OCHEYEDAN, Iowa — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley isn’t worried that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is attacking him on the campaign trail. He thinks she’s just doing it to avoid talking about her latest electoral losses and a possible FBI probe.
Clinton criticized Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday for refusing to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick B. Garland. Clinton joined the chorus of Democrats insisting that Grassley is failing to do his job by standing in the way. Grassley said he’s just a “convenient” scapegoat to help Clinton dodge a string of bad press.
“I see a person who has recently been badly defeated in three states for the nomination,” Grassley said on Monday afternoon. “I see a person that the FBI is getting ready to question her about the emails and about the Clinton Foundation and she’s trying to change the story to something else.”
Earlier in the day Clinton told an audience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that Grassley should “step up and do his job” and linked his decision to the rise of outsider candidates like Donald Trump.
“The same obstructionism that we’ve seen from Republicans since the beginning of the Obama administration, the same disregard for the rule of law that’s given rise to the extremist candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,” Clinton said. “What the Republicans have sown with their extremist tactics, they are now reaping with Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
Grassley has faced near-constant criticism from Democrats since he announced more than six weeks ago that he would not allow hearings on any Obama nominee this year. The attacks grew more intense after Obama nominated Garland who is a widely respected moderate.
The issue followed Grassley back to Iowa on Monday where he faced dozens of questions about his decision not to allow the hearings during a pair of town hall meetings. Activists from the group Progress Iowa and other left-leaning groups peppered Grassley with questions about his position and demanded he explain how he could justify ignoring Garland’s nomination.
Dave Damstrom of Spencer, Iowa, was one of around a half dozen Democrats who attended Grassley’s town hall at a senior center here. He read from a letter he recently received from Grassley in response to his request for the Judiciary Committee to move forward on the Garland nomination.
Damstrom said he wanted Grassley to “stand up and be a leader” and forget the politics and do what’s right by advising and consenting on Obama’s nominee. It was a theme that repeated frequently over the course of the one-hour session and a second event that followed in a neighboring county.
Grassley repeated the response that he has maintained since February — no hearings until there is a new president.
“There has been broad consideration that when you have a lame duck president that during the last year the appointment should go over to a new president,” Grassley said.
Garland is, however, meeting with other senators this week while Congress is in recess. He is set to meet with his first Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, on Tuesday and has met with several Democrats.