Q&A: From Judiciary to Finance
With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: Did you achieve what you set out to do in four years as chairman of the Judiciary Committee?
A: Serving as chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee was a hard-earned privilege I was honored to fulfill after climbing the rungs of the seniority ladder. I first landed an assignment on this influential committee, one of the original standing committees in the U.S. Senate, when Iowans elected me to the Senate. I have served continuously here since being sworn in on January 3, 1981 for the 97th Congress. When I took over the judiciary gavel in 2015, I deployed 34 years of policymaking experience to advance bipartisan legislation that would make our streets safer and families stronger. On my watch, the committee passed 61 bipartisan bills, including key measures to address human trafficking and the opioid crisis that is dialing back life expectancy in America. With President Trump’s endorsement, I'm also very hopeful to see criminal justice reform enacted by the end of the year. So far, 29 bills I steered through the committee have been signed into law.
Many Iowans will recall the 2016 presidential election turned into a referendum on the direction of the federal judiciary. The electorate sent a message with the election of President Trump and Republican Senate majority. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I worked to confirm judges who appreciate the constitutional limits of the federal judiciary. It isn't authorized to legislate from the bench. That's the job of lawmakers who are held to account at the ballot box. So far, the Republican-led Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 29 federal circuit court judges and 53 federal district judges during this Congress. Those 84 lifetime appointments will have tremendous influence on the rule of law and our way of life for generations to come.
I will continue to serve as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee in the next Congress. Iowans can count on my continued efforts to fix flaws in our broken immigration system. The American people deserve a comprehensive solution that ensures border security, curbs illegal immigration and supports legal immigration to keep our economy growing and our communities safe. What’s more, my oversight work to ensure healthy competition in our system of free enterprise across all sectors of the economy will be as strong as ever. From agribusiness to health care, mounting consolidation in the marketplace can raise concerns about potentially anticompetitive behavior that impacts producers and consumers. Most recently, I called upon the Federal Trade Commission in October to examine whether certain contracting practices between insurers and large hospital systems may create anticompetitive barriers to lower cost care for patients and consumers. That followed my request for the Department of Justice to carefully weigh antitrust concerns in the health care market, including the $69 billion integration between CVS and Aetna. Oversight is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I will continue to serve as a taxpayer watchdog for good government.
Q: Looking ahead, what priorities will you pursue as incoming chairman of the Committee on Finance?
A: I will take the reins once again of the Senate Finance Committee in January. I look forward to guiding forward the pro-growth economic agenda so that it reaches even more American families and that U.S. trade policies do not put American businesses and agriculture’s prosperity in jeopardy. We need to stay on the right track that has led to record-low unemployment, increased wages, improved labor participation, created jobs and raised consumer confidence.
The Senate Finance Committee has extensive jurisdiction over public policy that impacts every single American, from taxes to health care, tariffs, trade, retirement savings, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. When I previously served as chairman of the committee, I steered passage of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief laws, trade agreements expanding markets for exports from Iowa and across the country, and the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. I also led robust oversight of health and human services programs, the non-profit sector and elsewhere to ensure tax dollars are spent as intended. Iowans can expect that I will lead the tax-writing panel with a tight-fisted grip on the purse strings to stretch every tax dollar and deliver permanent tax relief to small businesses and hard-working families. My agenda also includes advancing bipartisan legislation that will improve our infrastructure, grow renewable energy, strengthen rural health care, develop market opportunities for American agriculture, manufacturing and services, and deliver savings to consumers on their prescription drugs without compromising patient safety or innovations in medicine that Americans depend on for the best health care in the world. I'll leave no stone unturned to make sure taxpayers aren't being taken for a ride and that Americans receive the services they pay the government to provide.