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Charles Grassley

Iowa’s GOP: Party First

garrison keeler on republicans

Recent actions within the Iowa Republican Party serve to illustrate that their focus is totally on party with little thought of the consequences for the state and the country. Actions by Republican office holders and candidates taken individually are often head slappers, but viewed collectively the pattern emerges that allegiance to party is much more important than the good of the state or country.

The most glaring example of their party first mentality is Iowa’s oldest politician, Chuck Grassley. Taking his orders from Mitch McConnell, Grassley has willingly taken up a potential career suicide mission blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Actually Grassley has made it his mission to block any Obama nominations to any federal bench, thus creating a federal judicial emergency. However, nominations to the Supreme Court are more in the open than the other federal court nominations and any monkeying with the standard procedure becomes big news.

I would daresay that Grassley is fully cognizant that he has bent the rules way past a tipping point. He appears to feel he can get away with it based on his personal popularity at home and a bet that the voting populace will not revolt. Grassley’s very cynical move to put party first may well be a bad bet on his part. Thanks to Iowa’s status as the first in the nation presidential test, most Iowans like to pride themselves on their political savvy. One way that savvy shows up is when Iowans call out BS on the part of politicians. Iowans across the spectrum have called BS on Grassley on this.

Heck, when Grassley tries to defend his position in public it doesn’t even sound like he believes what he is doing is right, but he is taking orders.

Another excellent example is 3rd district congress member David Young switching his vote from yea to nay on concerning LGBTQ protections in a defense spending bill. Republicans suspended the clock on the vote and six Republican members were “persuaded” to change their votes. As explained in a dailykos article concerning this switch:

“Oh, and if you’re wondering why the GOP was so insistent on making sure the Maloney amendment failed, Rep. Charlie Dent, one of the provision’s Republican supporters, explained that the more conservative members of his party didn’t want to get stuck voting for a defense bill with a pro-LGBT amendment attached to it. So House GOP leaders figured they’d sacrifice a few congressman in bluer seats to protect the ultra-wingnuts from possible primary challenges. The Republican war rages on—and only Democrats stand to benefit.”

Finally there is the question of the GOP’s presidential choice with Donald Trump. Trying to cover Trump’s huge inadequacies as a presidential candidate Republicans in this state have come up with a clever little slogan – “Anybody But Hillary.” Really?

Donald Trump himself has created enough division not only in his own party but throughout the country with his speeches that endorse hate for groups based on their religion or origin and denigrate women. Trump has also offered an economic plan that could trigger the worst depression ever. This from the same party that gave us the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

Anybody? How about word salad Palin? She almost became vice-president within a heartbeat of being president. Yet to hear her speak it is quite clear she has little idea what she is talking about.

Anybody? David Duke maybe? Would Republicans back a man who is openly racist?

Anybody? Bobby Jindal was among the choices for president this year. This is a person who led Louisiana for 8 years and left it in tatters.

Really Republicans, it is way beyond time to put away trite phrases and show concern for the country. Time to stand up for the people of the United States. Lincoln showed the way. Believe me, Donald Trump is no Lincoln. Sadly Trump even pales in comparison to George W. Bush a president who gets plenty of votes when people talk about the worst president ever.

Grassley Like A Broken Clock: He Doesn’t Work

l to r: Tom Fiegen, Rob Hogg, Patty Judge, Bob Krause Iowa Democratic Senate Candidates. credit: Sioux City Journal One of these candidates will work for Iowa

l to r: Tom Fiegen, Rob Hogg, Patty Judge, Bob Krause
Iowa Democratic Senate Candidates.
credit: Sioux City Journal
One of these candidates will work for Iowa

Went to an event Thursday for one of Grassley’s opponents, Rob Hogg.

During the question and answer period one of the audience brought up that Grassley as chair of the Judiciary Committee has been sitting on a bill called the CARERs Bill. Apparently one of the provisions of the CARERs bill would move marijuana from a schedule 1 (illegal) drug to a schedule II drug. Schedule II would be drugs that could be dispensed under a doctor’s care but are highly controlled.

Something like half of the country now allows some form of medical marijuana. The only reason states are able to allow medical marijuana at this time is because the Obama Administration has publicly declared it will not enforce marijuana laws. What happens when Obama is no longer president in 8 months is open to speculation, but most likely a Donald Trump would rescind that order immediately. The CARERs Bill could make that question moot by changing marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II.

How many Americans depend on medical marijuana to control pain or the effects of epilepsy or the many other problems that marijuana has been found to relieve. If Mr. Obstruction doesn’t do something these untold sufferers will be at the whims of the new president come next January.

I have no idea why Grassley would obstruct this, but I can and will speculate. There are three lobbying groups that are really scared that a more widely prescribed medical marijuana will greatly hurt their profits. Those are 1) big Pharma; 2) the alcohol industry and 3) the for profit prison industry. Marijuana helps fill their rooms and keeps their profits high.

The only other reason is that Grassley refuses to give Obama anything so he is obstructing on this just the way he is obstructing on federal judges at all levels to the point where he has created a judicial emergency in this country. Grassley is also refusing to move on appointments to the State Department due to a snit over something Hillary Clinton did.

So stated simply, Grassley is about as useful as a broken clock. The clock doesn’t work and neither does Grassley. We aren’t paying the clock $174,000 a year, though. Nor is the clock making life worse for anyone as Grassley’s inaction is. But they do have one similarity – we can throw both of them out because they are useless.

Remember The Rain Forest.

attribute: Nicholas Johnson

attribute: Nicholas Johnson

Have to credit US Senate Candidate Bob Krause for reminding us of one of the great follies of the Chuck Grassley career. Krause mentioned the Iowa Rainforest as one of the few attempts that Grassley has made during his career.

Grassley’s career seems to be a record of some pretty major gaffes with long periods of quiet in between. Who can forget the great “Pull the plug on Grandma” speech as Iowa’s oldest senator worked like hell to keep health insurance and access to health care from his constituents?

Of course today he is in the battle of his career against the people, the constitution and the president to secure a seat on the Supreme Court for a crazy reactionary. Grassley has tried to talk his way around this, but has recently opted for the “silence is golden” school of communication in respect to questions about the Supreme Court. He’s taking one for team Republican here, folks. Certainly not for team “America.”

Now let us turn our minds back a decade or so and try to remember as Chuck Grassley tries to sell us on one of the boondoggliest of boondoggles. Who can ever forget The Iowa Rainforest? Maybe you, like I and my family, dreamed of cold winter days when we could hop in the car and head to Coralville for a lunch in the Rainforest? Especially on those days when the temperature dipped below zero and the snow was up past our butts. Rainforest here we come!

The Iowa Rainforest had all the earmarks of the kind of project that make common sense citizens point at the federal government and say “pork barrel project.” Putting an equatorial park in northern latitude Iowa seemed pretty far fetched even to the dreamers among us. Practical considerations such as how to heat such a beast in an Iowa winter made the project of skepticism from day one.

But the prospect of a spectacular project with the magic word “jobs” attached to it is hard for a politician to walk away from. So after some preliminary steps, Senator Grassley worked congress to get a major earmark for the project. Iverse has a excellent history of the project that spells out the highs and lows of the project. This project os an interesting study in how a project like this takes shape:

“By this time, Townsend had spent a reported $4 million of his own money developing the plan. But that was barely a down payment for a total cost now estimated at $280 million. Coralville agreed to kick in $25,000 per acre to buy an 85-acre site; the state legislature promised $75 million in state funds from the Vision Iowa Program; and Townsend committed $10 million. Federal grants and private donors were expected to cover the remaining, uh, nine-figure balance. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who’s still in office, said he’d look for support. The initial five-year plan was for lots of fundraising, followed by 18 months of construction and a year for plants and animals to get acclimated before the park opened.


Townsend was right about eyebrows raising, but not for the reasons he hoped. Three years out from announcing the Coralville site, Grassley boasted that he’d issued an ultimatum to House members who’ve balked at spending $70 million of federal money on the project as part of a green bond project package. The rainforest is one of five projects up for the bonds — along with mixes of shopping and hotel developments in New York, Atlanta, Louisiana, and Colorado. The other four members of his committee working on the packages will back everything except the rainforest earmark, but Grassley vowed to kill all the projects if they wouldn’t back Iowa. “We take all the projects, or we dump all of them,” he announced. The project won $50 million in federal funds so long as it could match that through private donors. D.C.’sCitizens Against Government Waste labeled the rainforest a laughable example of frivolous spending, especially shameful given that Grassley sanguinely approved billions in spending for the still-young Iraq war. Townsend’s idea balloons from passion project to national punchline. An April 2004 editorial in The New York Timeswrote of it: “Some bad ideas simply refuse to die.””

Many of you remember what went on as the Rainforest then moved locations and finally met a quiet death. This does, however, give lie to Grassley’s reputation as fiscally conservative. He’s just conservative when it comes to things like healthcare and real projects that would create jobs.

Branstad, Grassley, Ernst Support Trump

Lawrence eviscerates Republicans

Nothing like exposing who you really are.

Donald Trump has run a primary campaign where he has insulted nearly every of the many groups that combine to make up the United States. At various turns he has called for deportation of 11 million Latinos, stopping any Muslim immigration based simply on their religion; denigrated all women for various superficialities such as weight, looks and age; he spews hate and approves violence as a response. In short, Donald Trump plays to the very worst demons in our society. And Iowa’s Republican leaders have stood up to support him. To most people their support of Trump means approval of Trump’s policy and rhetoric.

Trump has racked up solid support among white nationalist groups including the Ku Klux Klan and figures such as David Duke and the head of the Virginia KKK.

This is stunning. It has to be a low point in the history of Iowa politics.

We should expect our top elected officials to put the good of the country far higher than support of their party. We owe Donald Trump a thank you for one thing: Thank you for giving Iowans a chance to learn where the true loyalties of our state elected officials lie. It is sad but very revealing that Grassley, Branstad and Ernst are more than willing to support a candidate who spews racist, misogynist and hate filled rhetoric.


Let us hope that news media does its job and exposes the harm Trump’s stances cause. Let us also hope that they shine a light on those who approve such rhetoric and action with their support.

Here is a short story on some of the effects the Trump campaign has had on school children in the US:

Marginalized students are “terrified”

Over two-thirds (67 percent) of educators reported that young people in their schools—most often immigrants, children of immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and other students of color—had expressed concern about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Close to one-third of the students in American classrooms are children of foreign-born parents. This year, they are scared, stressed and in need of reassurance and support from teachers. Muslim children are harassed and worried. Even native-born African-American children, whose families arrived here before the American Revolution, ask about being sent back to Africa. Others, especially younger students, have worries that are the stuff of nightmares, like a return to slavery or being rounded up and put into camps. Overall, these vulnerable students are disillusioned and depressed at the hatred they’re hearing from candidates, in the news, from classmates and even, sometimes, from trusted adults. They’re discouraged to find out what people really think. Teachers struggle to help them feel safe.

Undocumented students or students with undocumented family members are especially vulnerable. These students have a legal right to a public school education, but many of them come to school every day fearful that their families will be separated. Teachers, in general, are very protective of students and sensitive to their pain.

Fears are pervasive. Students tell teachers they are worried about deportation, having their families split, being put in jail or attacked by police, losing their homes, seeing their places of worship closed, going into hiding and being sent to detention camps. Some Muslim students think that, if Trump becomes president, they will have microchips implanted under their skin.

Students are stressed and anxious in a way that is threatening their health, emotional well-being and their schoolwork. We heard from dozens of educators about young students who expressed daily worries about “being sent back” or having their parents sent back. In many cases, the students are American citizens or come from families that are here legally. It doesn’t matter: Regardless of immigration status, they feel under attack. We heard about students from second grade to high school crying in class.

*Release* Iowans to Hold Sen. Grassley Accountable During Recess‏

Filling the vacancy on the Court should be a top priority

Filling the vacancy on the Court should be a top priority

For Immediate Release: April 30, 2016
Contact: Matt Sinovic, (515) 423-0530

Iowans to Hold Sen. Grassley Accountable During Recess
Sen. Grassley to be followed by demonstrations, questions, and a mobile billboard criss-crossing the state

IOWA — Iowans will gather across the state this week, beginning this weekend in Creston and Sioux City, to hold Senator Grassley accountable for his unprecedented obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. A mobile billboard sponsored by Americans United for Change, demonstrations by Why Courts Matter Iowa, and Iowans attending Senator Grassley’s town hall meetings will question why he has refused to hold or schedule a hearing for Garland in the Judiciary Committee, where he serves as Chair.

Grassley’s obstruction is truly unprecedented, as it would be the first time a Supreme Court nominee has been denied a hearing, according to the Senate historian.

This week’s events will be the most recent actions taken by Grassley’s constituents to hold him accountable. During the past few months, Iowans have delivered more than 9,000 petition signatures, 36,000 copies of the U.S. Constitution, held more than 2 dozen events, and used online and social media to tell the Senator: #DoYourJob.

Here are additional details about each event this week:

WHAT: #DoYourJob Mobile Billboard
WHEN: Saturday, April 30, 12:00 PM
WHERE: Southwest Iowa Community College, 1501 W Townline St, Creston, Iowa

WHAT: #DoYourJob Mobile Billboard
WHEN: Sunday, May 1, 12:00 PM
WHERE: Outside Sen. Grassley’s Office, 320 6th St, Sioux City, Iowa

WHAT: #DoYourJob Mobile Billboard
WHEN: Monday, May 2, 12:00 PM
WHERE: Outside Sen. Grassley’s Office, 201 W 2nd St, Davenport, Iowa

WHAT: #DoYourJob Mobile Billboard
WHEN: Tuesday, May 3, 12:00 PM
WHERE: Outside Sen. Grassley’s Office, 531 Commercial St, Waterloo, Iowa

WHAT: #DoYourJob Demonstration! (featuring mobile billboard)
WHEN: Wednesday, May 4, 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: Outside the federal building, 210 Walnut St, Des Moines, Iowa

WHAT: Sen. Grassley Town Hall (featuring mobile billboard)
WHEN: Thursday, May 5, 3:45-4:45 p.m.
WHERE: Taylor County Farm Bureau Meeting Room, 607 Pollock Blvd, Bedford, Iowa

WHAT: Sen. Grassley Town Hall
WHEN: Friday, May 6, 8:00-9:00 a.m.
WHERE: Ringgold County Courthouse, 109 West Madison St, Mount Ayr, Iowa

WHAT: Sen. Grassley Town Hall
WHEN: Friday, May 6, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Leon Community Center, 203 NE 2nd St, Leon, Iowa

The Why Courts Matter Iowa coalition is focused on ensuring that the federal judiciary is representative of America’s diverse population and ending the judicial vacancy crisis so that every American can have his or her day in court. Why Courts Matter Iowa is led by Iowa Citizen Action Network, Americans for Democratic Action Iowa, Progress Iowa, and One Iowa. For more information visit

Grassley Events In Iowa Week Of May 1 – 7

taking some time off from doing nothng in the senate

taking some time off from doing nothng in the senate

Senator Grassley will be making public appearances in three counties along the Iowa Missouri border next week.

If you can, get out and let him know that obstructing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland goes against Iowans sense of fair play.

Here is his schedule:

Taylor County
Thursday, May 5, 2016
3:45-4:45 p.m.
Taylor County Farm Bureau
Meeting Room
607 Pollock Boulevard

Ringgold County
Friday, May 6, 2016
8:00-9:00 a.m.
Ringgold County Courthouse
109 West Madison Street
Mount Ayr

Decatur County
Friday, May 6, 2016
10:00-11:00 a.m.
Leon Community Center
203 NE 2nd Street

Chuck, Can We Have A Refund?

republicans refuse to work

We hired you to do a job. You refuse to do it. The law says we can’t fire you until November. You haven’t done your job for two years. That’s $350,000 plus the cost of your staff that you should pay us back.

What have you been doing with your time while we have been paying you?

When you don't do your job there is lots of time for gardening

When you don’t do your job there is lots of time for gardening

You know what would happen to anyone of us if we told our boss we weren’t going to do our job? We’d get fired in a New York second!

You better have a damn good excuse because we are your boss and we are mad, very mad.

Your job is written in black and white in the constitution. We can’t have this kind of stuff continue, can we?

You choose not to work for Iowa and the country, but only for your party. Time to hit the road.
(1.5 minute video)

The Supreme Court, The Republicans, And Democracy

supreme courtWithin an hour of the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on February 13, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ruled out Senate consideration of any U.S. Supreme Court nominee until the inauguration of the next president in 2017. This obstructionist tactic has the support of nearly all Senate Republicans, including Iowan Charles Grassley, chair of the Judiciary Committee.

The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint Supreme Court judges with the advice and consent of the Senate. But Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have made clear their unwillingness to even hold hearings or vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a brilliant and highly regarded centrist judge. This denies Garland a fair hearing.

The Constitution says nothing about when a president can appoint a person to fill a federal court vacancy. One-third of all presidents have appointed a Supreme Court judge in an election year.  The GOP gambit amounts to an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty. Conservative columnist George Will refers to the Republican response to the Supreme Court vacancy as “a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle.” He rejects the party’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland as one based on a “preposterous premise” that “radiates insincerity.”

The reasons for the stall do appear purely partisan. Even before Scalia’s death, GOP leaders in the Senate were delaying confirmation votes on many of the President’s lower court nominees.

Conservatives are delaying the confirmation of judicial nominees until after the next presidential election, when they hope to have a more conservative president making appointments. According to McConnell, blocking any consideration of the President’s nominee gives the people a voice in filling the vacancy. But the selection is about an appointment, not an election. Besides, the people have already spoken by electing Obama twice. Ironically, McConnell accuses Obama of politicizing his selection when actually McConnell and his fellow Republicans have put the election before their constitutional obligations.

This nefarious Republican tactic means the Senate negates its constitutional obligation of advice and consent on the nomination. The Constitution contains no exception to those obligations for presidential years or off-years.

With the court now composed of four conservative and four liberal justices, the result of a 4-4 tie could be a default upholding of regional circuit courts or state supreme courts. A recent such deadlock means that an appellate decision to uphold union “fair share” fees as constitutional stands.

Some circuit courts could make federal law for the entire nation. Or lower courts could disagree over how to interpret constitutional rights. If circuit courts disagree, Americans could essentially find themselves in a chaotic situation with different speech, property, or due process rights depending on where they live.

The Supreme Court is poised to rule on a series of critical and divisive issues, including immigration, affirmative action, religious freedom, women’s health, voting districts. But without nine justices, the nation’s lower court judges could have the final say on many controversial issues.

What GOP Senators are doing is more than a dereliction of duty. It actually amounts to an unconstitutional act. Keeping a vacancy open for what likely will be two full Supreme Court terms is unprecedented, extraordinarily reckless and shows a blatant disrespect of the rule of law, the third branch of government and the American people.

Polls indicate that a majority of the American people oppose the Republican blockade. They want the Senate to hold hearings and vote on Garland’s nomination. That is what should happen.

Ralph Scharnau
March 31, 2016


Grassley Losing It?

When you don't do your job there is lots of time for gardening

When you don’t do your job there is lots of time for gardening

For the past decade it has sure seemed like Chuck Grassley is showing signs of what age can do to the mind and temper. In answering questions he sometimes wanders. Sometimes he takes to lecturing his audience as though he were the keeper of some knowledge of the inner sanctum that we peasants are not privy to. On one occasion we saw Grassley simply drop the microphone and walk out of a town hall when a questioner broached a subject he didn’t like. In other words, he wasn’t there as a servant of the people but more as a Lord who was willing to share the truth with his peasants if they were good.

The recent flap that has been created by his own decision to interpret the Constitution appears to be taking a toll on Grassley. In town hall after town hall across the state, Grassley was no longer getting the obsequious treatment from the public. Instead, citizens from across the spectrum have been asking why he can’t follow the Constitution. Grassley’s answer is that he knows much better the meaning of the constitution than do the mere peasants who dare ask him these questions.

When it got to the point that Grassley could no longer control the public as he once did, he and his staff devised a new approach to his vaunted 99 county tour: the public tour suddenly became a tour that was held in private and not publicized at all to avoid any non-vetted public disturbing the aura of a controlled event. Stated another way, Grassley took his public office underground.

Grassley is back in Washington doing what he does best – not doing his job and obstructing justice in America. Like so many Republicans, when he sees things go wrong he knows that he is not the cause. Nope, gotta be someone else causing his problems. Tuesday, Grassley figured out who the guy is that is causing all the trouble for the Republican Party in general and Grassley himself in particular.  Chief Justice John Roberts.

John Roberts ( old “call balls and strikes” Roberts) had the audacity to criticize the Senate for approving Justice nominees on party lines. Grassley went into a positive snit. How dare the Chief Justice say such a thing. Why the problem isn’t in the Senate, nosiree! It is in the Court itself!

“In fact, many of my constituents believe, with all due respect, that the chief justice is part of the problem,” Grassley said of Roberts, who has at times incensed conservatives with his votes to uphold Obamacare and other rulings. “They believe that [a] number of his votes have reflected political considerations, not legal ones.”

“The chief justice has it exactly backwards,” Grassley also said. “The confirmation process doesn’t make the justices appear political. The confirmation process has gotten political precisely because the court itself has drifted from the constitutional text and rendered decisions based instead on policy preferences.”

The Iowa Republican went on to warn Roberts not to inject himself into the Senate showdown over whether Garland should be confirmed this year, which Republicans have vowed will not happen. Grassley said Roberts has been encouraged by some academics to urge the Senate to take up Garland’s nomination.

Grassley really seems to be more and more traveling in a world that only he and a few others inhabit these days. That world doesn’t seem to include many Iowans. Iowans generally are a fair minded group of folks who expect others to do the jobs they are assigned. Iowans also expect their elected leaders to have valid reasons for their actions. When it becomes apparent that the elected officials are no longer working in Iowa’s interest, but in the interest of the Party or special interests, they should expect to be called on it.

Iowans are calling Grassley out. Grassley’s response so far is to make up ridiculous excuses, then hide, and now to blame his problems on someone else. The one thing he refuses to do is listen to Iowa voters. Every week, it seems that our Senator crawls further and further into his bubble.

It is long past time for a change. Chuck Grassley has been on our nickel for some 58 years, longer than most Iowans have been alive. Iowa needs new blood and a new perspective that is more in line with those who will inherit Iowa. In our household we like Rob Hogg. He is a sharp young man with an eye on the future for Iowa.

After 58 years, Iowa needs new leadership.

Future Senator Rob Hogg?

Future Senator Rob Hogg?

NRA Should Not Pick SCOTUS

iowans-guns-web-version-jpeg300X300Action Alert from Iowans for Gun Safety:

Thanks to the influence of the gun lobby, US Senators (including Grassley and Ernst) have vowed to deny President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee a hearing—never mind an up or down vote. But the Constitution is clear: It’s the President’s job to nominate Supreme Court justices, and it’s the Senate’s job to consider them.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he can’t imagine the US Senate confirming a nominee that is not endorsed by the NRA. Since when did the gun lobby get to decide?

Join us in the Call for Nine campaign now.

Tell Grassley and Ernst: it’s time to fulfill their constitutional responsibility, consider Chief Judge Merrick Garland and restore the Supreme Court to nine justices.


Jeremy Brigham, Executive Director
Iowans for Gun Safety