Grassley Says He’ll Become Chairman of Senate Finance Committee

(Bloomberg) -- Senator Chuck Grassley will take the helm of the committee that oversees what could be three of the most contentious issues in the 2020 election: trade, health care and taxes.

Republican Grassley will take over leadership of the Senate Finance Committee at the start of the next Congress. He will replace Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, who’s retiring. Under Hatch’s tenure, Senate Republicans approved a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code last year. House Democrats are looking to unwind parts of the GOP tax law, which is unlikely to go anywhere as long as Republicans control the Senate.

“I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves,” Grassley of Iowa said in a statement Friday.

Grassley has been serving as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he was in charge of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s politically-charged nomination process. He’s likely to be replaced as Judiciary chairman by Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Graham, a fierce Trump defender, has threatened to investigate the Justice Department’s handling of probes on Hillary Clinton and Russian election-meddling.

The new Senate Finance chief will be one of the key figures to move trade deals with Canada and Mexico through Congress. President Donald Trump’s new agreement needs changes to secure support from House Democrats, which would then have to be approved by the Senate.

Grassley could find himself sparring with Trump over agriculture tariffs that the lawmaker has said “every farmer is very nervous” about. Farm income, critical to Grassley’s home state economy, is estimated to fall about 13 percent next year, according to the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service.

Legislation to curb high prescription drug costs is an area where Grassley could find room for compromise between the White House and his Democratic counterparts in the House.

Grassley, 85, has focused on bills to help whistle-blowers come forward to expose fraud within government agencies and the private sector during his time in Congress. Like Trump, he is an avid Twitter user and often uses the platform to communicate his approval or disapproval during policy debates.

This would be Grassley’s third stint as Finance chairman. He held the panel’s top job twice in the early and mid-2000s, where he worked to pass two rounds of tax cuts under President George W. Bush and a Medicare prescription drug plan. He’ll be eligible to serve as chairman of Senate Finance for one full Congress.

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