WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today marked a series of policy and oversight accomplishments of 2020.
“While this past year has been challenging for us all, serving the people of Iowa is my first priority and it’s an honor that I take seriously. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and through my extensive oversight efforts, my work focuses on making the government more transparent, efficient and accountable to Iowans and all Americans,”
Grassley holds at least one question-and-answer session in each of Iowa’s
99 counties every year
to hear concerns and answer questions on any subject from Iowans. In 2020, Grassley
his annual county meetings for the
40th year in a row
. Grassley holds meetings in a variety of settings to ensure that a broad cross-section of Iowans can participate, including businesses, schools, town hall meetings, hospitals and factory floors. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have made some of Grassley’s meetings look a little different this year, the format remained the same:
Iowans set the agenda
with his meetings in a safe and responsible way while following public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state of Iowa.
In addition to his annual meetings, Grassley attended or convened a variety of events and forums, including:
In 2020, Grassley
his annual social media series called
. These give followers an
at farming operations and to track the progression of corn and soybean crops grown on the Grassley family farm in New Hartford, Iowa, from planting through harvest.
When the Senate is in session, Grassley sets aside at least eight 15-minute meetings every Monday through Thursday to meet with Iowans in Washington, D.C., including advocacy groups, associations, chambers of commerce and local business leaders, students and families. While there were limitations this year due to the pandemic, Grassley was able to meet with Iowans virtually. Throughout 2020, Grassley met with more than 800 groups of Iowans and discussed a variety of policy issues such as trade, tax reform, prescription drug pricing as well as the many issues that have arisen during the pandemic. Grassley also joined Iowa schools for Q&As via video conferencing and, as an avid fan of Iowa universities, cheered on dozens of student-athletes at sporting events.
This year, Grassley became the
10th longest-serving U.S. Senator
in history and continued his constitutional duty serving as the Senate
president pro tempore
, a position historically bestowed upon 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. An Iowan has not held this position since Senator Albert B. Cummins in 1919. In his capacity as president pro tempore, Grassley aided in the selection process of the new
Architect of the Capitol
nominated an Iowan
to the U.S. Senate Curatorial Advisory board. He also played a role in many historic events this year including
welcoming President Donald Trump
into the chamber of the House of Representatives for the 68th annual State of the Union address and signing the
United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement
Highlights of Grassley’s legislative and oversight work follow here:
This year was particularly tough on the farming industry due to commodity prices taking a hit from the novel coronavirus, drought across West Central Iowa and an intense windstorm known as a derecho that caused widespread damage across central Iowa. However, through it all, farmers continued to
and support their communities. As the senior senator of one of the top agricultural states in the country and a
, Grassley has been an outspoken
Throughout the various spending negotiations in Congress, Grassley was a staunch defender of
. He led the Iowa Congressional delegation in
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to ensure funds for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) were
in the next government funding bill. He exposed Democrats for
blocking crucial coronavirus relief
, which included billions of dollars in assistance for farmers and agribusiness employees.
When COVID-19 began affecting our
meat supply chain
, Grassley immediately
with his colleagues. Grassley has long focused on consolidation in the meatpacking industry and pressed USDA to protect independent producers. In May, Grassley introduced
that would foster efficient markets and improve competition and transparency among packers that purchase cattle. Grassley first introduced this bill in 2002. The bill will require a minimum of 50 percent of a packer's weekly volume of beef slaughter to come as a result of purchases made on the open or spot market.
While many around the country noticed higher prices at the grocery store due to these market disruptions, many cattle producers across the country could not get a bid on their animals. Grassley was one of the first lawmakers to seek an
to bring more
transparency to the cattle industry
. He called on the Departments of Justice and Agriculture to investigate potential
and other illegal activity by large meat packing companies in the cattle industry. President Trump
echoed this call
for an investigation into possible anticompetitive behavior in the beef industry.
Grassley sent a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue
relaying the frustration of farmers about the lack of enforcement of the
Packers and Stockyards Act,
and called for the report on the Holcomb, Kansas, fire to be released by August 9, 2020, or he would seek an audit of the USDA’s enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Division. USDA took this issue seriously and
released its report
echoing the need for more transparency in the industry. Additionally, he partnered with Sen. Tester in sending a
to Secretary Perdue recommending the department clarify an ambiguous proposed rule regarding the undue and reasonable preferences provision of the
Packers and Stockyards Act
This year, Grassley also joined Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the
Securing All Livestock Equitably (SALE) Act.
Quick turnaround between the purchase and resale of cattle by a dealer often leaves the rancher who originally owned the cattle with little recourse if a dealer defaults on a purchase because the livestock has often already been resold. The
would establish dealer statutory trusts, mimicking existing packer statutory trusts, for the purpose of ensuring that cattle sellers receive payment should a livestock dealer become insolvent.
Grassley joined 30 members of Congress on a
bipartisan, bicameral letter
urging USDA Secretary Perdue to take immediate action to assist pork producers and maintain the pork food supply chain. As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, Grassley led his colleagues in sending an additional
letter to USDA
to recommend additional funding for farmers being forced to depopulate their livestock herds. Farmers faced an animal welfare crisis due to overcrowding and the challenge of providing enough feed and water available to each animal. Grassley also joined Iowa leaders, Sen. Joni Ernst, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig in sending a
letter to Vice President Mike Pence
and requested additional support from the Administration for the state’s pork producers.
In addition to livestock farmers, Grassley urged his colleagues to support
around the country. Additionally, he joined Sen. Ernst, Gov. Reynolds, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Naig in requesting the USDA to
include egg producers
in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). In the second round of CFAP payments, both egg and turkey producers were eligible.
To make sure tax dollars are spent as intended to benefit the farmers who actually work the land instead of managers or corporations, Grassley has been a longtime
farm payment limitations
. This year, USDA initially
announced a final rule
on the implementation of payment limitations and the definition of “actively engaged” in farming as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, which would have required additional family members to 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. Unfortunately, USDA recently reversed this rule. Prior to this reversal, Grassley
an additional GAO review of the program. The GAO report concluded that while USDA has improved its completion of eligibility compliance review, additional oversight is needed. Grassley will
his fight to close loopholes that have allowed some operations to exploit federal farm payments at taxpayer expense.
Grassley joined the only other farmer in the U.S. Senate, Jon Tester (D-Montana), to address farmer mental health. Grassley and Tester authored the
Seeding Rural Resilience Act
which aims to curb growing rates of suicide in Rural America by implementing a voluntary stress management training program, creating a public service announcement campaign to raise awareness and directing the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state and local groups to identify best practices when responding to farm mental stress. This bill was
successfully voted out
of the Senate this summer and later became law as part of the
National Defense Authorization Act
Diseases like African swine fever have the potential to devastate entire sectors of U.S. agriculture. With that in mind, Grassley cosponsored the
Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act of 2019
to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border. This legislation was
signed into law
by President Trump earlier this year.
This year, the Trump administration kept its promise and
successfully rolled back
the harmful Obama-era “Waters of the United States” or “WOTUS” rule and replaced it with a workable rule that clearly defines what waters fall under federal jurisdiction. Grassley was a steadfast opponent of the original rule, which would have regulated 97 percent of Iowa farmland as a navigable waterway. This regulatory certainty will continue to help spur economic growth in Iowa and around the country while also ensuring individual property rights are protected.
water quality is critical
to meeting the goals of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy and making improvements to Iowa’s river and stream health. With that in mind, Grassley joined Sen. Ernst and a bipartisan group of senators to
the USDA to make
to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to maximize the program’s ability for producers to use the program to enhance both soil health and water quality.
Grassley joined Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to introduce the
Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules (SMARTER) Act
. This bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to go through the same procedures that the Department of Justice (DOJ) must go through when enforcing antitrust law, and would require the Federal Communications Commission to issue merger review decisions expeditiously.
Grassley also partnered with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in introducing the
Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act
which extends whistleblower protections for employees who provide information to DOJ related to criminal antitrust violations. The Senate unanimously passed a similar version of the legislation in 2013, 2015 and 2017. This year, the legislation passed in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump in December.
In February, when the world was just
learning about COVID-19
, oversight and investigations staff for Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), received a
from the HHS Office of National Security (ONS) regarding the coronavirus threat and the status of U.S. government efforts to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
Grassley also was named to the
bipartisan task force
focused on safely re-opening America following the
public health crisis
. The task force includes Democrat and Republican members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Grassley was an original proponent of an
emergency supplemental appropriations bill
providing funding to combat the spread of COVID-19. The funding package amounts to an $8.3 billion surge in resources to combat COVID-19 and provides comprehensive funding for efforts on the local, state, national and international levels.
In March, Governor Reynolds
a State of Public Health Emergency as confirmed COVID-19 cases rose. Grassley sent a
to President Donald Trump asking that he promptly grant the Governor’s
for an expedited review of the major disaster declaration for the State of Iowa as a result of
multiple cases of COVID-19
detected in the state.
across the country were hit particularly hard by associated COVID-19 restrictions. To address this, Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the
keep workers on the payroll
by providing small businesses forgivable loans to cover payroll expenses. As the pandemic worsened, Grassley worked with his colleagues to provide additional funding to this program. While the Senate Democrats
, the additional funding later
successfully went through
. Grassley also worked with the Department of Treasury and the Small Business Administration on clarifying terms and eligibility of the program for Iowa businesses and bankers.
For example, Grassley partnered with Finance Committee Ranking Member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.)
the Department of Treasury to allow small businesses to deduct expenses associated with PPP loans that are ultimately forgiven. Ultimately, Grassley and many of his colleagues
disagreed with Treasury’s final guidance
worked with his colleagues
to ensure the
reaped the benefits of the
including additional funding for rural health centers, providers, programs, telehealth services and related infrastructure. Grassley also worked to secure relief for
. He worked to include $23.5 billion in the
to send emergency temporary relief to farm country to help survive the fall-out caused by the pandemic. Specifically, it set aside $9.5 billion for the USDA to directly support farmers and ranchers. The
also replenishes the Commodity Credit Corporation with $14 billion. Grassley called upon USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to use some of these
to help support the biofuels industry, including resources for higher blends infrastructure at filling stations and to leverage the purchasing power of the federal government to buy excess farm commodities and replenish food pantries and nutrition programs across the nation. He then
legislation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar to make this a requirement.
On December 21, the Senate passed an additional large legislative package including COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus, tax and health care policy extensions and government funding. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley championed several provisions including expanding unemployment insurance benefits, additional economic impact payments for individuals and families and extension of certain expiring provisions for families as well as small- and medium-sized businesses around the country. Additionally, under the Senate Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, this package extends a number of important Medicare, Medicaid and other health policies, including boosting payments to doctors in Iowa and other rural areas. It also provides permanent coverage for mental health telehealth visits, which are helpful during the pandemic and will remain critical for many Americans afterward. And, it extends the period over which state and local governments can use money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund provided under the CARES Act by one year, giving more flexibility to state and local governments as they face spending challenges caused by the pandemic. It also provides additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. Grassley’s full statement on the legislative package and further details on what is included can be found
Grassley joined Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to introduce the bipartisan
State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund Extension Act
to extend the
for states to use federal
assistance, as well as any future funding to state and local governments, through 2021. The goal of this bill is to provide flexibility in uses of Coronavirus Relief Fund resources by allowing spending by states, localities, territories, and tribes on coronavirus responses to be covered over a longer period of time.
Throughout the funding negotiations, Grassley worked to ensure the COVID-19 relief funds would go to those who actually needed it. With that in mind, Grassley introduced the
COVID-19 Funding Accountability Act
This legislation would impose strict congressional oversight over the implementation of various funding in the
as well as create bipartisan oversight boards.
his Democratic colleagues when they wanted to impose a quarter of a trillion dollar retroactive tax increase on businesses in need of cash to restart their operations as states began to lift shut-down orders.
Grassley also worked with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in
introducing a bill
to protect recovery payments provided in the recent
pandemic response legislation from garnishment by private debt collectors.
Grassley has been a longtime watchdog of waste, fraud and abuse. Unfortunately, throughout this pandemic, fraudsters have
of the American public through a
variety of scams
. Grassley wrote to the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA)
encouraging the IRS watchdog
to engage in a public awareness and education campaign informing Americans of
scams and frauds
related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the federal government’s response.
Grassley also partnered with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to call on DOJ to
take vigorous action
to protect consumers from price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic and help prevent the hoarding of essential medical supplies.
Although Grassley took all of the appropriate and recommended precautions, the senator
for COVID-19 after learning of an
. Grassley quarantined per CDC and local public health guidelines and at the recommendation of his doctors. Due to his quarantine, Grassley was unable to cast votes on the Senate floor for the first time in
. Grassley has cast
8,927 consecutive votes
and continues to hold the record for longest length of time without missing a vote in the history of the Senate. Ultimately, Grassley was asymptomatic throughout his quarantine and was cleared to
return to work
by his doctors.
Crime and Criminal Justice:
All Americans have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including inmates in the state and federal prison system. Grassley and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lead authors of the bipartisan
First Step Act
(FSA), led 12 of their colleagues in a
pressing DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to take necessary steps to protect the health and wellbeing of federal prison staff and inmates in Federal custody. They urged the release or transfer of the most vulnerable inmates to home confinement as permitted under the FSA. The senators called on BOP and DOJ to review and expedite current cases where the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program would allow for an early transfer – where appropriate – of terminally ill and eligible elderly inmates to home confinement. In April, Grassley and Durbin sent a
follow up letter
to the DOJ Inspector General’s (IG) regarding its decision to assess whether facilities housing BOP inmates are complying with available guidance and best practices regarding preventing, managing, and containing potential COVID-19 outbreaks and asked them to expand the probe.
As a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley also participated in a hearing titled, “Examining Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19,” where he pressed DOJ and BOP officials on the use of home confinement and adherence to CDC guidelines on social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and other risk mitigation efforts in correctional facilities.
Also, in an effort to protect the most vulnerable inmates in our society, Grassley and Durbin introduced the
COVID-19 Safer Detention Act. This bill expands eligibility for and provides judicial review of the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program, and also provides for the compassionate release of federal prisoners based on COVID-19 vulnerability and shortens the waiting period of judicial review during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Grassley also
led a letter
to the Justice Department about its handling of COVID-19 in juvenile detention facilities. Along with Sens. Whitehouse and Ernst, Grassley urged the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to equip the juvenile justice system with consistent, reliable, and transparent information to help mitigate the impact of the virus on vulnerable youth.
Grassley continued his work to protect children from predators online through his co-sponsorship of the
EARN IT Act
. This bill creates incentives for the tech industry to address online child sexual exploitation, by removing blanket immunity in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It also establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention that will be responsible for developing voluntary best practices.
extensive oversight work
throughout his career has included a dogged pursuit for answers from the Pentagon over decades of wasteful spending and its
to produce a clean financial audit.
Grassley has conducted oversight to
hold the DoD accountable
for over four decades. He
continued to press
the Department on the new Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, alleged conflicts of interest pertaining to those charged with creating its bid and reported disputes between bidders and the Department. This comes after the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) completed a review and provided
in response to Grassley and members of Congress raising concerns about the JEDI program. Last year, Grassley sent a
to then Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, seeking information on Department policies intended to mitigate conflicts of interest and prevent the tailoring of procurement requests to match a specific vendor, as alleged in the JEDI program procurement process.
Grassley and several of his colleagues sent a letter to GAO in July 2018 requesting the agency conduct an independent review of the reasons behind the DoD’s failure to acquire modern financial information technology systems capable of generating reliable information and supporting credible financial statements. The report was released in September and reaffirmed Grassley’s longtime concerns about financial mismanagement and waste at the DoD. The Department is working towards a clean audit and updating its financial management systems. However, it’s clear from this report the Pentagon has a long way to go.
Grassley, along with the other requestors of the GAO report and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), also sent a
earlier this year to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, urging them to include in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021 certain provisions that would make progress towards a clean audit, including more detailed reporting to Congress on DoD financial management systems. Both of the provisions were ultimately included in the final version of the NDAA.
Earlier this year, Grassley
into potential wasteful and inappropriate travel spending at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), specifically seeking full and complete answers to prior questions about multiple trips to Hawaii.
Grassley joined Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to reintroduce the
Military Justice Improvement Act
in response to reports of mishandling military sexual assaults.
Grassley and Gillibrand also introduced bipartisan legislation to require the military to establish a “Safe to Report” policy. According to a Department of Defense report, in fiscal year 2018, only 30% of sexual assaults in the military were reported. Studies show more survivors are empowered to come forward without the threat of retaliation, and the
Safe to Report Act
empowers survivors of sexual violence to report these incidents without fear of collateral misconduct charges for minor offenses. This legislation was included in the final version of the NDAA.
Also included in the NDAA was a provision that Grassley championed along with other members of the Iowa and Illinois delegation that seeks to improve Army real-estate management. The
establishes a pilot program to create an online real-estate management system at several Army installations, with the goal of helping the military and federal government use existing resources more efficiently.
Additionally, Grassley expanded his probe into the Department’s
Office of Net Assessment’s
(ONA) contract compliance after reviewing troubling documents related to contracts awarded to Professor Stefan Halper. Those documents call into question ONA’s stewardship of taxpayer dollars as well as its contract management and internal controls. In early 2019, Grassley
the DoD Inspector General (IG) review allegations of mismanagement by ONA contracts for political, improper or wasteful activities. Grassley later
about ONA contracting processes following a
DoD IG audit
of the program, which found ONA could not provide sufficient documentation that Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The Pentagon issued a
corrective action plan
for ONA in August.
On January 23, 2020, Grassley sought an
inspector general investigation
into the manufacturing practices of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J aircraft after whistleblower reports alleged a lack of oversight by the DoD has resulted in significant health and safety concerns. On October 8, 2020, Grassley sought
from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the manufacturing practices of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J after learning of discrepancies in the initial investigation.
From year to year, natural disasters take place across the country. In August, many Iowans experienced a historic
. Immediately after the storm hit, Grassley
visited Cedar Rapids
to survey damage, meet with residents affected by the storm and visit a local nonprofit assisting in relief efforts. Grassley and Ernst also participated in a
with 20 nonprofit leaders and the Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. The local nonprofits assisted with housing, case management, mental health, volunteer coordination, food access and legal assistance.
faced significant damage and new challenges resulting from the storm. Grassley
the Iowa congressional delegation in sending a
to USDA Secretary Perdue urging a prompt approval of Gov. Reynolds Secretarial Disaster Designation request for 57 Iowa counties that suffered losses as a result of the derecho. Following this request, Grassley and Ernst sent an
to USDA requesting it provide additional support for Iowa farmers impacted by the derecho and severe drought. They also sent a letter requesting additional funding for
Iowa agricultural cooperatives
In addition to tens of millions of acres of damaged crops, grain bins across the state were destroyed. Grassley and Ernst requested the U.S. Department of Commerce lift
Section 232 tariffs
on steel that will be used in Iowa’s derecho recovery, especially on steel used for rebuilding grain bins and machine sheds.
Grassley worked with Ernst to file legislation to provide tax relief to Iowans affected by the derecho. The legislation would provide certain employers a tax credit for retaining employees, enhance the tax deduction for disaster-related personal casualty losses, and facilitate enhanced access to tax-exempt retirement plans, among other benefits.
Additionally, Grassley and Ernst worked to ensure Iowans affected by the derecho weren’t victims of fraud. They sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to
investigate price-gouging scams
Grassley and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) continued their investigation into the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police in 2017. Grassley first
contacted the FBI
in December 2018 about its investigation into the shooting, and the FBI responded in March with little information, prompting a
from Grassley. Since then the senators also have pressed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to
on specific reforms being implemented to avoid a repeat of its drawn-out and opaque investigation of
U.S. Park Police’s
fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar.
This legislative session, Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, persistently contacted U.S. Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate the origins of the FBI’s
, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, to bring
to FBI mismanagement. Grassley has long been
of the FBI’s justification to spy on Carter Page, including its reliance on the
, which was compiled by a former British spy, sub-sourced to Russian officials and paid for by then-candidate Trump’s Democrat political opponents. The DOJ inspector general determined the dossier to be central and essential to the FBI’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application. The inspector general also determined the FBI’s applications included at least 17 errors and omissions and over 50 errors and omissions in the Woods File. After further reviewing the DOJ OIG report on Crossfire Hurricane, Grassley and Johnson sent Barr a
follow up letter
requesting the declassification of four footnotes in the report on FISA abuses in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Those footnotes were
and showed how Russian disinformation infected the Steele Dossier.
On April 25, 2019, Grassley and Johnson
to the DOJ regarding the FBI and how it may have used a counterintelligence briefing to conduct surveillance on the Trump transition team during Crossfire Hurricane.
In April, Grassley and Johnson
additional Crossfire Hurricane records after the declassified footnotes revealed the Steele Dossier contained reported Russian disinformation.