Sen. Chuck Grassley, who served with then-Sen. Joe Biden for nearly three decades, sees a possibility for advancing bipartisan legislation during the president-elect’s administration.
However, those opportunities will be diminished if Biden bows to pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Iowa Republican said Tuesday.
Grassley, who returned to the Capitol on Monday following a two-week isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, made his comments during a virtual presentation to more than 60 members of the Iowa Taxpayers Association.
If President Biden serves as he did as a senator, Grassley said, “there’s a great deal of opportunity to get bipartisan product.”
If his response to progressive Democrats’ planks in the party’s platform — “I mean the Sanders platform” — are an indication of how Biden will lead, then Grassley’s optimism is dampened.
“He more or less just gave in to them in every respect,” Grassley said about the progressives, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who also sought the Democratic presidential nomination.
Grassley is concerned Biden will seek to appease progressive Democrats through regulatory authority Congress has ceded to the presidency over the past 80 years.
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“There’s a lot of leeway that the president has in existing law that he can use to satisfy the progressive wing of the party” in environmental and labor regulation, he said. “And there’s not much we can do about it, because we wouldn’t get laws passed over his veto.”
Grassley holds out hope for another COVID-19 relief package in the final three weeks of the current session of Congress. That will happen if Democrats and Republicans move forward with a bill targeting “a long list of the things that we agree on.”
Republicans, he said, take the view “we ought to help as many people as we can where there’s already agreement and probably something could pass very unanimously.”
Congress already has approved around $3 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending, and Grassley would like to see much of the unspent funds reallocated. For example, there is about $110 billion of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program that has not been spent.
The $3 trillion-plus package proposed by the Democratic-controlled House, he said, is a non-starter in the Senate where Republicans are looking at about a half-trillion dollars of additional funds to provide COVID-19 relief and stimulate the economy.
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