Chuck Grassley, a farmer from Iowa, is set to become the first non-lawyer to chair the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee the Sioux City Journal reports. Grassley, 81, has been on the commitee since 1981. He joined at the urging of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) Grassley does not have a strong record on criminal justice issues. He is particularly interested in economic issues, such as patent reform, a concern of Iowa businesses. He also cited an interest in adapting criminal laws to rapidly advancing technology.
Last spring, Grassley joined Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in opposing the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would reduce many federal mandatory minimum sentences. He said that mandatory minimums have played a role in reducing the nation’s crime rate. He said, “When supporters of this bill say that the bill only applies to nonviolent offenders, don’t be misled into thinking it applies to people in federal prison for simple possession of marijuana. It doesn’t. The offenses covered in this bill are violent. Importing cocaine is violent. The whole operation turns on violence. Dealing heroin also involves violence or the threat of violence. And the offense for which the offender is sentenced may have been violent. The defendant’s co-defendant might have used a gun. And while the bill does not apply to a drug crime for which the defendant used violence, it does apply to criminals where the defendant has a history of committing violent crime.”