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Third in line to the presidency of the United States, as of Thursday, is the senior senator from Iowa.

Chuck Grassley, the Republican who has represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate since 1981, on Thursday was sworn in as Senate president pro tempore for the 116th Congress.

Perhaps the constitutional gig's top perk: Grassley becomes third in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president and speaker of the House.

Grassley earned the honor by becoming the senior-most member of the majority party in the Senate.

It is extremely unlikely Grassley’s spot in the presidential pecking order will ever matter. The presidency has never gone beyond the vice president, unless you count Kiefer Sutherland’s character in "Designated Survivor." Grassley was nonetheless appreciative of the honor, tweeting that he never thought he would become a constitutional officer.

"This is an honor for me and the state of Iowa. Iowans have trusted me to represent them in the Senate for 38 years. This constitutional office is another opportunity to deliver results for the people of Iowa and to defend the institution of the greatest deliberative body on Earth, the United States Senate," Grassley said in a statement. "I may only be three heartbeats away from the Oval Office, but my heart is and always will be in Iowa and here in the U.S. Senate."

Prior to Grassley, former Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah served as president pro tempore.

The only other Iowan to serve in the position was Albert B. Cummins, according to Grassley’s office. Cummins served in the role from 1919 to 1925.

Like Grassley, Cummins also was a Republican and chaired the Senate’s judiciary committee.

Grassley this week also officially became chairman of the Senate’s finance committee, a move that was in the works for weeks.

Grassley said he hopes to address prescription drug prices and other health care costs as the finance committee chairman.

"In addition to costs, there are other barriers to access to affordable, quality health care. Those barriers are felt acutely in rural and other underserved areas," Grassley said in a statement. "The Senate Finance Committee has broad jurisdiction to improve access to affordable health care. I indent to use those authorities.”

Grassley also said he hopes to oversee implementation of new trade deals and review federal trade policy, and lead an effort to make permanent the recent federal tax cuts.

"I’ll always be looking for ways to use the committee's broad jurisdiction for the benefit of Iowans and Americans everywhere," Grassley said.

Team of rivals

Iowa’s new state auditor, Rob Sand, upon being sworn into office this week, highlighted the political diversity of his leadership team.

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Sand announced that Annette Campbell will head the office’s performance and investigations division, and Marlys Gaston the financial audit division.

Campbell and Gaston are longtime employees of the auditor’s office, and both contributed to the two most recent Republican state auditors' campaigns, including that of Mary Mosiman, Sand’s opponent in the 2018 election, state campaign finance records show.

John McCormally, who will serve as Sands' chief of staff, is a Democrat who worked with Sand in the state attorney general's office.

Sand called his leadership team "tri-partisan."

"They are the most qualified people for the positions and, as I've always said, this office is about putting the public ahead of one’s party," Sand said in a statement. "My office and our senior leadership team reflects Iowans I was elected to serve, having one independent, one Republican, and one Democrat. Iowans can be comfortable knowing that we’re all going to work as a single team to look after their tax dollars."

1 out of 3 ain't good

A third of Americans could not name their state’s governor, according to a recent Johns Hopkins University survey.

Just in case, dear Iowa reader: it’s Kim Reynolds.

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net.

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