There is ubiquitous sense of betrayal among Republican voters. They went to the polls in 2014 to elect a Republican Senate and out popped a Senate controlled by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. Nowhere is this identity crisis more evident than within the Senate Judiciary Committee under the stewardship of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
Grassley is, by all accounts, an incredibly nice man. People in Washington and his home state of Iowa speak very highly of him.
Grassley was a fresh-faced conservative in 1980. But he has served 36 years in the Senate, and is seeking a seventh term (which, if he were to complete it, would mean he would serve in the Senate for 42 years). It’s possible that Grassley is still the same conservative warrior he was in 1980 in his heart, but his “leadership” of the Senate Judiciary Committee raises serious questions about whether he is the right person to lead that all-too-important committee.
As we note in his profile, Grassley is “perhaps one of the most ideologically complex members of the Senate.” Coupled with his weak grasp of judicial issues, Grassley’s inconsistent foundation has proven a disaster as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. After being term limited as Chairman of the Finance Committee, Grassley, who has no formal legal training, shoved Jeff Sessions aside for the lead spot on Judiciary in 2011, even though Sessions was eminently more qualified.
Beyond these general concerns, there are recent, more specific reasons why Grassley might not be the right standard-bearer for Republicans on this committee.
Grassley has spent the first half of this allegedly Republican-led Congress catering to a laundry list of leftist legislative items and policy preferences. But one example predominates: A longtime and vocal opponent of the Smarter Sentencing Act and other misguided bills aiming to release dangerous drug traffickers and drug dealers, he is now the leader of a bipartisan effort to release not only drug traffickers and drug dealers, but traffickers and dealers who possessed firearms while committing their crimes.
This bill was a horrific idea a year ago, but as police blotters across the nation reveal the new crimes being committed each and every day by federal drug felons who were released from prison early, the legislation is becoming downright insane. And of course, we have not heard a peep from Grassley in terms of oversight of the DOJ’s war on police and its role in rising crime rates.
On judges, Grassley’s record is equally disappointing. Notwithstanding the fact that President Obama has appointed roughly 31% of all federal circuit court judges and 37% of all district court judges in the United States, Grassley seems to be tripping over himself to help Obama fill every last remaining judicial seat before Obama walks out the door on January 20, 2017. The actions are akin to a senator that actively wants Obama’s Constitution-mangling judges on the bench, since such judges make it easier for his fellow senators to avoid leadership by shirking decision-making to a leftist bench.
Raw numbers aside, Grassley has also let more than a few radical judges move through the committee to confirmation, forgetting that his role is to prevent the names of such radical judges from ever making it onto the Senate floor. The most recent (but certainly not the only) example is new federal district court judge Wilhelmina Wright, who helped publish an article in law school where she openly discussed the “whiteness” of private property and the belief that people living in poor neighborhoods might have a substantive right to move into wealthy neighborhoods. Grassley was asleep at the switch with this nominee. Wright was unfortunately confirmed, but many Republican senators woke up at the last minute to prevent her confirmation from being unanimous. Grassley failed in his constitutionally required gatekeeping role.
And of course, as the power of the judiciary continues to grow beyond even the worst nightmares of the Warren era, Grassley has not used the committee to hold hearings on judicial tyranny or propose judicial reform ideas.
What about hearings? Surely, Grassley has thrown some punches on hearings? Planned Parenthood harvesting of fetal tissue, rampant IRS targeting and abuses, the war on immigration enforcement, a broken and racist Department of Justice, the administration’s blind eye toward domestic terrorism threats, Hillary Clinton’s private server, which exposed intelligence assets and collection methods… there is almost no end to the significant damage done to this Republic by the administration or to how its actions have breached the public trust. Surely, Grassley has looked into each of these with an aggressive desire to find the truth?
The reality will disappoint. Check out the lineup of hearings that Grassley has conducted at the full committee level. In the final days of what is perhaps the most corrupt administration this nation has ever seen, the Senate Judiciary Committee it tackling weak-sauce topics like the transparency of asbestos trusts and ensuring a right to counsel for federal misdemeanor offenders. It is almost like they made a deal with the administration to avoid any and all topics that would even remotely make the president uncomfortable. This is a failure of the committee’s function and a disservice to the American people.
In fairness to Grassley, he has held some important hearings this Congress, including one examining the life-and-death nature of the sanctuary cities that are violating federal law, and another on the job-killing qualities of the H-1B visa program. But even in these instances, good legislation that was written in the wake of these hearings has stagnated, including sanctuary city defunding legislation and H-1B reform legislation. One might almost get the impression that these hearings and their resultant bills were done for show, to create the illusion of listening to the American people.
Grassley spends lot of his time during committee hearings and business meetings (seemingly, most of his time) talking about his “good friend from Vermont.” His good friend from Vermont, in case you didn’t know, is the extreme leftist senator and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). Based on the contours of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s actions this Congress, it is arguable that Grassley’s “good friend from Vermont” is dictating the agenda of the committee. Americans did not turn out to the polls in record numbers in 2014 to allow Patrick Leahy to finish Obama’s legislative agenda and push through as many radical leftist judges as time would allow.
Moreover, the committee hearings are often full of Democrat witnesses, including the former Iowa state Supreme Court justice who struck down the state’s marriage law, with the entire tenor and direction of the meetings rooted in far-left, anti-law enforcement premises. How about having a hearing with victims of anti-religious bigotry, such as the Kline family in Oregon?
The Judiciary Committee is not a JV panel. The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Senate Judiciary Committee that is happy just “being there.” Those days are gone, if they were ever here. Grassley’s dedication to the people of the state of Iowa is admirable, but the time has come for a more forceful, leftist-opposing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. No one can be sure what the future holds for the Republican Party, especially in its current dynamic, but the one thing that probably is a guarantee is that continued weak leadership by Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee will give Democrats back the Senate starting in 2017. Based on how the Senate Judiciary Committee is currently being run, we might not even notice when the changeover happens.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.