SUNDAY TALK: Grassley on the State of the Union and Congressional Performance

Q:  What does a recent report card about lawmakers tell Iowans about your work in Congress?


A:  In January I launched my 39th consecutive year holding county meetings, at least once, in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Keeping in touch with Iowans is a priority I take seriously. Representative government is a two-way street. It requires dialogue between elected office holders and those we represent to share ideas and solve problems. From my county meetings and emails from Iowans, I’ve gotten growing feedback in recent years about “too much” partisanship in Washington. The longest partial government shutdown in history earlier this year underscores why so many people are fed up when gridlock gets in the way of the people’s business. As intended via the ballot box, Congress is a reflection of the grassroots of America, which is increasingly polarized. I am very mindful of the divisiveness that prevents work from getting done. In fact, I learned long ago what it takes to get things across the finish line. It requires the give-and-take of good faith negotiation. Disagreement is natural. In fact, a competition of ideas is essential to democracy. However, it is also important to understand where others are coming from and look for areas of potential agreement. Bipartisan cooperation builds consensus and the public trust. A recent legislative audit by an independent organization called GovTrack examined the work of Members of Congress in 2018. Every year, it issues an annual report card and provides voters another way to measure the work of their federal representatives. According to its non-partisan analysis, GovTrack ranked me first among 100 U.S. Senators for having the most number of bills with bipartisan co-sponsors (80 of 97) and for advancing the most bills (40) out of committee to the full Senate. I ranked third highest for writing the most number of bills (17) that were signed into law. What’s more, I was recognized for supporting government transparency more than any other Republican. Accountability, transparency and seeking common ground are essential ingredients for good government and a functional democracy. These principles guide my work every day. My number one priority has not changed since Iowans first elected me to public office. The government is a service organization that exists to serve the people. I wake up and go to work every day to help make sure the government works effectively and efficiently for Iowans. As far as measuring up to the expectations of Iowans, this report card reflects how conscientious I am about upholding the public trust and doing right by the taxpayers. The report card notes I didn’t miss one roll call vote in 2018; I hold the longest consecutive voting streak in Senate history. The last vote I missed was in 1993 when I was touring flood damage in Iowa. My productivity in the U.S. Senate also reflects the high bar Iowans expect their elected representatives to reach. It is an honor to serve and it’s a responsibility I do not take for granted. As the most senior Republican in the Senate Majority in the 116th Congress, I have the honor to serve as president pro tem for the next two years. Each day I’ll gavel open the Senate to begin the people’s business. I also will lead the Senate Finance Committee. From these two leadership positions, I will work as hard as ever on behalf of Iowans in 2019 and beyond.


Q: What’s your take on the president’s State of the Union address?


A:  The 24/7 news cycle makes it hard to track the daily grind of policymaking, especially when controversy and what’s called “click bait” drives coverage. However, President Trump had the opportunity to report directly to the American people in February with his second State of the Union address. As president pro tem, I served on the congressional Escort Committee that accompanies the president to the south wing of the U.S. Capitol into the House chamber. Having attended State of the Union addresses for eight U.S. presidents, it was an honor to be part of the welcoming committee. During his 82-minute address, President Trump made the most of what makes America great. He highlighted heroes of history and today, including salutes to astronaut Buzz Aldrin and liberators and survivors of Dachau during World War II. He also introduced two African Americans whose federal sentencing and time served behind bars symbolize why criminal justice reform is right for America. As co-author of the bipartisan First Step Act, this four-year legislative effort reflects how representative government can work to improve public safety and opportunity for more Americans in society. Spearheading this effort with Sen. Durbin and others, we negotiated reforms that improve federal sentencing laws to save taxpayer dollars, reduce unfair penalties and racial sentencing disparities and provide rehabilitation programs to help prevent offenders from returning to crime after their release from prison. We incorporated input and ideas from victims’ advocates, law enforcement and justice officials, civic leaders and many others impacted by the criminal justice system. This give and take approach at the policymaking tables worked. President Trump signed our bipartisan bill into law in December. Building on historic tax cuts and criminal justice reform, I am rolling up my sleeves at the policymaking tables this year to lower prescription drug prices and open markets for U.S. exports. Once again, I will work to build bipartisan coalitions to help empower more Americans to live their best lives and achieve their biggest dreams.

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