, not the other way around. Holding in-person meetings provides a reality check on what really matters in people’s lives. Hearing stories of hardship from hardworking heroes in the heartland drives my effort to solve problems.
From the 1980s farm crisis in my first Senate term to the 2020 pandemic in my seventh term, I tackle the challenges and champion the successes of rural America. From my chairmanships and committee assignments, I’m able to leverage legislative expertise and seniority I’ve earned over decades of public service to shape public policy that benefits our state. From taxes to health care, immigration, criminal justice reform, renewable energy, trade, infrastructure and agriculture, I’ve got my ears on the ground, a seat at the table, and a finger on the public pulse to fight for 3 million Iowans.
I’ve witnessed tears of joy, sorrow and hardship. Parents share profound gratitude for assistance navigating an international adoption. Military families take pride accepting medals awarded posthumously for a service member. Small businesses tell me they’re surviving the economic fallout from the pandemic with Paycheck Protection Program money. Despite natural disasters and low prices, farmers will work themselves to the bone to protect their livelihoods, pay the bills and preserve their way of life for the next generation. Parents, patients and seniors urge action on cutting prescription drug prices. Survivors of human trafficking, elder abuse and addiction strive for healing and recovery. Iowans want action on infrastructure, especially broadband to improve connectivity for online learning, telemedicine and remote working arrangements.
Looking back at 40 years, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s an exhilarating and extraordinary experience. Among my memorable meetings, ice storms in Belle Plaine caused a power outage at the local library. So, we improvised the Q&A as a drive-through from my car window. Overflow attendance in August 2009 led to meetings in the town square. At every meeting, I tell people to ask me anything under the sun. Young people at our schools typically do.
By my measure, 99.99 percent of my 99 county meetings reflect “Iowa Nice.” Of course, people get passionate during an election year and pretty fired up about issues sacred to their beliefs. At those moments, thick skin and an open mind help me to listen, learn, lean in and lead the discussion among neighbors with civility.
At the end of the day, that’s what defines Iowans. We’re neighbors who look out for our neighbors. From the pandemic to the derecho, to nationwide protests for racial justice that have been sabotaged in some places by criminal violence, many Iowans wonder what else 2020 has in store.
No matter what happens next, I’ll continue our dialogue. Keeping in touch through social media, phone, email, postal mail and traditional media also keeps me connected, transparent and accountable to Iowans.
In just four months, I’ll start my 99 county meetings all over again. I look forward to meeting with as many Iowans as possible. In the meantime, I’ll wrap up my 40th year in a row with you know what: an extra scoop of ice cream.
Chuck Grassley, of New Hartford, is Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator where he also serves as president pro tempore, third in line to the presidency.
Monday, August 31, 2020
Grassley, Brady Push Social Security Chief Actuary to Set Record Straight on Partisan Democrat Misinformation
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) today pressed Stephen Goss, the Chief Actuary of Social Security, over the use of his office for political purposes and pushed for public clarifications to recently published analysis that has allowed for partisan misinformation to be spread by Democrats.“We take seriously the responsibility to ensure Social Security remains strong for generations to come and know the American people expect and deserve real conversations about how to do just that. It is unfortunate that some seek to use your office for election-year partisan scare tactics…,” Grassley and Brady wrote.
In a letter to Goss, the leading Republican tax writers argue that Social Security’s actuaries should not be used for political purposes. Unfortunately, Democrats have once again invoked the Office of Social Security’s Chief Actuary for such purposes, to promote a political narrative that some are out to destroy Social Security programs. A recent letter from Senate Democrats sought an analysis of hypothetical legislation—that no policymaker supports—for no other apparent reason than partisan fearmongering.It is harmful to Social Security beneficiaries for Democrats to play politics with Social Security, to engage in scare tactics regarding the status of Social Security’s trust funds, and to threaten the public trust in the independence of the Social Security actuaries.
Full text of the letter from Grassley and Brady follows or can be found HERE.
August 31, 2020
Dear Mr. Goss:
We write to express our concern regarding the use of your office for political purposes. The American public expects and deserves a fair assessment of the Social Security program’s financial status and effects of proposed legislation, however actions over the past several years raise concerns about the true independence of the Office of the Chief Actuary. Use of the Office of the Chief Actuary to score political points is unacceptable and cannot continue.
On June 7, 2016, Senators Warren, Schumer, and Whitehouse published an essay in HuffPost alleging that intellectual and political biases of a Public Trustee led to an overstatement of financial challenges facing Social Security’s trust funds. They wrote that “…the 2014 trustees report curiously incorporated a number of assumptions playing up the potential future insolvency of the program — a key talking point in the right-wing war on Social Security. These assumptions were so troubling that the independent Chief Actuary for Social Security took the unprecedented step of writing a public statement of actuarial opinion disagreeing with the report. After similarly questionable elements appeared in the 2015 report, the Chief Actuary repeated this extraordinary public rebuke.”
Those allegations gained national attention, including discussions in at least one hearing in Congress, and threatened public confidence in the integrity of the Social Security Trustees’ reports. The allegations were also, as you know, patently false. They were used for purely political purposes to feed a smear campaign against a nominee for the position of Public Trustee for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, painting him as a “Koch-Funded” individual who would undermine retirement security of Americans.
Because your position was being used to perpetuate falsehoods in the run-up to a Presidential election, we would have expected you to have promptly cleared the record. You did not. Then-Chairman Hatch of the Senate Finance Committee repeatedly laid bare the lies contained in the politically-motivated smear campaign, on the Senate floor, and in the Senate Finance Committee. He also identified that the allegations put forward by the Senators had “injected needless politics into Social Security trustee reports, and have threatened the integrity of those very reports.” Nonetheless, you remained silent.
It was not until you were forced by questioning from then-Chairman Sam Johnson at a House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee hearing that you weakly disavowed the lies fueling political smear campaigns. Of course, by that time, skewed political ads were being used to mislead voters, and threats to “the perceived nonpartisanship and objectivity of key government reports” were noticed even by the liberal Washington Post.
We now approach another Presidential election, and your office has once again been asked to contribute to a politically motivated effort to mislead voters. On August 19 of this year, Senators Van Hollen, Sanders, Wyden, and Schumer wrote to you asking for an analysis of “hypothetical legislation” to eliminate FICA and SECA taxes used to fund Social Security programs. The intention behind the Senators’ inquiry was clear: argue that the President would “terminate” payroll taxes that fund Social Security, leaving the trust funds without that important source of revenue, and then argue that the President and others want to destroy Social Security.
Your response to the Senators’ letter was disappointing, to say the least. The “hypothetical” legislation that the authors of the letter identify they would not support has not been proposed by anyone and has never, to our knowledge, been proposed or referred to the Senate Finance Committee or Committee on Ways and Means, at least in modern history. Nonetheless, your analysis of the hypothetical that no one supports appears on your office’s website under “Office of the Chief Actuary’s Estimates of Proposals to Change Social Security,”  and news reports have characterized your analysis as a warning of a possible end to Social Security benefits.
In your response to the Senators’ letter, you did identify that, aside from the Democrat Senators who authored the letter, no one has proposed the legislation to zero-out FICA and SECA taxes for which they requested analysis. You also correctly identified that past payroll tax holidays enacted by President Obama provided General Fund transfers from Treasury to Social Security’s trust funds (breaking the link between worker contributions and their attendant benefits, a supposed bedrock foundation of Social Security) to offset effects on trust funds.
Unfortunately, you did not stop there. While you could have pointed out that effects on trust funds of the legislation that the four Democrat Senators were putting forward are readily discernible from the most recent trustees report, you did not. Rather, you proceeded to put your office’s imprimatur on the hypothetical legislation to display the obvious: absent sources of revenue from FICA and SECA payroll taxes, Social Security trust funds would deplete rapidly and benefits could not be paid. That, as you know, provided fuel for the ensuing misleading political messaging that was the most likely desired outcome of the Senators’ inquiry on their “hypothetical.” 
In the same spirit of inquiring about a legislative hypothetical that an inquirer does not support, it would seem entirely consistent to inquire about “hypotheticals” that Democrats may not have proposed, but could be linked to them through innuendo. It would be consistent for someone to ask you about “hypothetical” legislation to significantly cut Social Security benefits, arguing that while the legislation is not something that they would support, it would be of interest to obtain analysis.
Senator Sanders has identified that former Vice President Biden has a long history of advocating cuts in safety net programs, and that Mr. Biden was “talking about the necessity—with pride–about cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare, cutting veterans programs.” It would be straightforward for someone to write to you, the Chief Actuary, identifying that “while we would not be supportive of this hypothetical legislation,” please analyze “hypothetical” legislation involving Social Security benefit cuts of the types that Senator Sanders has alleged Vice President Biden has a long history of supporting. The next step, upon receiving your analysis, would be to argue that Mr. Biden, with a long history, according to Senator Sanders, of talking about cuts to safety net programs, would push to enact such legislation. That, as with the letter you received recently from Senators Van Hollen, Sanders, Wyden, and Schumer, would be a politically-motivated use of your office. We believe that you are aware of that, and would prefer not to have your office used for political reasons, as you understand the important role of independent scorekeeping.
Unfortunately, you continue to remain silent, in the face of numerous partisan and distorted claims that the President intends to entirely remove, for all time, revenue streams necessary to fund Social Security. To preserve the integrity and public trust of your office, please clarify that the political claims, facilitated by your response to the Senators’ letter, of some “plan” to “destroy Social Security” or permanently deplete trust funds are false and misleading. Please, also, reaffirm that the “hypothetical legislation” that no one supports does not correspond to any proposal by the Administration, Member of the House of Representatives, or Senator, including those who requested the analysis. We ask that you do so via a written response to this letter and that you make your response publicly available in the same location of the website cataloging proposals scored by your office.
Social Security is an important program on which millions of Americans rely, and it is facing serious financial challenges to its long term viability. As the Chief Actuary, you have an important role helping Congress and the American people understand the implications of proposed changes to the program. We take seriously the responsibility to ensure Social Security remains strong for generations to come and know the American people expect and deserve real conversations about how to do just that. It is unfortunate that some seek to use your office for election-year partisan scare tactics and we expect that in the future, you will not honor requests that serve no purpose beyond political posturing and are not grounded in serious inquiry. We look forward to your prompt reply.
Monday, August 24, 2020
Grassley Praises USDA Final Rule on Active Engagement in Farming Operations
BUTLER COUNTY, IOWA – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule on the implementation of payment limitations and definition of “actively engaged” in farming as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. While the first cousins, nieces, and nephews provision from the 2018 Farm Bill are included in the rule, those additional family members now must provide either 25 percent of the total management hours required by the operation on an annual basis or perform at least 500 hours of management annually.
“As a lifelong family farmer and taxpayer watchdog, I’ve fought to keep the federal treasury from getting taken advantage of by long lost relatives who don’t actually contribute to a farm. I’m glad President Trump and his administration have endorsed my longtime efforts to close loopholes that have allowed some operations to exploit federal farm payments at taxpayer expense. It’s situations like this that undermine the purpose and support for farm safety net programs that help farmers weather downturns in the market and survive natural disasters, such as the derecho that wiped out tens of millions of acres of crop acres and damaged grain bins across 57 Iowa counties. I’ll keep a close eye on USDA’s implementation of management and labor rules so that federal farm payments go to farmers who actually need it,” Grassley said.
Last year, Grassley joined Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska in sending a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to use his existing regulatory authority to implement the Farm Bill in order to ensure that individuals receiving farm payments are actively engaged in farming.
Grassley has been a longtime advocate for farm payment limitations. A Grassley amendment to close a loophole allowing an unlimited number of so-called managers to qualify for federal subsidies was included in the last two farm bills during Senate consideration. In both of the last two farm bill negotiations, Grassley’s amendment was removed from the final bill. Before the last farm bill, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented that at least $259 million was paid out through the actively engaged loophole Grassley’s amendment sought to close.
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.
Thursday, July 2, 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.
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.
111 7th Avenue SE, Box 13
307 Federal Building
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721 Federal Building
120 Federal Building
210 Waterloo Building
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Thursday, January 23, 2020
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.”
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.”