- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2014

Government watchdog Sen. Chuck Grassley is waiting to be unleashed.

Blocked by Democratic control of the Senate, the Iowa Republican has had to play a secondary role while investigations he wants to spearhead — such as the probe of Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups — have had to go through his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives, who are in control and have subpoena power.

But the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee promises a slew of contentious hearings focused on the Justice Department, National Security Agency snooping, Benghazi and others if Republicans win control of the Senate in November.

“[Oversight] is going to be a very big thing as far as I’m concerned. I’m talking about investigations, not just having the attorney general in once a year, or the FBI director in once a year,” Mr. Grassley said in an interview with The Washington Times. “If Republicans are in the majority, I hope we can get the same information this administration says only a chairman is entitled to.”

The Washington bureaucracy, which views Mr. Grassley’s minority party status as a reason not to answer back, have stymied the senator’s effort to hound the Obama administration for information on what he sees as potential abuses of power or mismanagement.

So far this year, Mr. Grassley has pushed the Homeland Security Department for answers about a “hands-off” list that keeps off the no-fly list some individuals with suspected terrorist ties. He has yet to hear back from the agency.

He also has reached out to the inspector general at the Treasury Department to make sure authorities are probing hiring practices of its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network after the division was caught screening job candidates illegally.

The IRS has been another high-profile Grassley target. He said in September that despite the IRS creation of a whistleblower office, the agency has put off processing cases and making financial rewards to workers who report wrongdoing.

He has written President Obama a letter calling on the White House to prohibit federal agencies from designating jobs as “non-critical sensitive” as a way to silence whistleblowers.

“It takes 51 votes to get a bill passed but it only takes one vote to do oversight — in other words, Chuck Grassley making up my mind to do it,” said Mr. Grassley, who said his No. 1 job in Congress is to police the government and defend those who dare to speak out against it.

Mr. Grassley, who spends every weekend in his home state, made a name for himself 30 years ago when he challenged spending at the Defense Department under President Reagan.

Mr. Grassley, then a junior senator and new to the budget committee, wanted to talk with Pentagon analyst Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney, who wrote a report about what he viewed as wasteful spending.

Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger dodged the senator’s requests.

“I tried to make arrangements to meet [Mr. Spinney] and Cap Weinberger never set it up so I thought I’m going to go over to the Defense Department and see him myself,” said Mr. Grassley. “When I got over there, Cap Weinberger was gone and they wouldn’t let me talk to Spinney.”

Mr. Grassley returned to his office determined to talk with Mr. Spinney one way or another. He threatened to subpoena Mr. Spinney to get him to testify before the Senate Budget Committee on Defense. Under subpoena pressure, the Pentagon agreed to hold a hearing that Friday afternoon in a remote room to have Mr. Spinney and his superior testify. Mr. Grassley — knowing this was an effort to dodge the press — reconvened the meeting to a larger room and allowed cameras. The Monday that followed, Mr. Spinney’s image was printed on the cover of Time magazine with the headline “U.S. Defense Spending: Are Billions Being Wasted?”

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