Charles Ernest Grassley born September 17, 1933 is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Iowa, a seat he was first elected to in 1980. A member of the Republican Party, he previously was a member of the United States House of Representatives 1975–1981 and of the Iowa House of Representatives (1959–1975). He chaired the Senate Finance Committee from January to June 2001, as well as from January 2003 to December 2006, and is now the current Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the 115th Congress. In January 2019, Grassley will become the most senior Republican serving in the United States Senate due to the retirement of Orrin Hatch and the resignation of Thad Cochran. Should the Republicans maintain control of the Senate after the 2018 Senate elections, Grassley will presumably become the chamber’s President pro tempore.
Grassley was born in New Hartford, Iowa, the son of Ruth (née Corwin) and Louis Arthur Grassley, and graduated from the town high school. At Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), he earned a B.A. in 1955 and an M.A. in 1956. During his time as a student, Grassley joined the social-professional Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity. Also during the 1950s, Grassley farmed and worked in factories in Iowa, first as a sheet metal shearer and then as an assembly line worker. He pursued a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Iowa, but ultimately did not complete the degree. From 1967–1968, Grassley taught at Charles City College.
Grassley represented parts of Butler County in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1959 until 1975. He then served in the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1981.
In February 2017, Grassley said that while Russian interference in U.S. elections was “bothersome”, the United States did not have clean hands and had, for instance, interfered with the 1948 Italian election.
After President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Grassley advised people suspicious of the Trump administration to “Suck it up and move on.” On October 31, 2017, while facing questions from reporters concerning recent indictments, Grassley refused to answer and instead fled the area.
In January 2018, and in the first known congressional criminal referral in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Grassley, along with Lindsey Graham, recommended charges against Christopher Steele, one of the people who sought to expose Russian interference. Grassley and Graham said that they had reason to believe that Steele had lied to federal authorities. According to The New York Times, “It was not clear why, if a crime is apparent in the F.B.I. reports that were reviewed by the Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department had not moved to charge Mr. Steele already. The circumstances under which Mr. Steele is alleged to have lied were unclear, as much of the referral was classified.”
In January 2018, Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the full transcript of an August 2017 ten-hour interview that the Judiciary Committee which Grassley heads conducted with Glenn Simpson. Simpson is the co-founder of the political opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which produced the so-called Steele Dossier on alleged connections between Trump and Russia. Grassley condemned Feinstein, saying that her decision was “confounding” and that it deterred future witnesses in the Russia 2016 investigation. However, Simpson had requested that the full transcript of his interview be released, because Republicans had selectively leaked portions of the testimony to conservative media outlets to portray Simpson in a negative light and discredit the Steele Dossier.
Grassley was elected to his Senate seat in 1980, defeating the Democratic incumbent, John Culver. He was reelected in 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010 and 2016; he is the longest-serving senator in Iowa history. In 1992 he won a third term with 69 percent of the vote even as Bill Clinton carried the state in the presidential election.
Grassley sought a sixth term in the 2010 election. He was challenged by Democrat Roxanne Conlin, a former United States Attorney, and Libertarian John Heiderscheit, an attorney.
Grassley was unopposed in the Republican primary, although some conservatives said he has drifted “too far to the left”. Among those is conservative activist Bill Salier, who said “Grassley was the dominant force and had an enormous amount of loyalty. That has so eroded out from underneath him” during an interview on WHO-AM radio.
Grassley was reelected with 64.5% of the vote, Roxanne Conlin getting 33.2% of the vote. He carried every county in the state except Johnson County, which hosts the University of Iowa. He is only the second Iowan to serve six terms in the Senate; the other being Iowa’s longest-serving senator, William B. Allison.
Grassley sought a seventh term in the 2016 election. Distinct from 2010, he was expected to face a strong challenge from former Democratic lieutenant governor Patty Judge, but he won his seventh term with over 60% of the vote as the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the state with over 51% of the vote.
Grassley married Barbara Ann Speicher on August 23, 1954; the couple have five children: Lee, Wendy, Robin, Michele, and Jay. Grassley is a member of The Family, the organization that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast. His grandson Pat Grassley is a member of the Iowa House of Representatives. Grassley is also known for his widely reported and long-running “feud” with The History Channel over its perceived lack of actual history programming.
In 2009, Grassley received the “Health Policy Hero” award from the National Research Center for Women & Families for his 2004 oversight of legislative reforms and accountability of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Grassley was also named the hardest working member of Congress by The Hill newspaper in June 2010, tied with Max Baucus.