Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Terry Campo.
The announcement of a deal on USMCA means President Trump will soon earn another signature legislative accomplishment during his first term. The president’s other significant accomplishments include Criminal Justice Reform, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and the confirmations of two Supreme Court justices.
Interestingly, the common thread between these major accomplishments is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, arguably President Trump’s most effective weapon for executing his agenda on Capitol Hill.
As chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues such as tax and trade, there was no greater advocate in the Senate for USMCA than Grassley. He held committee hearings on this critical agreement and his expert trade team helped the administration write the deal.
Grassley also reached across the aisle to work with House Democrats, urging them to move forward with USMCA. Despite their continual game-playing and stall tactics, Grassley worked in good faith throughout the past year to ensure the process was thorough. When it was clear House Democrats were focused on a dead-end, self-serving, and meritless impeachment inquiry, Grassley applied increasing pressure for USMCA’s passage.
Now he will move USMCA through the committee. This deal will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, protect American industries, and provide confidence to U.S. businesses and innovators to invest right here in America. It is a major win for the Trump administration, as well as American workers, businesses, and farmers.
Grassley also delivered on criminal justice reform. He authored President Trump’s landmark legislation, The First Step Act, which passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. It received bipartisan praise from political analysts on both sides of the aisle.
Grassley’s role in the passing of criminal justice reform cannot be overstated. He used his political capital built on confirming conservative judges at a historic pace to encourage Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into holding a vote before the end of 2018. Getting the bill passed before last Congress ended was critical because Democrats were poised to take the House of Representatives, leaving the bill’s future hanging in the balance. Grassley put in the sweat equity behind the scenes and whipped the votes for criminal justice reform. The bill was approved by a vote of 87-12.
However, Grassley’s role in the transformation of the federal judiciary under President Trump is by far the most impactful.
When Justice Scalia died in 2016, Grassley was the frontline of defense in keeping President Obama from appointing a liberal justice to the Supreme Court. As the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley could have held a hearing for Obama’s nominee. Instead, he stood the line, based on past precedent set by then-Senator Joe Biden. Grassley did this at great personal risk, given his bid for re-election.
The Supreme Court vacancy was a key part of President Trump’s 2016 platform and it was a major factor in his victory. Grassley’s work allowed Trump to nominate Justice Neil Gorsuch to Scalia’s seat, saving the Court from a liberal majority. Grassley successfully navigated the Gorsuch hearings, setting up McConnell to confirm him on the floor. Grassley was also critical in ending the blue slip policy, which allowed Trump to confirm circuit court judges at a historic pace.
The blue slip policy was first enforced by Senator James Eastland, a noted segregationist. It was then reintroduced by Senator Pat Leahy to block President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. In fact, only two of the last 19 chairmen of the Judiciary Committee used the blue slip as a veto.
Grassley also navigated the historic and contentious Kavanaugh hearings, leading to the confirmation of Trump’s second Supreme Court justice. Further, Grassley held hearings for 50 judicial nominees, setting up their confirmations for the incoming Chairman Lindsey Graham. Together, Trump, Grassley, and McConnell confirmed 30 circuit court judges, the most ever in a president’s first two years in office.
He isn’t flashy, but Grassley is the most effective senator in the Trump-era, helping spearhead his top accomplishments. The farmer from Iowa knows how to get the job done. Grassley has been critical for Trump on USMCA, Criminal Justice Reform, and judges. Three issues that the president will be sure to run on come 2020. Grassley works, Grassley delivers.
Terry Campo is an attorney. He is the former General Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and staff attorney for Senator Chuck Grassley.
Garrett Ventry is a public affairs professional. He is a former Communications Adviser to the Senate Judiciary Committee and press aide for Senator Chuck Grassley.