A review of 2017 in Congress
Question: How did your legislative work measure up in the first session of the 115th Congress?
Answer: An independent organization called GovTrack analyzes the legislative workload in Congress each year and releases a report card grading the previous 12 months.
As an elected representative for Iowans, I make it my business to be as productive as possible on the issues that matter most to my home state. That means securing bipartisan support for legislation needed to move bills through the committee process and win final approval from the full Senate.
Many Iowans may be familiar with an analogy that making laws is like making sausages. Getting bills through Congress arguably can be compared to a meat grinder, notably when lawmakers face a fiscal deadline to keep the government open and public services operating for the American people.
At times, that’s when some of the people’s business gets encased into a bigger piece of must-pass legislation. That’s not how I like to work the legislative fields in Congress.
Throughout my public service, I have prioritized bipartisanship and transparency to shape public policy that strengthens our national security, improves opportunities for working families to get ahead and stay ahead and protects taxpayers.
The report card recently issued by GovTrack reflects my commitment to getting the job done for Iowans. The statistics from 2017 ranked me as a “top leader” among all 100 senators for: obtaining influential cosponsors for my legislation, an indicator of a legislation’s likelihood of moving forward to final passage; getting more bills out of committee (20) than any other senator and getting bipartisan cosponsors on the most bills (37 of my 64 bills); ranking second overall in support of government transparency legislation; introducing the second-highest number of bills (64); and, finishing among the top senators in securing enactment of legislation into law.
The five Grassley-sponsored bills signed into law last year include the: Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act; Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act; Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act; Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act; and, Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. For the 24th consecutive year, I missed zero votes in Congress, earning another year of perfect attendance representing Iowans in the United States Senate. In addition to my legislative record, I place a high priority on constituent services to help Iowans cut through red tape with federal agencies when they run into issues regarding veterans or Social Security benefits, for example.
In January, I launched my 38th year holding face-to-face dialogue with Iowans in every county, every year. Listening to the concerns of Iowans informs my legislative and oversight work on their behalf. For example, Iowans who contacted my office regarding price hikes for the lifesaving allergy injector EpiPen triggered my ongoing investigation to get to the bottom of the pricing fiasco that has cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.
Through my oversight work, I will keep pressing to scrub misclassification errors from government rebate programs and keep digging to determine whether taxpayers and Iowa are made whole by the EpiPen settlement agreement. This goes to show how representative government is a two-way street. The more back-and-forth dialogue I have with Iowans, the better I can do my job serving Iowans.
Question: What other benchmarks measure your work representing Iowans?
Answer: As a taxpayer watchdog, I keep close tabs on the Justice Department and its enforcement of the False Claims Act, specifically the Grassley amendments I got passed in 1986.
In fact, these reforms are often called the federal government’s number one anti-fraud tool. Last year, it helped the federal government recover more than $3.7 billion from those found guilty of defrauding the U.S. Treasury. In the last three decades, my updates have recouped more than $56.1 billion in fraud recovery and helped to deter untold billions more.
The False Claims Act empowers whistleblowers to come forward with information that helps the government prosecute, recover and combat fraud in taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, defense contracts, mortgage insurance, crop insurance and federal student aid.
Every dollar lost to fraud rips off taxpayers and shortchanges veterans, students, seniors and individuals with disabilities who depend on these programs for services and benefits. I also am working to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who come forward to report high-dollar tax fraud. So far, whistleblowers have helped the IRS recover $3.6 billion in illegal tax evasion schemes.
In recent years, economic crime against the health-care sector has ballooned as fraudulent schemes follow the government’s money trail. That’s why I conduct robust oversight to ensure the False Claims Act is used effectively to root out all kinds of fraud, including overpayments and unlawful reimbursements, referrals and kickbacks in government funded programs like Medicare, to target the bulls-eye painted on the backs of the taxpaying public.
Whistleblower protections are indispensable to help weed out wrongdoing so that fraudulent schemes can be disclosed without fear of retaliation. The False Claims Act rewards integrity and restores the public trust in the government’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage taxpayer-funded programs. I look forward to working harder than ever in 2018 to strengthen accountability and transparency in government for the American people.