Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is applauding Wednesday’s overwhelming, bipartisan Senate approval of a bill which he says aims to update and improve the nation’s workforce development system. The legislation is called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and it passed on a vote of 95-to-3.
If it becomes law, Harkin says it will modernize and improve existing federal workforce programs. “It’s one of those large and unheralded laws that have profound impacts in Iowa and across America,” Harkin says. “It will insure that all workers, including those with disabilities, have access to 21st century job training and employment opportunities.”
Harkin, who authored the wide-reaching Americans With Disabilities Act nearly a quarter-century ago, says his priority in this new bill is the “groundbreaking reforms” to raise prospects and expectations for people with disabilities. “Currently, too many people with disabilities are shunted to segregated, sub-minimum wage settings without ever getting the skills and opportunities to succeed in competitive, integrated employment,” Harkin says. “This new law will put a stop to this by emphasizing that competitive, integrated employment is the first and best choice for people with disabilities.” The measure has not yet been taken up in the House.
On another topic, Harkin says the latest development in the investigation of the IRS is very worrisome, after it was revealed an agency official was considering an audit of Iowa’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Chuck Grassley.
Harkin, a Democrat, says the new evidence indicates the IRS may have been very close to overstepping its bounds during the time when conservative groups were allegedly being targeted for scrutiny. “Yes, the investigation needs to go forward,” Harkin says. “The IRS needs to explain this further and if the IRS was targeting any individual member of Congress, based on what looked like a political reason, that is a cause for concern, deep concern.”
Congressional investigators have released an email showing Lois Lerner, the IRS official at the heart of the investigation, questioned whether Grassley should be audited after she evidently got an email by mistake that was intended for Grassley. The 2012 email was from a group that was inviting Grassley to an event and offered to pay for Grassley’s wife to attend. Grassley says neither he nor his wife went to the event and he calls this latest incident with the IRS “very troubling.”