Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
November 15, 2018
morning. We have a number of judicial nominees and bills on today’s agenda, and
I will now hold all of them over at the minority’s request.
following nominees are/will be held over:
Eastern District of Virginia
Middle District of Florida
Northern District of Ohio
Middle District of Florida
District of Oregon
Northern District of Alabama
Southern District of Ohio
Southern District of Florida
Northern District of Florida
of the nominees we’re holding over today had their nominations hearing when the
Senate was in recess. The minority sent me a letter this week asking that these
nominees be given a second hearing. They argued that they weren’t able to
attend the hearings because the Senate was in recess, so I’d like to briefly
address this request.
August, I informed the minority of my intention to hold hearings in September
and October. The Ranking Member asked that I postpone a hearing originally
scheduled for September 26th. I postponed this hearing twice at her request,
which meant that the other scheduled hearings were also pushed back. In order
to catch-up to our original schedule, I scheduled three hearings three weeks in
we don’t usually do three hearings in three weeks, I discussed this with the
Ranking Member ahead of time. She agreed to the schedule because we had pushed
back the other hearings.
be clear, the Ranking Member and I had an agreement that the Committee would
hold hearings on October 17th and 24th and that she didn’t object to the timing
of those hearings. We made no stipulation that they wouldn’t occur if the
Senate was in recess. These hearings were on Members’ calendars well before
recess was announced. Of course, Members are welcome to change their plans and
not attend hearings, but Members not only had advance notice of when they were
happening, but also agreed to the timing of them.
although Members didn’t attend the hearings, many of them submitted written
questions to the nominees. So, because the Ranking Member agreed to the timing
of the hearings and because Members were able to, and did, ask questions, I
won’t make these nominees appear before the Committee again.
to another topic, I want to address some complaints I’ve received from the
other side about President Trump’s decision to appoint Matthew Whitaker as
Acting Attorney General. After all the withering criticism lodged against
former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the past two years, it’s incredibly
ironic that members are now distraught over former Attorney General Sessions’
resignation last week.
far as the appointment of Matthew Whitaker, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act
gives the President the authority to direct a senior official within DOJ to
serve as the acting officer as long as that senior official served at the
agency for at least 90 days prior to the appointment. The Vacancies Act works
in tandem, and is not inconsistent with, the statute addressing DOJ
vacancies. DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel has now issued three separate
legal opinions – in 2003, 2007, and yesterday – confirming that the President
can fill vacancies of Senate-confirmed agency heads under the Vacancies Act. In
other words, President Trump acted in strict conformance with the law; and
Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s appointment is perfectly legal. I have
confidence that Acting Attorney General Whitaker will carry out the functions
of the Justice Department to the best of his abilities.
the meantime, I look forward to working with the President on the confirmation
effort for whomever the President nominates. And although I will welcome
a new nominee, the Senate is never a rubber stamp for any president, and won’t
be for this President or his nominee. We will perform our advice and
consent role and properly vet whomever the President chooses to be the next Attorney
I want to take a moment to discuss our ongoing effort to advance criminal
justice reform. Many of us on this committee have worked closely together for
several years on this issue to reduce crime and improve fairness in sentencing.
Not too many years ago, I think a lot of people would have been surprised to
see Senator Durbin and Senator Grassley on the same criminal justice bill—not
to mention many others on this committee on both sides of the aisle. But we
came together because we saw that the tough sentences that are part of our
justice system weren’t doing enough to reduce crime and fight the drug war. Far
too many criminals left prison only to fall back into a life at crime. And the
opioid crisis began and got worse even while these tough sentencing regimes
were in place.
there’s anything I’ve learned in government, it’s that you have to be willing
to face up to facts and fix things when they’re broken. And so I came to the
table with Senator Durbin and a bipartisan group of colleagues: Senator Cornyn,
Senator Whitehouse, Senator Lee, Senator Graham, Senator Booker, Senator Scott,
various points, we’ve all made concessions and compromises, but by and large,
we stuck together to move the reforms forward. Along the way, we’ve
picked up cosponsors and key endorsements from across the political spectrum.
And we’ve crafted a bill that will make our criminal justice system more fair;
give offenders a better chance to turn over a new leaf when they leave prison;
and reduce crime. It will also allow us make better use of taxpayer
dollars—directing more resources to law enforcement and efforts to reduce
the President announced support for a package that reflects our fundamental
shared goals. Leader McConnell pledged to give the package a vote if it
can earn the support of 60 senators. Given the strong backing previous versions
have received, I believe this version can easily earn that support.
this year, when this committee marked up the Sentencing Reform and Corrections
Act, some on this committee hesitated to support the bill because of concerns
about retroactivity and whether the President would be support the bill. Well,
with this compromise, the retroactivity is limited to the Fair Sentencing Act,
which reduces the significant and unfair disparity between sentences for crack
cocaine versus powder cocaine. And the President has come out in full support.
As President Trump said yesterday, “It’s the right thing to do.” “It’s my honor
to be involved and it will be an even greater honor to sign.”
First Step Act will put into place historic reforms—the most significant
criminal justice reforms in a generation or more. I think it’s significant that
these reforms came out of this committee—out of so many of us in this room
reaching across the aisle to accomplish something meaningful and significant.
We’ve crafted a bill that will make our criminal justice system more fair and
our country more safe. It’s probably true that each of us could find something
to disagree with in this bill. But an opportunity to pass legislation like this
that does so much good does not come often. And when it does come, we must join
together and support it. It can require courage, because it involves compromise
and some will criticize that. But bipartisan compromise is the essence of
leadership in the Senate. That is how you get good things done for the country
we all love and endeavor to serve. I hope that every member of this committee
will support and cosponsor the First Step Act.
look forward to continue working with my colleagues on this committee and
across the Senate to make these reforms a reality.
have four pieces of legislation on today’s agenda, all of which have been held
over. So, the following bills are held over:
3339 and its House companion bill, H.R. 3996, the Protecting Access to the
Courts for Taxpayers Act.
2432, National FFA Organization's Federal Charter Amendments Act and
4100, Foundation of the Federal Bar Association Charter Amendments Act.