The chamber of the United States Senate will be quiet for the next two weeks as members of Congress are back home with their families and constituents for the Easter Holiday recess.
But last Thursday amidst the rancor and almost non-stop voting on amendments to the budget resolution, senators on both sides of the aisle paused for about 40 minutes to recognize an important landmark for one of their own.
In the middle of the afternoon, Senator Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), a five-term member of the Senate, cast his 10,000th vote in Congress’ upper body.
Grassley was feted with celebratory speeches from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nevada), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, and Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Montana, chairman, Senate Finance Committee).
In an exclusive interview with FederalNewsRadio immediately following the tributes, Grassley said “I never thought I’d make it from this standpoint when I first ran for the United States Senate. The tradition had been in Iowa, that you serve one term as a Senator. But I ran for re-election, and re-election, and eventually, it adds up to ten thousand votes. ”
Ronald Reagan was President when Grassley was elected to his first term as a Senator, having served several terms as a Congressman from Iowa during the period when Gerald Ford was President, immediately after Richard Nixon resigned because of Watergate. “It was a bad year for Republicans,” he recalled, “I was only one of 16 new Republicans to be elected that year,” at a time when 74 new Democrats took office.
During his speech on the Senate floor following the tributes, Grassley explained that the simple act of voting sends a powerful message to voters back home. “People tend to think that we don’t tend to business the way we should,” he explained afterward, “they think we goof off a lot. I think that by not missing a vote, as I have now for 6,000 votes, I’m quantifying for the American people that when Congress is in session, at least this Senator is in Washington voting, and when we’re not in session, I try to make it back to my state to commune with my people, and make the process of representative government work. It’s a way to overcome the cynicism that people have towards politicians.”
Grassley last missed a vote in the Senate in 1993, when he accompanied then-President Clinton to inspect flood damage in Iowa.
Asked what advice he might give a young Iowan aspiring to a life of public service like his own, Grassley candidly admitted that “the only mistake I think I made in public life is not spending enough time with my family. Even considering I’ve been married 54 years, and the fact that I have five kids. We have a strong family, because my wife, Barbara, was mother and father to the kids because I was away from home so often. So, I would say, plan your political career so you can be a proper parent.”
The senior senator from Iowa also says he would advise a young person to decide whether they wanted to get into politics for a short time, to gain the experience, or whether they wanted to pursue politics as a life-time career.
Grassley, the only farmer in the United States Senate, now believes he should have immersed himself more in agriculture, or some other profession or business, before choosing to enter politics.