By Senator Charles Grassley
With Congress at work on key priorities and the President spelling out his goals in the annual State of the Union address, I?m focused on a number of initiatives for Iowans and the nation.
Last year marked many victories for Americans. The executive branch launched a regulatory reboot across the federal bureaucracy to remove unnecessary layers of red tape that were stalling innovation, driving up energy prices and crushing the economy under the weight of big government. Congress enacted tax reform for the first time since 1986, and Iowans will soon see more money in their pockets. I led discussions on important provisions included in the tax reform victory, such as the protection of the wind energy production tax credit. I?ve long advocated for an all-of-the-above American energy policy and will continue defending renewable fuels. Despite these successes, there?s more to be done.
I often say that transparency leads to accountability. Whistleblowers keep government honest, and it?s been an ongoing exercise to ensure protections for these brave men and women. Last year, I introduced the IRS Whistleblower Improvement Act and the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act. I?ll keep pursuing ways to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and foster a safe environment to report waste, fraud and abuse.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the FBI and Department of Justice. That includes ensuring law enforcement efforts are conducted without improper political influence. My oversight of the agencies? handling of politically sensitive investigations involving Hillary Clinton and any coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign will keep following the facts wherever they lead.
Discussions continue regarding the best path forward on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Congress must act to address those who were brought here through no fault of their own, but we also must make sure that other young people don?t find themselves in the same legal limbo in the future. Earlier this month, I met with a group of bipartisan, bicameral members of Congress and President Trump. In addition to DACA, we agreed that reforms must include real border security and bring an end to chain migration and the Diversity Visa lottery.
Federal judicial nominations will move forward in the Senate. A historic 13 appellate court judges were confirmed in 2017, more than in any first year of a presidency, but there are still 145 vacancies on federal district and appellate court benches. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, I?ll work with my colleagues to vet and review judicial nominees who will apply the law as written.
Criminal justice reform is also on the agenda. I?ve introduced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which focuses on recalibrating prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders while maintaining steep penalties for violent and career criminals. The plan also increases judicial discretion at sentencing for offenders with minimal criminal histories. These measures would help inmates successfully re-enter and contribute to society. The plan is earning broad, bipartisan support, and I hope to build on that momentum this year.
Championing programs to assist victims of sexual and domestic abuse is vital for a safe society. This year, I?ll lead a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in my capacity as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
As a lifelong family farmer and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I?m working to pass a responsible Farm Bill. The foods we produce feed millions of people. We need a Farm Bill with a safety net available only to those who actually farm, that maintains effective crop insurance programs and that modernizes the Conservation Reserve Program. These straightforward proposals provide critical assistance to farmers in need without wasting taxpayer dollars.
Modern medicine, particularly pharmaceuticals, has increased longevity and improved Americans? quality of life. But prescription drug costs are too high. I?ve worked across the aisle on legislation that would combat anticompetitive practices used by some companies to delay or block entry of cheaper, generic drugs. Efforts to expand access to affordable prescription drugs for Iowans and allowing for more competition and innovation in the industry will continue.
The battle to end opioid addiction will also move forward. I cosponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), saw it through the Judiciary Committee, and will continue pressing appropriators in Congress to provide funding to support programs to curb this epidemic.
Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.