Iowa’s influential Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley indicated he likely will not endorse anyone ahead of the caucuses in the 2024 presidential election.
The State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa passed a motion last week stating no committee member, state party staff, state party officers or Iowa Republican National Committee members shall publicly endorse a U.S. presidential candidate during the 2024 Iowa GOP caucuses.
Asked whether he, too, would stay neutral, Grassley noted he has historically avoided endorsing candidates before the Iowa caucuses, with two exceptions.
In 1996, Grassley and then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad endorsed Bob Dole, the longtime U.S. senator from Kansas who overcame life-threatening injuries during World War II to become a shepherd of the Republican Party and his party’s nominee for president that year. Grassley endorsed Dole over Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm and Arlen Specter.
The other time was in 2000, when Grassley endorsed George W. Bush over Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes and John McCain, who chose to skip the Iowa caucuses.
“Hosting the first-in-the-nation caucus is not just a privilege for Iowa, but a critical responsibility that affects the direction of our country as a whole,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement on passage of the Iowa GOP state central committee’s motion. “The Republican Party of Iowa is committed to executing this democratic duty with total neutrality and fairness.”
Grassley, speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday, said he shares that view.
“I think most of us that are elected to office in Iowa feel that if we start letting various candidates peel us off, and whoever Grassley or Gov. (Kim) Reynolds would support, might discourage other people from coming to Iowa,” he said.
“And we want a massive debate going on in Iowa and a massive effort for people to travel our state and get people’s opinions and give their opinions as candidates — that we think that’s the strongest way to get our strongest candidate we can.”
A group of national Democrats voted nearly unanimously earlier this month to recommend the Democratic National Committee strip Iowa of the first-in-the-nation status it has held for a half-century in the party’s presidential nominating process, in favor of more diverse battleground states.
Republicans, on the other hand, already agreed to keep Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses for GOP candidates — and several Republicans already have been to the state to weigh the possibility of presidential runs.
Former President Donald Trump last month launched a third White House run, weeks after receiving a warm welcome in Sioux City, where he held a rally and campaigned on behalf of Grassley, whom Trump endorsed in the Nov. 8 midterm election, and other Iowa Republicans.
Asked if Grassley — who won re-election to an eighth term — would return the favor and endorse a renewed Trump candidacy, a spokesman at the time said the senator encouraged “all candidates to come to Iowa and make their pitch directly to voters.”
Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump in recent weeks over recent comments calling for the “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” in order to reinstate him as president or hold a new election.
Trump has also faced fallout and backlash from a dinner with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who has made a series of antisemitic comments that caused him to lose multiple brand partnerships.
Grassley last week criticized Trump’s comments, stating the idea was unconstitutional.
WILL CONGRESS AVERT A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN?
Grassley on Wednesday was also asked about a framework on a spending bill to avert a partial government shutdown.
Congress faces a deadline of midnight Friday to pass a bill to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year. The House and Senate are expected to pass another short-term measure before then to keep the government running through Dec. 23 and allow budget negotiators time to complete work on an omnibus bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, 2023.
Whether the current Congress will pass a funding bill before the end of the year and avert a showdown between President Joe Biden and next year’s Republican-led U.S. House remains an open question, Grassley said.
“We probably won’t see any paper (on a spending bill) for another two or three days,” he said. “And it’s going to be a massive effort to go through that and to make up my mind.”
He said under the tentative framework for the spending bill, Republicans would get a 10 percent increase without spending more on nondefense priorities above what Biden had requested. Grassley said Democrat were willing settle because they had previously passed bills on a party-line vote that allow for more government spending on various domestic priorities.
“I can’t give you any more details beyond what I just gave you, but I think this is going to get us to a funding bill by Dec. 22,” Grassley said. “And the sooner we make that decision the more efficient government you can have.
“And if something would fall through on that, then we’re going to get a continuing resolution into next year, probably into the middle of February, I would guess.”
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