PolitiFact Iowa is a project of The Daily Iowan’s Ethics & Politics Initiative and PolitiFact to help you find the truth in politics.
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- Mike Franken, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa to run against presumptive Republican nominee and long-time incumbent Chuck Grassley for U.S. Senate, claimed on Twitter that Grassley left the Senate’s Finance Committee.
- Grassley, the committee’s former chairman, is still on the committee.
- The Franken campaign took the tweet down after being contacted by PolitiFact Iowa.
Mike Franken, a retired U.S. Navy admiral seeking Iowa’s Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in this year’s general election, took aim on May 5 at his party’s biggest target in the race: longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Franken’s launch pad was Twitter, with a since-deleted message:
“Senator Grassley hopped off the Finance Committee, where he could be helpful to Iowa and the nation, in favor of the Judiciary Committee…where he is a tool for the radical right, even some insurrectionists.”
Except that Grassley never left the Senate Committee on Finance.
Franken campaign manager Julie Stauch clarified Franken’s tweet in an email to PolitiFact Iowa. “The tweet should have read Senate Finance Committee Chairmanship. It was in reference to Grassley choosing to chair the Judiciary Committee over Finance in order to impede the Senate rules regarding judicial appointments,” she wrote.
Stauch said the tweet was taken down the next morning after PolitiFact Iowa contacted her.
Grassley certainly angered Democrats while leading the judiciary committee as he moved Republican President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees at a rate that far exceeded that or Democratic President Barack Obama. Notably, Democrats were upset when Grassley did not move on Obama’s 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court because, Grassley and other Republican Senate leaders said, it was an election year. Then, in 2020, he pushed for and presided over as president pro tem of the Republican-led Senate the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump nominated Barrett a little more than one month before the 2020 presidential election and the Senate confirmed her in one month. Obama nominated Merrick eight months before the 2016 presidential election.
The Pew Research Center reported at the end of Trump’s term that the Republican-led Senate approved as many Trump judicial nominees in four years as Obama nominees in eight years. An Iowa Law Review article accused Grassley of ignoring or diluting rules and customs for judicial appointments while chairing the Judiciary Committee in order to meet Republican goals for thwarting Obama court nominations.
Grassley was the Committee on Finance’s chairman for six months in 2001, and again from January 2003 to January 2007 and January 2019 to January 2021. He also was the ranking minority member from June 2001 to January 2003 and from January 2007 to January 2011.
Republican Party rules for U.S. Senate committee leadership say that members may not serve more than three two-year terms as a committee chair or minority ranking member. The rules also state a Republican cannot serve as a chair or ranking member for more than one committee, with a few exceptions for the ethics committee and joint committees for printing and the Library of Congress.
Grassley is not the ranking minority member of the finance committee but has that role on the Committee on the Judiciary, while remaining on the finance committee as a senior member. Grassley also serves on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Committee on the Budget; Joint Committee on Taxation, and is vice chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.
“Grassley’s leadership and committee assignments ensure Iowans have an influential voice at the policymaking tables, advocating for Iowans in the most pressing issues of our day,” Grassley campaign communications director Michaela Sundermann wrote in an email to PolitiFact Iowa. “Senator Grassley has achieved these assignments through years of hard work to ensure he weighs in on public policy important to the lives and livelihoods of Iowans.”
Grassley has not missed a full committee hearing this year, Sundermann said. “He holds that perfect attendance record while serving on multiple committees including Judiciary, Agriculture and Budget Committees,” she wrote to PolitiFact Iowa.
Franken, of Sioux City, is in a primary battle for the Democratic nomination with former U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Cedar Rapids, and Glenn Hurst, a physician from Minden. Grassley, for all of the national attention he gets because of his committee positions but also for his longevity in the Senate, is facing a primary challenge in the Republican Party from state Sen. Jim Carlin of Sioux City.
Franken tried to portray Grassley as leaving a committee that Grassley never left. Even if you consider that Grassley left a leadership position on the finance committee to take a leadership role at the Committee on the Judiciary, Grassley remains a senior member of the finance committee, plus Republican rules prohibited him from having a leadership role on finance.
Franken’s campaign clarified the tweet when asked about it and eventually took it down the morning of May 6. But saying Grassley “hopped off” the Committee on Finance during 24 hours that the tweet existed was False.
Mike Franken campaign web page
Email exchanges with Michaela Sundermann, communications director for Chuck Grassley U.S. Senate campaign
Email exchanges with Julie Stauch, campaign manager for Michael Franken U.S. Senate campaign
Pew Research Center, “How Trump compares with other recent presidents in appointing federal judges,” by John Gramlich, Jan. 13, 2021
Iowa Law Review, “Senator Chuck Grassley and Judicial Confirmations,” by Carl Tobias, 104 Iowa L. Rev. Online 31 (2019)
Press Release, “Grassley Statement On The President’s Nomination Of Merrick Garland To The U.S. Supreme Court,” March 16, 2016
Press Release, “Grassley Lauds Confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to U.S. Supreme Court,” Oct. 26, 2020
Trump White House Archives, “Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett: ‘Judges Are Not Policymakers’,”Sept. 29, 2020
Press Release, “Grassley Becomes Finance Committee Chairman, Outlines Agenda for 116th Congress,” Jan. 10, 2019
The Daily Iowan, “Mike Franken enters race for Grassley’s Senate seat,” by Rylee Wilson, Oct. 14, 2021
Abby Finkenauer campaign web page
Glenn Hurst campaign Facebook page
Jim Carlin campaign web page
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary web page
U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry web page
U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget web page
Joint Committee on Taxation web page
U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control web page
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