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Remembering Roger Jepsen

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 16, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, today I pay tribute to our former colleague and my friend, former U.S. Senator Roger Jepsen. Roger Jepsen passed away last Friday, at age 91, at Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Quad Cities, IA.

An Iowa native and an American patriot, Roger devoted his life in service to his family, faith, and community. He spent his youth on his family farm near Cedar Falls, about 5 miles from where I was born and grew up. I still reside within 4 miles of the farmhouse where I was born.

Regardless of the close proximity of us as young people, I didn't become acquainted with Roger until he represented Scott County in the Iowa Legislature. I wish I had known him earlier when we were neighbors, as children.

For 14 years, Roger served our country in the U.S. Army. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, and then he later served in the Army Reserve.

Roger worked for 20 years in the life insurance business and was a member of the National Association of Life Underwriters. Along the way, Roger answered the call to public service and civic leadership. For more than two decades, he climbed the ranks of elected officials in service to his community and the State of Iowa.

He started out as a county supervisor in Scott County, IA, and went on to represent his neighbors in Iowa Senate District 15. An active, grassroots leader in the Republican Party of Iowa, Roger served as a delegate to the national GOP convention of 1972 and 1980.

In 1968, he was elected as Iowa's 39th Lieutenant Governor, where he served with Governor Bob Ray for two terms. Until Iowa adopted reforms under a constitutional amendment in 1972, the office for Governor and Lieutenant Governor were on the ballot every 2 years in my home State.

In 1978, when I won reelection to Iowa's then Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Roger Jepsen flipped Iowa's U.S. Senate seat. He defeated incumbent Senator Dick Clark. At the time, political observers gave Roger scant chance of a victory that year, but on election day, Roger Jepsen pulled off the upset, beating his opponent by more than 26,000 votes.

In that same election, Roger returned both houses of the State legislature to Republican control for what would be Governor Ray's final term in office. In the previous legislative session, Iowa expanded its historic ``right to work'' law. For decades, this instrumental policy has enhanced Iowa's ability to attract businesses, create jobs, and grow wages across the State.

It was under attack in the last election. Iowa voters responded by expanding the Republican majority at the Iowa State House under a Republican administration led by Governor Kim Reynolds.

During his 6 years here in the U.S. Senate, Roger Jepsen solidified his pro-life, pro-family credentials. He was a fiscal conservative. He flexed steadfast support for the military, and he worked to put money back in the taxpayers' pockets.

In 1981, he voted to end ``bracket creep'' by indexing for inflation across-the-board tax rate cuts.

An outspoken advocate for rural America, Roger Jepsen fought to boost the economic recovery across the farm belt. He championed farm exports, expanded lending and tax relief for farmers.

He was chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and served on the Senate Agriculture and Armed Services Committees.

After losing his bid for reelection in 1984, President Reagan nominated Roger Jepsen to serve as Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, where he served from the years 1985 to 1993.

Although he and his wife Dee retired to Florida, Scott County was what he considered his home. Roger and Dee devoted considerable time and effort to end religious persecution and promote religious liberty. Alongside Congressman Jack Kemp, they cofounded the Christian Rescue Effort for the Emancipation of Dissidents, known as CREED, to promote religious freedom as a human freedom around the world.

Each time I return home by way of Cedar Falls, IA, I pass Jepsen Road. In fact, it intersects my street. Over the years, Roger's and my paths crossed many times in service to Iowans. Seeing that street sign reminds me that no dream is too big for an Iowa farm kid.

Roger and Dee celebrated 62 years of marriage in September. Together they raised 6 children.

Barbara and I extend our condolences to his family and loved ones. On behalf of the State of Iowa, we thank Roger for his service here on Earth as he is welcomed home into the hands of the Lord.