National Press Club

Grassley defends delay in confirming new attorney general at April 27 Newsmaker

April 29, 2015 | By Robert Weiner and Autumn Kelly | weinerpublic@comcast.net, autumnnoelkelly@gmail.com

Senate Judiciary Chairman  Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks at an April 27 Club Newsmaker.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) speaks at an April 27 Club Newsmaker.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

In a wide-reaching discussion at a Newsmaker Monday (April 27), Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) defended the months-long wait to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general at an April 27 Club Newsmaker.

Grassley pointed out the committee unanimously approved the nomination, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put off a floor vote until after the chamber approved legislation to combat human trafficking. A final vote on the latter bill was delayed by Democratic opposition to an anti-abortion provision. Grassley conceded that the delay in confirming Lynch “was a long period of time.”

Grassley said that legislation he has introduced would protect those who disclose certain national security secrets, such as Edward Snowden. Asked if he believed Snowden was a whistleblower or lawbreakee, Grassley responded: “Right now, it would be the latter, but not if legislation I got through the Senate had then gotten through the House, which would apply whistleblower laws to national security. But he did not have that and he did violate the law.”

He said he has introduced legislation with Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois to allow television cameras in the Supreme Court to “enhance people’s understanding of the Supreme Court system.” He said there is bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.

On overhauling immigration laws, he said the problem was with House Republicans who have failed to pass any legislation on the issue. He said the Senate needed to wait for the House to act this time.

“You can understand how I want to work on things where we can get product to the president,” he said.

Grassley said that he would support legislation that could reduce mandatory minimum sentences disproportionately affecting minorities for “some offenses” but also said he believes “we need to increase mandatory minimums” in some areas including white collar crimes.

Grassley also advocated better use of Justice Department oversight of minority police killings because “some of what you see on TV is difficult to say common sense was used,” but we must “not preempt police protection. I’m not one to pile on police because I expect them to protect me.”

When asked if he intended to fix the Voting Rights Act now that the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, removed a key provision that had garnered overwhelming support in both houses of Congress he responded, “If you want to fix more minorities voting, more minorities are already voting. The Supreme Court threw out the section… If there’s some other reason for doing something with the Voting Rights Act, I’ll take a look at it. But it’s got to be different from the original intent, because in the last 50 years, we’ve made great progress.”

Grassley said the committee would not confirm any judges nominated by President Obama starting in July 2016 or when the Senate returned from its August recess.