I was joined this morning by Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee:
HH: I’m pleased to welcome back to the program United States Senator Chuck Grassley. He is chairman of the United States Senate’s Finance Committee. Senator Grassley, Happy New Year. Welcome back to the program.
CG: Happy New Year. Glad to be with you, and you can have me almost any time you want me.
HH: Thank you. Well now, Senator, you and I always save to the end talking about the History Channel. But I want to do you a favor. Do you get Netflix?
CG: No, I do not.
HH: Oh, you should order Netflix and watch The Last Kingdom. It would very much appeal, even though it’s historical fiction, it’s about King Alfred in the 9th Century. I think you’d love it.
CG: I’m not interested in fiction. I’m just interested in real history.
HH: Well, this is, you know, sometimes, when there are not a lot of books around with King Alfred, you kind of go with what you’ve got, like there are, like, two books written on him for a hundred years there.
CG: Well, I’ll take your advice and I’ll have somebody else view it and tell me what it’s all about.
HH: All right. You’ll like The Last Kingdom. Let me begin by asking you about not the Finance Committee, but the Judiciary Committee, of which you were the chair and now you remain a member. My friend, Lindsey Graham, has taken over the gavel from you, and it’s become like an electric car. It’s not making any noise. Where the heck are the nominees, Senator Grassley?
CG: A very important nominee is up today for hearing, Ms. Rao, for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, very well-qualified, an expert on regulatory actions. And that is the court that reviews most of the decisions that are appealed from the district court in the D.C., because these regulations for the most part are written here in Washington, D.C. So having an expert like her and a person that believes in the rule of law and will not want Congress to delegate too much power, and when it is delegated to the bureaucracy, to make sure that the bureaucrats stay within the bounds of the law. That’s very, very important if you want to get at the deep state.
HH: Absolutely correct. And by the way, I clerked on the D.C. Circuit. Neomi Rao is a terrific nominee. She is one of 12 Circuit Court nominees right now. But why only one? Why don’t we just, they’ve been nominated before. Why not put all 12 up there and blow them through?
CG: Oh, we’re taking care of the ones that were nominated before that have already had a hearing. On Thursday, we will, I don’t know if we’ll get all 40 voted out in one day or not, but we have people that were returned to the White House as the law requires at the end of the year. They’re on the agenda now. They were on the agenda last Thursday. Any one member can hold them over, so they’ve been held over. So these 40 district and Circuit judges will be voted out Thursday. So I can assure you that judges are a big priority, even for the new chairman of the committee, just as important as they are for me. And then yesterday…
HH: I think you’ve got to poke Lindsey a little bit, Senator Grassley. He’s not moving at the pace you did. I think you’ve just got to give him a little goose there and tell him he’s got to get going.
CG: Well, listen, I’m going to be helping him. I’m going to let him run the committee, but I’m going to be there as his first lieutenant, I guess, and doing what I can to move things along. I’ll be at the hearing today. And by the way, there is one thing about Lindsey that I want you to appreciate that maybe you would have found fault with Chuck Grassley. I was maybe a little too tolerant towards the Democrats talking and talking and talking and talking, not cutting them off, letting them kind of filibuster. We eventually got our work done, but Lindsey, I don’t think, is going to put up with that sort of crap.
HH: Well, he’s a good friend of the program. I like to give him a hard time. But I believe you are the guy who gets the trophy on the wall for getting rid of the blue slip for Circuit Court nominees. And so I hope he keeps an animus towards blue slips.
HH: There’s no way that Senators Feinstein and Harris ought to be able to control the judges that will be ruling over Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. So hopefully, those three 9th Circuit appointees, nominees by President Trump, get an early hearing. Do you think they will?
CG: The answer is yes. Let me say, first of all, thanks. You’re one of the few radio people that have thanked me for anything I’ve done on judges. So I thank you very much. You know, McConnell gets all the credit.
HH: No, you move them along.
CG: And my staff and me, my staff and I did all the work, but he gets all the credit. So thank you for thanking me. Now on the 9th Circuit, we have three judges up that are very, very good people. And I believe that, I believe that they will come up. This sounds like I’m making excuses, but it takes about three weeks for both Republican and Democrat staff to go through all of the opinions that people have written if they’ve been judges, or all the writing they’ve done if they aren’t judges, and then to go through their questionnaire, and then be put on the agenda, and then one week held over. So I wouldn’t want to say that maybe within four or five weeks, these judges on the 9th Circuit can come up.
HH: That is great news. Let me ask you, by the way, Senator, you pay such attention to the Judiciary. And you are a yeoman when it comes to getting it done. There are a lot of judges out there on the Circuit Court of Appeals who could take senior status. They could. They love being active judges, but they could take senior status. Ought they, in your opinion, to take senior status right now when we have 53 Republicans and a two judge margin on the Judiciary Committee, a two senator Republican margin on the Judiciary Committee?
CG: Well, the answer is yes, but that’s going to be their choice, not mine. And they might even resent my saying that they ought to take senior status. But I have found judges, quite frankly, taking senior status sooner than I thought they would, some people at age 65, some at under 70. And I’m a person that believes that you ought to work as long as you can.
HH: Well, you and me, both, do as much as you can for as many as you can for as long as you can. But you can do that as a senior status judge. You still hear cases. You just get a new nominee. Let me ask you about the rules of the Senate. There is a question about whether or not the so-called Reid Rule will be used to limit the amount of debate post-cloture and pre-cloture on nominees that they’re going to pass anyway. Do you support using the Reid Rule to change the rules of the Senate to limit debate at post-cloture and pre-cloture?
CG: That’s the one that would reduce it from 30 hours down to 2 hours for district judges, and I think 8 hours for Circuit judges.
CG: Or maybe even 2 hours for Circuit judges, but for cabinet people, I think it would still be 8 hours.
CG: Well, whatever it is, I’m in favor of it, yes. If Reid set the standard that he did, and I’m sure they’re sorry they did now, or we wouldn’t have two people like Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. They’re sorry they did it, but that’s the fact of life now. So we have a two step approach to accomplish what you want to. Ideally, you’d make a rule change. That takes a two-thirds vote to make a rule. So the Rules committee is going to work on a rule change along the lines of what I just told you, get it out to the floor, and see if we can get enough Democrats interested in providing a two-thirds vote to make it permanent. That’s the best way to do it. If you can’t do it that way, then we’d do it through what we call standing order, which would only be good for now through January 3rd, 2021 when the new Congress takes over, because you’ve got to do standing rules every so often. And that could be done by majority vote.
HH: But if that, and that is going to happen, do you think?
CG: Yeah, one, and the only way it wouldn’t happen is if we would lose more than three Republicans. And the point is, I want to make clear, we’re trying to do it according to the rule book, not the way that Reid did it. And that’s where the two-thirds vote comes in. So Republicans are taking this step by step for now. So I would expect that we would have to have a consideration either formally or informally that you can’t get two-thirds vote before the next step, which we really don’t want to consider, because we ought to do it according to the rules.
HH: Oh, I agree with you, but they’re not going to play. I just know they’re not going to play ball because of their crazy, left wing base.
CG: That’s our gut feeling, yes.
HH: So now, let me turn if I can, I’m so glad to hear Circuit nominees are number one. We agree on everything. I appreciate your efforts. I’m glad you’re going to help the new chairman. Let’s turn to the Finance Committee. Now I always tell people a once and future sponsor of this program is Citizens For Truth in Drug Pricing. They hate Big Pharma as much as I do. I think that the cost of insulin is insane. I think we protect drug prices through a variety of bad rule making. It’s not the free market. I think drug prices have got to come down. You’ve held a hearing on this. What’s the result? What did you learn at that hearing?
CG: We learned at the hearing that the marketplace is not working for judges. So what I’m trying to do is to make…
HH: For drug markets…for drugs, yeah.
CG: Yeah, I’m sorry. Yes, for drugs. I’m trying to make the free market principles work. And we need competition. We need transparency. In fact, transparency brings accountability. I’m not interested in price controls. I do want to end anti-competitive practices, and I want to allow the greatest consumer choice we can. And so right now, we’re talking about prescription drug price, as you asked. But this issue of transparency goes to hospitals, doctors, any place where you pay money for your health care. You ought to know what you’re buying. Like for instance, if you, Hugh, you went to the supermarket to buy an apple, you paid a nickel for the apple, I would pay the same nickel for an apple. But when you go to your local hospital, and I went to the same hospital, you might pay more than I do, or vice versa. Now that isn’t right.
HH: Yeah, apples in hospitals cost about $100 bucks, too, Chuck Grassley. That’s the trouble with hospitals.
CG: Yeah, okay (laughing). So hey, it isn’t so much, I don’t want to sound like I’m not concerned about prices, because I am concerned about high prices of prescription drugs. But the price isn’t as important to me as ending the secrecy that’s in all of these phases of it, like on prescription drugs. Where does a company end up with its price? Then you’ve got the PBMs come in. And you’ve got all these rebates. Everything’s so secret. We need transparency. We need to make sure that we, people know what they’re paying and why they’re paying it. And so let the sun shine in. It’s the best disinfectant.
HH: Amen. Now I want to turn to a last subject on which I know you are a champion. Many people might not. You are a big believer in inspectors generals. I am wondering where is accountability at the Department of Justice for how the Bureau of Investigation acted in 2016? Where is the U.S. Attorney Huber? Where is accountability for Comey? Chris Christie on this program yesterday blasted Comey. He trusts Mueller with his report, but he blasted Comey for his conduct of the Hillary Clinton investigation. When are we going to get answers from IG’s, Chuck Grassley?
CG: Well, first of all, I’m, maybe it’s understandable that when a prosecution’s going on, I can’t tell you anything about Huber. But quite frankly, if I did, I couldn’t tell you. But I don’t know. In regard to the Inspector General, all I can tell you is I have confidence in Horowitz as Inspector General. And Huber is working with the Inspector General, because see, the Inspector General can’t prosecute. So presumably, Sessions made Huber available to the Inspector General. But their relationship. I don’t have any information on. But I want you to know that I have great confidence in Horowitz on whatever he can, is investigating. And that’s a follow-on of the report that he gave us, you know, I think last October. And this, we were told that this would come out in a couple of months. Now I met with Horowitz before Christmas, so that couple months maybe would be March or April. I don’t know exactly what specifically he told me at the time.
HH: Now when do you expect the Special Counsel, Mueller, in whom I have great confidence, to finish his work? I know that you’re going to vote for Bill Barr. Your colleague, Senator Blumenthal, quite expectedly he’s always wrong, is going to vote against him. I know you will vote for him. But neither of those votes have anything to do with when Mueller gets done. When do you expect to see the Special Counsel’s report?
CG: Within a month, if we see it. But here’s where Blumenthal and I are on the same page, maybe for different reasons. Blumenthal is on a bill with me, because he wants this report out, I suppose, because it’s going to make Trump look bad. I look at it from this standpoint. I don’t care what the report says. We paid $25 million, maybe $35 million to do it, and the public ought to know what their $25 or $35 million bought. And except for national security and privacy of individuals, those would be understandably redacted, everything else, I think, ought to be out.
HH: I agree. I want to see it all unless we’re compromising a method or a source. Did you think, you’ve watched the FBI for a long time. You’ve held oversight for as long since I was in the Department of Justice. When they arrested Roger Stone, was that over the top, in your opinion, Chuck Grassley?
CG: The answer is…
HH: All of the FBI agents, etc?
CG: Yeah, the answer is yes. But even more deplorable is the fact that somebody within the organization or close to the organization, and it may have been somebody just recently on the outside, told CNN about it so they could be there.
HH: So do you, do you expect, last question, what do you expect from Bill Barr? Is he going to clean this up? I think Chris Wray is a great FBI director. I think Bill Barr is experienced. Do you expect this department to get straightened out?
CG: I, it doesn’t matter who’s head of it. There’s some institutional problems, and one of the institutional problems is they don’t have the proper respect for whistleblowers. I’ve changed some legislation within the last couple years on that issue, but not enough. And there’s going to be every resistance. And if people don’t want to listen to whistleblowers and do what whistleblowers said, that’s a cultural problem within the organization that’s got to change, and I discussed this with Wray when he was up for confirmation. And he, everybody keeps telling me they’re going to have respect for whistleblowers. They’re going to listen to them, but it just doesn’t always turn out that way.
HH: And a last question, do you expect that we are going to find that there was any collusion or conspiracy between the president of the United States and Russia?
CG: No. No. And getting back to your previous question, I tell people whoever, whatever department they’re going to head, either you run the bureaucracy, or it’s going to run you.
HH: Well said. Senator Grassley, I look forward to talking to you early and often. Good work on the Finance Committee. And tell Senator Graham you’re there as his wingman. Get them moving. Let’s get these judges confirmed. I always appreciate talking to you, Senator.
CG: Thank you very much. Goodbye.
End of ineterview.