The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Grassley sparks Dems’ wrath

United States Senator for Iowa Chuck Grassley speaks at the University Club for the Republican Dinner on Thursday, February 18, 2016. Grassley has been serving since 1981, previously being in the United States House of Representatives. (The Daily Iowan/McCall Radavich)


Democrats and newspaper editorial boards are imploring Sen. Chuck Grassley to do his job by holding hearings for a Supreme Court nominee. The 82-year-old argued that he and his Republican colleagues are heeding those calls by pledging to block President Obama from filling a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.

“I’m elected as a United States senator until Jan. 3 of next year, and I’ve got to do what I think is right and let the chips fall where they may,” Grassley said on a weekly conference call with Iowa reporters. “We are just doing our constitutional responsibility … and we are withholding for the opportunity for the people to speak.”

Along with brushing off any political implications, Grassley, who is up for re-election in November, scoffed at the notion that legacy of his chairmanship would factor into the decision to refuse confirmation hearings until after the presidential election.

After the GOP retook control of the Senate in 2014, Grassley became the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the group charged with conducting any possible hearings for a Supreme Court nominee.

“Do you think I spend my day wondering about how Chuck Grassley will go down in history,” Grassley asked. “Because I don’t care if I ever go down in history. I’m here to do a job. And how the history books treat me — my name will probably never be mentioned in the history books.”

But his name is inseparable from the national conversation on filing the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Feb. 13. Iowa’s senior senator has been lambasted in editorials from around the country and in recent days was critiqued on the floor of the Senate.

“Sen. Grassley has surrendered every pretense of independence and let the Republican leader annex the Judiciary Committee into a narrow, partisan mission of obstruction and gridlock,” Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said during a floor speech on Wednesday. “By nearly every metric, the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Grassley is failing. The committee is failing the people of Iowa and the nation.”

In Iowa, two groups are airing TV and/or radio ads as they weigh in on the discussion.

A conservative nonprofit called the Judicial Crisis Network echoes the Republican line on waiting until the next election. But a bipartisan group co-chaired by two former Iowa lieutenant governors is airing a spot featuring former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor calling for filing the vacancy.

According to the Senate Historian’s Office, the virtually unanimous decision by Senate Republicans to rule out confirmation hearings before President Obama has even named a nominee is unprecedented. Some senators have gone even further by vowing to forgo even meeting with a nominee.

Reid is the top Democrat in the Senate and is known for a stubborn bluntness fitting of a former Nevada boxer who relished the black eyes and soreness earned with each bout. And while Grassley is third in Senate seniority, Reid’s harangues are usually reserved for others, such as the Koch Brothers or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Yet on Wednesday, Reid dedicated 11 minutes to going after Grassley, saying the Iowan had ceded his independence and was an inept leader. The Nevadan’s remarks followed comments on Tuesday that compared Grassley’s tenure to that of a Civil Rights Era segregationist.

For all possible seething scorn, Grassley told reporters that he did not interpret the attacks as Reid’s personal dislike of him. But as he rattled off the number of bipartisan bills and judges confirmed by his committee, Grassley said that his record to not fit Reid’s characterization.

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