Grassley to take Finance gavel

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, November 19, 2018

The self-proclaimed father of the wind production tax credit and longtime ethanol backer Chuck Grassley announced today that he will take the reins of the Senate Finance Committee next year.

The Iowa Republican, who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in this Congress shepherded two of President Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court, will leave that position to take the Finance gavel opened up by the retirement of current Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“The economy is better than it’s been in years and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress,” Grassley said in a statement.

“Looking ahead, at the Finance Committee, I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves,” he said. “That means working to provide Americans with additional tax relief and tax fairness so they can spend more of their hard-earned money on what’s important to them.”

Grassley is a familiar presence on the committee, which he chaired from 2003 to 2007. He also served as ranking member on the committee from 2001 to 2003, and for four years when Democrats retook the Senate in 2007. Senate Republican rules limit GOP members to six years of service for both the chairman and ranking member slots. Grassley remains eligible to serve as Finance chair for two more years.

He is the original author of the renewable production tax credit, which has lapsed and been reinstated repeatedly since it joined the federal tax code in 1992. The credit is currently being phased down until its expiration in 2019.

Grassley is also a fierce advocate for his state’s ethanol industry, supporting extensions for a handful of expired biofuel tax breaks that are in the mix for the lame-duck agenda (E&E Daily, Nov. 16).

He was unhappy earlier this year when a final tax agreement extended the energy incentives only for 2017, rendering them still expired after enactment (E&E Daily, Feb. 9).

His ascension is auspicious for extenders to be an early priority of the next Congress if the matter falls off the table in the ongoing lame-duck session.

Finance’s jurisdiction over trade issues also will give Grassley a major role in overseeing Trump’s aggressive posture on trade — a matter of great consequence to the agricultural-based economy in his home state. Grassley also will lead hearings on the revised North American Free Trade Agreement that will come to a vote in the next Congress.

Grassley yesterday told reporters the move to Finance was under consideration but he wanted to speak with three or four Republican senators who would be affected by his decision before he announced it.

Those presumably include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is expected to take his spot on Judiciary, as well as Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who was next in line among Republicans to take the highly coveted Finance gavel. Crapo is expected to remain as Senate Banking Committee chairman, a role that includes leading difficult talks to reauthorize the beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program.

Hatch said the committee will be in “good hands” next year. “Chuck has a proven history of leadership at the committee and knows the ins and outs of its sprawling jurisdiction,” Hatch said in a statement.

Grassley also will succeed Hatch as Senate pro tempore, a position bestowed on the most senior member of the majority party, who serves as president of the chamber in the absence of the vice president of the United States. That position puts the 85-year-old Grassley third in the line of presidential succession.