Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, apologized for his critical comments of Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, that were posted online Tuesday by a Republican research group.
Speaking at a fundraiser, Braley, who is running for the Hawkeye State’s open Senate seat, said the Senate could end up with “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” before identifying that person as Grassley.
“I apologize to Senator Grassley and anyone I may have offended,” Braley said in a statement released a couple of hours after the video posted. “I respect Senator Grassley and enjoy our working relationship even though we disagree on some issues.”
The Des Moines Register reported that the video was taken by a donor at a Jan. 23 fundraiser in Corpus Christi, Texas, before being released Tuesday by America Rising. Braley also told the assembled donors — presumably lawyers — that he is “someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way.”
A Grassley spokesperson responded in a statement pointing to Grassley’s years of service and accomplishments on the committee. “By the logic expressed on this recording a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care,” the spokesperson said, noting that Grassley has served on the committee since first being elected to the Senate in 1980.
“Alongside that, Sen. Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America,” the spokesperson added.
Braley is currently favored to hold the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, as the race is rated Leans Democrat by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Republicans face a complicated and crowded primary between state Sen. Joni Ernst, businessman Mark Jacobs, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and radio host Sam Clovis, among others, which could be decided in a June convention.
Republicans pounced on the video, relating it to Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark taken by a hidden camera at a fundraiser during the 2012 presidential campaign.
“Once again, trial lawyer Bruce Braley is proving how grossly out of touch he is,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said in a statement. “Not only is Bruce Braley no friend to farmers, but no friend to Iowans.”
Beyond his apology to Grassley, Braley highlighted his agricultural roots, including his parents who “both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression.” He also took the opportunity to highlight the contrast between “Mark Jacobs and my other opponents who support policies that are bad for Iowa farmers, and the work I’ve done hand in hand with Iowa farmers to grow Iowa’s farm economy and create good paying Iowa farm jobs.”
For more on which Republicans might challenge Braley, check out our post on the GOP field .
Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.