Q&A: Looking Ahead 2019
With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Q: What’s in store for the 116th Congress?
A: A new year is a good time to take stock of what’s in store for the next 12 months. Like many Iowans, I take time to count my blessings. Representing Iowans in the U.S. Senate is an honor I don’t take for granted. And when the 116th Congress opened for business on Jan. 3, I was especially grateful to receive a unanimous vote in the United States Senate to serve as the 91st Senate President pro tempore. This is one of only three constitutional offices designated by the nation’s Founders. Its primary duties include presiding over the daily business of the U.S. Senate. Other duties include upholding the rules, processes and institutional customs of the Senate, administering oaths and implementing orders jointly determined by the majority and minority leaders. Only one other senator from Iowa in history has been tapped to serve in this leadership position, Senator Albert B. Cummins, from 1919-1925. It is a big honor for me and for Iowa. It is an opportunity to deliver results and stand up for the principles that make the Senate the world’s greatest deliberative body. I will work as hard as ever for Iowans and use this platform to promote principles I strive every day to uphold, including oversight, transparency and government accountability. After four years serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will move to the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, where I will hold the gavel for the next two years.
Q: What priorities do you have in mind from the helm of the Finance Committee?
A: Having previously chaired this committee from January to June 2001, and again for four years from January 2003 to 2007, I will hit the ground running. With broad legislative jurisdiction and oversight authority that includes taxes, health care and trade, I am ready to get to work. Specifically, I will continue working to address the high costs of prescription drugs that make it difficult for many Americans to afford the medications they need. As an advocate for rural America, I also am keenly aware of the barriers that make it difficult to attract and retain health care providers in underserved communities and to keep accessible, affordable health care close to home. With 38 years of legislative experience in the Senate under my belt, I have my sights set on improving policies and programs within the committee’s jurisdiction to help improve access to affordable health care and increase competition and innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. According to the Iowa Insurance Division, 1.6 million Iowans participate in employer-sponsored health insurance plans and 1.2 million Iowans receive health benefits from Medicare and Medicaid. Another 107,000 Iowans purchase health insurance on their own and 39,000 Iowans buy coverage through the individual market. A good rule of thumb to follow when considering reforms that impact people’s health care is simple: First, do no harm.
Trade is also high on my priority list. Iowa’s economy is export-dependent, from farming to manufacturing and financial services. I support President Trump’s efforts to seek more fair and balanced trade deals that increase market access opportunities and hold our trading partners accountable. I’ll be working with the Administration to help ensure no worker, farmer or business owner is forgotten or left out of the process and that our trade agreements create jobs, grow the economy, boost wages and raise prosperity for all Americans.
As a long-time taxpayer watchdog, I will work to build upon and make permanent the historic tax cuts enacted in 2017 to help make more American companies and workers even more competitive. The last thing the U.S. economy needs is a tax increase that would mean less take-home pay and put the brakes on investment and job creation. There are many opportunities to improve tax policy, including education benefits, renewable and alternative energy incentives, retirement security and consumer-directed health care options. I look forward to seizing these opportunities on a bipartisan basis and delivering more kitchen-table victories to families here in Iowa and at kitchen tables around the nation. I will continue pursuing non-partisan, good government oversight to ensure the nonprofit sector is living up to the purpose of its tax-exempt status and hold the IRS accountable while standing up for tax whistleblowers and exposing and shutting down tax shelters. I’ll also continue exercising robust oversight to recover squandered tax dollars, and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in public health programs that serve older Americans, lower-income individuals and our nation’s veterans who fought to protect and preserve our freedoms and way of life.
Opening a new session of Congress brings new opportunities to make a difference for Iowans. As work gets underway in Congress, I look forward to keeping in touch throughout the year. I hope to meet with as many Iowans as possible during my 39th consecutive year holding meetings in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. My county meetings and your phone calls, letters and emails better inform my views and votes on your behalf. Representative government is a two-way street and I count on your dialogue to hold my work accountable to Iowa.