By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q. How much work has the Judiciary Committee completed under Chairman Grassley?
A. Since taking the gavel in January 2015, I’ve worked hard to advance legislation to promote business and innovation, improve government accountability and ensure justice for both the victim and the accused. This includes the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which was recently signed into law, the landmark Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, the most significant set of prison and sentencing reforms in a generation, and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to help communities address a growing drug addiction epidemic.
The committee has also considered a number of President Obama’s nominees to federal courts. Presidents have the authority, under Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, to nominate individuals to lifetime federal judgeships. That same Constitution grants authority to the Senate to provide consent or withhold consent for the nominee to be appointed. The Senate, therefore, was intended to be a check on the President’s power to fill the courts. By the end of May the committee will have held hearings for 43 judicial nominees this Congress.
Q. How does that compare to previous years?
A. The Judiciary Committee is on pace to exceed its legislative productivity in the previous Congress. The committee is also on track to match nominations benchmarks set in past similar scenarios.
So far this year, we have reported 26 bills to the full Senate, the same number of bills that was reported by the committee in the entire last Congress. Of those, 14 have been passed by Senate and seven have been signed into law, with another two awaiting the President’s signature. Contrast that with the previous Congress, where half as many bills reported by the committee passed the Senate and only five of them were signed into law. Every bill that we’ve considered in committee under my leadership has received strong bipartisan support. We still have several months to go before the year is out and we will continue to consider legislation throughout the remainder of this session.
Regarding nominees, the committee has considered nominations at a pace similar to that of the 110th Congress, which was also the last two years of George W. Bush’s second term, under the same circumstances as the current situation, when the Senate was controlled by the opposing party. By the end of this month, we will have held hearings for the same number of nominees who received hearings from the Democrat-led Judiciary Committee at the same point in President George W. Bush’s presidency. Even though the committee does not schedule the confirmation votes in the full Senate, the Senate has confirmed 324 of President Obama’s judicial nominees so far. At the same point in President Bush’s tenure, the Senate had only confirmed 303 nominees.
Q. What has the Committee done to keep government accountable?
A. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I am in a unique position to ensure the executive branch is being held accountable to the American people. I’ve initiated inquiries into government practices across the alphabet soup of the federal bureaucracy. This includes reviews of grant fraud within the Department of Justice, excessive use of funds and inappropriate hiring practices by the U.S. Marshals Service, retaliation against whistleblowers in various government agencies, shoddy records retention by the State Department, inadequate responses to federal records requests by various agencies, and the consequences of failing to enforce immigration laws, just to name a few.
Since becoming Chairman, I’ve sent more than 450 letters to more than 55 federal agencies, 20 organizations and 15 individuals in an effort to expand government transparency and accountability, and to address waste and misconduct. America deserves a government accountable to its people, and I will continue working toward that goal.
Click here for a detailed Progress Report on the Senate Judiciary Committee.