Sen. Charles Grassley said during a weekly press call on Thursday, Dec. 12, that he was “very much leaning against” the proposed two-year budget agreement, worked out by his fellow Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Grassley liked the idea of getting something done in Congress, as the Senate has failed to pass a budget for at least three years. His issue is with the substance of the bill.
One issue Grassley did not like is that the bill calls for $58 billion more in spending without President Obama’s sequestration reductions. Taxes will be raised on airline travelers by $7 billion in the bill as well. However, according to Grassley, that money will not be used specifically for air travel or safety, but will be added to the general fund. Taxes will also increase on employers.
“It’s kind of gimmicky,” Grassley said of the budget bill.
Grassley was also questioned about the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard, which many believe will hit Iowa corn producers hard. The standard forces oil companies to use ethanol in its fuel blends.
On Friday, Grassley joined the other members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation, and Gov. Terry Branstad, in writing a letter to the EPA to ask for the organization to reconsider its decision to reduce the fuel standard. He wanted to remind Iowans that they, too, can provide input to the EPA at www.epa.gov.
Grassley criticized Obama for allowing the EPA to do this, while the President has been touting the need for renewable fuels and bioenergy.
“Everything about ethanol is good, good, good,” Grassley said.
Farmers will have to wait until at least January for a new Farm, Food and Jobs Bill. Grassley said he was told that the bill cannot be completed before the end of December, nor will Congress pass an extension. Eighty percent of the bill is dedicated to food assistance programs, with farmer assistance making up the lesser portion. The Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate disagree on the level of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Finally, Grassley was asked about the status of his investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal. The program, which started under the Bush Administration, continued and grew under the Obama Administration, secretly sent firearms from the United States to drug lords in Mexico. Several deaths are linked to weapons involved in the program, including the death of at least one US Border Patrol agent.
“We may not get an answer to this as long as this guy is President,” Grassley said. He has submitted approximately two dozen letters to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department regarding the scandal, which have not been answered. Grassley said that the FBI hides behind the Justice Department.
The Fast and Furious case is in the courts, as Grassley has requested 70,000 pages of documents related to the program. The Obama Administration has refused to disclose these documents, claiming executive privilege. Grassley said that if the courts uphold a decision that allows the President to claim this privilege on all of these documents, it will be the most sweeping use of this in American history.
Grassley added that he has been told that action on the item is not moving forward, as the court is waiting for the Administration to file a motion to dismiss the case. By not making this request, Grassley believes the President is stonewalling and stalling the investigation into what happened.