Iowa Republicans in Congress split on deal to keep government open

The deal to keep the federal government open until March 23 revealed unusual fissures among Republicans who represent Iowa in Congress.

Under the compromise, which President Donald Trump signed early Friday morning, the defense budget will rise by about 10 percent to $700 billion, with non-military domestic spending rising to $591 billion for the current fiscal year, Sarah Ferris reported for Politico. “Those record increases, however, will only go into effect after Congress has drafted and passed” an omnibus bill “with detailed spending levels for each government program,” Ferris noted. The deal also raises the debt ceiling by enough to cover what federal tax cuts and spending increases will add to the national debt for the next thirteen months.

The U.S. House and Senate were supposed to approve this deal on February 8, but deficit chickenhawk Senator Rand Paul delayed action until after midnight with a bit of showmanship on the Senate floor. As Democratic Senator Brian Schatz pointed out on Twitter, “Rand Paul voted for a tax bill that blew a $1.5 trillion hole in the budget. Now he is shutting the government down for three hours because of the debt. The chance to demonstrate fiscal discipline was on the tax vote. Delaying a vote isn’t a profile in courage, it’s a cleanup.”

GOP leaders needed Democratic votes in both chambers. Senators passed the bill by 71 votes to 28 (roll call) at about 1:30 am on February 9. Senator Joni Ernst was one of 34 Republican yes votes; Senator Chuck Grassley was among sixteen who voted no. Iowa’s senators have voted opposite ways on major legislation only a handful of times in the past three years.

House members approved the bill by 240 votes to 186 (roll call) four hours later. Representative David Young (IA-03) was among the 167 Republicans voting yes, and Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 73 Democrats who joined them. The 67 Republicans who opposed the deal included Representative Steve King (IA-04). House Freedom Caucus member Rod Blum (IA-01) was one of five representatives who did not vote.

It’s not clear whether Grassley and King objected to raising the debt ceiling, the massive increase to the defense budget, or the increase to non-military domestic spending. Neither Grassley nor Ernst released a statement on the vote, a departure from their usual practice when the Senate has passed major legislation. None of Iowa’s four House members sent out a press release either, and none of the Iowans in Congress have commented about this vote on their social media feeds. (I will update this post as needed.)

Final note: as anyone could have predicted following the Democratic capitulation last month, Republicans did not include any protection for the 800,000 Americans who could face deportation when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program expires on March 5. Democrats gave up their best leverage when they failed to insist on justice for DREAMers as a condition for keeping the government open in December.

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