Contact: Robert Weiner and Autumn Kelly

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(Washington DC)—Robert Weiner and Autumn Kelly reported today that in a wide-reaching discussion at a National Press Club Newsmaker Monday (April 27), Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) defended the timing of the Lynch nomination for Attorney General, said legislation he introduced to remove national security blocks would have allowed Edward Snowden to be a legal whistleblower, and advocated TV coverage of the Supreme Court.  He also said his committee will now wait for House passage of some immigration legislation before acting this time, unlike the last congress when the Senate passed a bipartisan bill and the House refused. Weiner and Kelly continued:


On the six-month Lynch delay, Grassley pointed out the that nomination won a 19-0 vote by the committee, and the Senate leader determined that a floor vote would follow the human trafficking bill.  Grassley conceded that the delay “was a long period of time” but asserted that Democrats first put forward 13 judges before Lynch, and then did a filibuster of the trafficking bill that prevented her nomination until a compromise was adopted.


Grassley said, “Every President of the U.S. ought to have a rose garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers.” He was asked a follow-up question of whether Edward Snowden, who saw himself as a patriot for exposing the NSA’s bulk collection of call lists and names and generated changes by the White House, Congress, and the courts, was a whistleblower or committed crimes.  Grassley responded: “Right now, it would be the latter, but not if legislation I got through the Senate had then gotten through the House, which would apply whistleblower laws to national security.  But he did not have that and he did violate the law.”


He said he has introduced legislation with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL, Senate Minority Whip) allowing TV cameras in the Supreme Court to “enhance people’s understanding of the Supreme Court system.” He said there is bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.


On immigration reform, he said that if the House has not acted even on a small bill that could provide an opportunity for the Senate to work from it. He believes that given the Senate’s prior passage of a comprehensive bill, it would be a waste of time for the committee to go through the whole process again.  He said that the committee spent three months developing the bill last time.  “You can understand how I want to work on things where we can get product to the President.”


Grassley reported that he would support legislation for sentencing reform of mandatory minimums disproportionately affecting minorities for “some offenses” but also believes “we need to increase mandatory minimums” in some areas including “white collar crimes.


Grassley also advocated better use of “oversight by the Justice Department” of minority police killings because “some of what you see on TV is difficult to say common sense was used,” but we must “not pre-empt police protection.  I’m not one to pile on police because I expect them to protect me.”


When asked if he intended to fix the Voting Rights Act now that the Supreme Court knocked a key part down, he responded, “If you want to fix more minorities voting, more minorities are already voting. The Supreme Court threw out the section… If there’s some other reason for doing something with the Voting Rights Act, I’ll take a look at it.  But it’s got to be different from the original intent, because in the last fifty years, we’ve made great progress.”


Finally, Grassley reported that the committee would implement a cut-off of judicial nominations starting “July 2016, or for sure, after the August recess.”  He said, “Tradition allows those judges to be filled by a new President.” 

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