By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Voters sent Washington a message in November.  Lawmakers can make the most of the historic election in the new year by making fresh resolutions for the new Congress.  Let’s listen, learn and lead.

First, listen. Voters are fed up with business as usual. Partisanship makes average citizens tune out. Second, learn. People want a government that functions with every branch doing its part and checks and balances alive and well.  By the way, executive overreach by the President falls squarely into the constitutional dysfunction category. Finally, lead. Voters sent us to Washington to make the government work for them. Stop squandering time on the taxpayer’s dime. Good policy is good politics.

Soon after the 114th Congress opened for business in January, I was selected to serve as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Having worked on this influential panel since Iowans first elected me to the U.S. Senate, I look forward to flexing even stronger oversight to keep the vast federal bureaucracy in check. Scrutinizing federal programs will help ensure tax dollars are protected from waste, fraud and abuse.  Every dollar that’s misspent or mismanaged misses the point of self-government.  Government works for the people, not the other way around.

Protecting the integrity of tax dollars will strengthen the public trust in government. According to opinion polls, public confidence in our institutions of government ranks at historic lows. As elected representatives of the people, members of Congress are answerable to their constituents. That’s a good thing. And I make it a priority to keep in continuous touch with Iowans through county meetings, social media and constituent mail.  

Iowans may like my Facebook page for updates and follow me on Twitter @ChuckGrassley and Instagram at SenatorChuckGrassley. Iowans also may go to my Senate website at www.grassley.senate.gov to sign up for my eNewsletter to receive policy updates in your in box called “The Scoop,” register your views on issues and pending legislation, report wrongdoing by clicking on my whistleblower tab, and check out when I’ll be visiting a county near you.

Even before Opening Day of the 114th Congress, I launched my 35th annual road trip across Iowa. By year’s end, I plan to hold at least one meeting in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. I use these face-to-face meetings to listen and learn. The open format sessions foster dialogue that reinforces the dynamics of self-government. It helps me prioritize what’s on the minds of Iowans when I’m working at the policymaking tables in Washington.

So, for example, when the President suggests raising taxes during his State of the Union address, it begs the question:  When is enough, enough?  Less take-home pay for hard-working families means less is left to buy gas and groceries. Small businesses are left with less to invest in capital, hiring and raising wages. Less is left to budget for college and retirement. His call to raise taxes on wealth would make it even harder to pass on family farms and small businesses to the next generation. The taxpaying public knows that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. The federal government needs to spend less, not tax more.

Restoring fiscal discipline and regular order to the U.S. Senate ranks high among my list of priorities. For example, I’ve co-sponsored legislation to address the broken budgeting process. The bipartisan “Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act” would turn Congress’ annual appropriations system into a two-year budget cycle. Lawmakers would focus one year for appropriating federal dollars. The next year would be devoted to oversight of the federal programs spending these tax dollars. I’m also planning to advance a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As 2015 gets under way, I am continuing to keep close tabs on federal grant programs and tax breaks that are designed to serve the public good.

For example, my decades-long crusade to ensure nonprofit hospitals and charitable organizations, such as the American Red Cross, are holding up their end of the bargain remains a high priority for me, especially as the new Congress considers comprehensive tax reform. Most recently, I’m looking into a non-profit hospital in Missouri that seems to be suing its poorest patients instead of seeking reasonable payment plans as required under federal law. Holding tax-advantaged organizations to account is good government and helps ensure they provide good works to the community.

As a senior member and former chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, I have been named co-chair of a working group to consider individual tax reform. From here I will lead the effort to bring the taxpaying public’s message into the debate: Simplify and make it fair.

Congress has plenty of work on its plate. While keeping in mind the federal government’s number one job is to protect national security, the people’s branch must work to restore trust in our institutions of government. Elected representatives need to listen, learn and lead. Throughout the new Congress, I’ll work to keep these items on the menu.