Those who know Sen. Chuck Grassley weren’t surprised at his 4 a.m. tweet announcing he will run for re-election. He is an early-to-rise leader who has been an integral part of the most significant legislative victories in Congress. In 2018, as acting attorney general of the United States under President Trump, I witnessed first-hand how Sen. Grassley deftly delivered a signature bipartisan achievement for public safety to the president’s desk, a groundbreaking prison and sentencing reform bill called the First Step Act.
So it made perfect sense when President Trump showed up in Iowa earlier this month to endorse Sen. Grassley, who at 88, shows no signs of letting his foot off the gas.
He is currently developing a second criminal justice reform package with Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, which will likely include three bills the two men co-sponsored and already passed through committee: the First Step Implementation Act, Safer Detention Act, and Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act. These common-sense measures would, respectively, apply the First Step Act to low-level, non-violent offenders serving unfairly long sentences who were cut out of relief because they were sentenced before the bill’s passage; provide relief to elderly and sick prisoners who are no threat to society through closely supervised home confinement or compassionate release, and prohibit judges from using information on activities a defendant was acquitted of for lengthening or shortening a person’s sentence.
These bills each have broad bipartisan support because they offer second chances to those who have earned them, focus precious taxpayer resources on the truly dangerous in our system, protect our constitutional rights and limit government overreach. Trump conservatives will support them.
Meanwhile, the House is also pressing forward with bipartisan criminal justice reform. Rising GOP star Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) is spearheading a bill called the EQUAL Act, which would finally and fully eliminate the unjustifiable sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Though these substances are both dangerous, it takes 18 times the amount of powder cocaine to trigger the same sentence as crack cocaine. Members from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to Iowa’s Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA), also are supporters of this legislation, which garnered an overwhelming (and rare) 361 to 66 bipartisan vote on the House floor this week.
Law enforcement leaders, including U.S. attorneys with whom I worked during the Trump Administration, as well as the National District Attorneys Association and the Major Cities Chiefs Association, all support the EQUAL Act because they believe it builds trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Many officers struggling with rising violent crime and murder rates find it impossible to cultivate sources and effectively investigate the very worst cases, and they want their support for this bill to send the message they are serious about treating all communities fairly. The men and women in law enforcement deserve our support and we should provide them with the tools necessary to safely execute the law.
The House and Senate will ultimately negotiate for a package that includes each of their priorities, and make no mistake, Senator Grassley will be at the head of the table. And just as he fights for second chances and fairness, he will continue to be tough on crimes involving fentanyl, which is so dangerous that trafficking this drug is often compared to Russian roulette.
When history writes the story of Senator Chuck Grassley, it will credit him for helping people struggling with addiction and mental illness seek treatment, rehabilitating sick people into productive, law-abiding citizens, and safeguarding our communities from drug kingpins and violent criminals.
There will be those who try to stand in the way of Sen. Grassley’s legislative agenda, but they do so at their political peril. After all, they’ll have to contend with a man beloved in Iowa and by the millions of people he has fought to help and protect, and they’ll have to get up pretty darn early in the morning.