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Congress

House bill targets "sanctuary cities": How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 28, 2015 at 09:42:14 AM CDT

Late last week the U.S. House voted to "withhold certain federal law enforcement grants to cities that have policies designed to shelter illegal immigrants from deportation," Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. The "Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act" passed on a mostly party-line vote of 241 to 179 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted for the bill, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it.

King is a leading voice for House conservatives on immigration policy, some of whom wanted the sanctuary cities bill to go further. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy helped bring the Iowa Republican on board last week by promising "to bring enforcement immigration legislation to the floor after August," Seung Min Kim reported for Politico, citing an e-mail King sent to fellow House members. What a change from two years ago, when King was battling to stop House leaders from bringing up the Senate-approved comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley has introduced legislation in the upper chamber to target "sanctuary cities" and presided over a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss his bill on July 21, Mike Lillis reported. "There is no good rationale for noncooperation between the feds and state and local law enforcement," according to Grassley. A White House statement indicated that President Barack Obama would veto such legislation and urged Congress to give the president's 2014 executive orders on immigration "a chance to work," because they prioritize deporting "the worst offenders"--in contrast to the "coercive approach" of the House bill on sanctuary cities.

The term "sanctuary city" has no precise legal definition. No Iowa municipality has embraced the label, although Iowa City officials have considered the issue in recent years. Some maps of sanctuary cities do not show any existing in Iowa, while others list many Iowa locations where county officials will not honor a detainer from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement without a judge's approval. Incidentally, that policy doesn't just apply to a few liberal enclaves; county jails in rural, conservative areas like Ida, Monona, Greene, and Franklin counties have adopted the same approach.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in June, King offered an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill that "prohibits Justice Department grants from being used for policies employed by sanctuary cities to shelter illegal immigrants." King's amendment passed with support from fellow Iowa Republicans Blum and Young; Loebsack and every other Democrat present voted against it.

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All Iowans in House vote to block any mandatory labeling of GMOs in food

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 27, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Late last week the U.S. House approved a bill to make it harder for consumers to find out whether food products contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Although national polls have repeatedly shown that more than 90 percent of Americans believe foods with GMOs should be labeled, all four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for the misleadingly named "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015." Opponents nicknamed the bill the "Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act" or the "Monsanto Protection Act."

Follow me after the jump for details on the bill's provisions, how the Iowans voted on amendments House Democrats offered during the floor debate, and a list of Iowa organizations and business that urged members of Congress either to support or reject this bill.  

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IA-01: "Middle Class Fighter" Pat Murphy is in

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 23, 2015 at 12:59:45 PM CDT

Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy made his second Congressional campaign official this morning. In the shortest YouTube candidate announcement video I've ever seen (just fourteen seconds long), Murphy declared, "The truck's up and running...and so am I." A press release announced, "Middle Class Fighter to Take on [GOP incumbent Rod] Blum," and a e-mail to supporters fleshed out Murphy's case. Excerpt:

Teri and I discussed this race long and hard and the bottom line is that middle class Iowans deserve to have a voice in Congress, somebody who knows the struggles they face, and will fight for them.  I've done that my whole life, because that's who I am.  And there's no other candidate running - from either party - who has been on the right side of these fights from day one.

From raising the minimum wage and teacher pay, passing equal pay for women, to protecting women's health care and all Iowan's civil rights.  That's my record.  Fighting for progressive Iowa values is in my blood, with your help, it's exactly what I'll do in Congress.

Murphy's campaign is on the web at Pat Murphy for Congress, on Facebook here, and Twitter here. (His old campaign website is no longer functional.)

I enclose below the candidate's full e-mail to supporters, as well as excerpts from the press release. It points to Murphy's lead in a recent internal poll of Democrats in IA-01 and recalls his outright victory in the 2014 primary, despite being outspent by some of his four opponents. The press release also notes that in the general election, Murphy outperformed both U.S. Senate nominee Bruce Braley and the gubernatorial ticket of Jack Hatch and Monica Vernon. Vernon has been considered the front-runner for the 2016 primary in IA-01, on the strength of early fundraising and endorsements from Iowa-based and Washington Democrats. Gary Kroeger is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

Former U.S. Representative Dave Nagle is backing Murphy for Congress again, as is the Blue America PAC, which supports progressive candidates in Democratic primaries as well as against Republicans in general elections. Murphy dominated the labor union endorsements before the 2014 primary. I'll be interested to see whether Vernon picks up more labor support this cycle. So far, she has the backing of Teamsters Local 238, the "largest Teamster Local headquartered in the state of Iowa," and the  Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council, which supported her during the 2014 primary. UPDATE: Added below a Vernon campaign press release "welcoming" Murphy to the race and listing her key endorsers. They include several Iowa House Democrats who served in the legislature while Murphy was speaker from 2007 through 2010. SECOND UPDATE: Added Kroeger's statement below.

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Desmund Adams first Democrat running in IA-03: Five themes of his campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 17:51:32 PM CDT

This morning, business owner Desmund Adams became the first Democratic candidate in Iowa's third Congressional district. His campaign is on the web here as well as on Facebook and Twitter. State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad attended the event and confirmed to me that he will support Adams for Congress. Former State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch was there too and told me he is "encouraging" Adams to run.

I enclose below more background on Adams and five themes from his remarks today, along with details on first-term Representative David Young's record in those areas.

Leaders in both parties expect IA-03 to be competitive in 2016. Young is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's target list and in the National Republican Congressional Committee's incumbent protection program. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that 150,925 active registered Democrats, 162,921 Republicans, and 162,161 no-party voters live in IA-03. The district covers sixteen counties in central and southwest Iowa. About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters reside in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

I hope to see a competitive Democratic primary, which would help raise the eventual nominee's profile and likely sharpen his or her skills on the stump. Other potential candidates include State Senator Matt McCoy, former Governor Chet Culver, and Jim Mowrer, the 2014 Democratic nominee against Steve King in IA-04. Since Young's 2014 opponent Staci Appel ruled out a repeat Congressional bid, I have not heard of any Democratic women actively considering this race, but if one emerges, the EMILY's List political action committee may get involved on her behalf.  

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IA-01: Poll commissioned by Pat Murphy shows him leading Monica Vernon

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 15, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

While many establishment Democrats favor Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon to take on Representative Rod Blum, the 2014 Democratic nominee Pat Murphy has revealed one reason he is said to be leaning toward running for Congress again. Erin Murphy reported yesterday,

Murphy outpolled Vernon, 43 percent to 34 percent, in a survey of 350 likely Democratic primary voters conducted last week in Iowa's 1st Congressional District and released Tuesday by Murphy. Gary Kroeger was chosen by 12 percent of respondents.

The poll was conducted by Myers Research, a Washington, D.C.-based polling firm that Murphy also solicited during his 2014 campaign.

I wouldn't read too much into partial results from an internal poll taken nearly a year before the Democratic primary, but as a general rule, I think competitive primaries help eventual nominees more than they hurt. If Murphy believes he can make a strong case for a second chance against Blum, let the Democratic voters in the first district decide, rather than leaving the choice to elected officials in Iowa or Washington.

Any comments related to the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added below a Murphy for Iowa press release about this poll. The July 15 statement says Murphy will "make a final decision about a 2016 campaign next week." The attached polling memo says Murphy's advantage over Vernon grows to 51 percent to 40 percent in a two-candidate race, and that Murphy leads among women as well as men in the sample.

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Iowa political reaction to the U.S. deal with Iran

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 20:07:02 PM CDT

President Barack Obama announced this morning a deal aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Negotiators representing the U.S., Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, China and Germany were involved in the talks. You can read the full text of the deal on the Washington Post's website. The United Nations will drop its sanctions on Iran, provided that country complies with the agreement, including granting international inspectors access to all nuclear sites.

Most of Iowa's Congressional delegation has already reacted to the news. I've enclosed their comments below and will update this post as needed. This spring, all four Iowans in the U.S. House and both of our U.S. senators voted for a bill Obama signed into law, which allows Congress to vote to approve or disapprove any deal with Iran. Speaking to reporters today, the president said, "I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement," adding "that he would veto any legislation that tried to prevent its implementation." Opponents of the deal would need to override that veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress; so far, just under half the U.S. senate appears inclined to block the deal.  

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IA-01: The Democratic establishment wants Pat Murphy to stay out

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 11, 2015 at 18:54:53 PM CDT

Sources in northeast Iowa continue to report that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy plans to announce a new campaign in the first Congressional district soon, despite signals that prominent Democrats in Iowa and Washington want Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon to be the 2016 nominee against first-term Republican Rod Blum.
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Steve King encouraging states to disregard marriage equality ruling

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 10, 2015 at 14:02:58 PM CDT

Having tried unsuccessfully to prevent federal courts from hearing cases about marriage rights, Representative Steve King (IA-04) introduced a resolution today that would express the U.S. House's disagreement with last month's U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges.

King's effort surely qualifies as the "strong message" he promised to send to the Supreme Court immediately after the Obergefell decision. But it is strikingly different from his response to the Iowa Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling in 2009.

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Confederate flag controversy returns to U.S. House: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 09, 2015 at 22:28:39 PM CDT

The continuing controversy over displaying Confederate flags has divided the Republican caucus in the U.S. House, forcing leaders to cancel a vote planned for today on a bill to fund the Interior Department for the 2016 fiscal year.

For the second time in less than a month, Iowa's four U.S. representatives split along party lines over how to handle Democratic efforts to remove all Confederate flag images from the Capitol.

Follow me after the jump for background and details.

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Pat Murphy would enter this IA-01 primary as the underdog (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 30, 2015 at 14:15:05 PM CDT

Both Iowa Starting Line and Roll Call are reporting today that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is likely to run for Congress again in the first district. Murphy won the five-way 2014 primary with just under 37 percent of the vote.

Other Iowa Democrats have lost their first U.S. House race before winning a seat in Congress on the second try, including legends Neal Smith, Tom Harkin, and Berkley Bedell. Still, I am skeptical that northeast Iowa Democrats will want to give Murphy another shot at beating Republican Rod Blum.

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Congress passes "fast-track" trade promotion authority: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 25, 2015 at 07:14:58 AM CDT

Less than two weeks after an embarrassing defeat for President Barack Obama's trade agenda, a trade promotion authority bill is headed to the president's desk. The trade promotion authority legislation, often called "fast-track" or TPA,

will allow the White House to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The Senate will not be able to filibuster them, and lawmakers will not have the power to amend them.

The expedited process, which lasts until 2018 and can be extended until 2021, greatly increases Obama's chances of concluding negotiations on the TPP [12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership], which is a top goal of the president's.

Follow me after the jump for details on how the Iowans in Congress voted on the latest trade-related bills. Bleeding Heartland covered the Iowans' legislative maneuvering in late May and early June here. For background and context, I highly recommend David Dayen's article for The American Prospect magazine, which covers the modern history of trade negotiations and how fast-track emerged some 40 years ago. Dayen also explores "the political transfer of power, away from Congress and into a potent but relatively obscure executive branch office: the United States Trade Representative (USTR)."

I also enclose below some Iowa reaction to the latest Congressional voting on trade. Representative Steve King (IA-04) highlighted one angle I hadn't heard before, claiming victory because new language allegedly will prevent the president from negotiating provisions on climate change or immigration in trade agreements. UPDATE: Those provisions may not stay in the related bill King is counting on. More on that below.

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Ravi Patel exits IA-01 Democratic primary

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 24, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Ravi Patel announced yesterday that he is no longer running for Congress in Iowa's first district. I enclose below the full statement from the Patel for Iowa website, which says "it has become clear" that a "tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination" would "have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation." Patel added that he will be able to have more influence on "public life in Northeast Iowa [...] through the private sector." He will offer full refunds to campaign contributors, who donated more than half a million dollars during the first quarter of this year alone.

I have no idea what prompted Patel's decision. The stated reason makes no sense, as "it has been clear" for months that Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the front-runner in this primary, and that she would also raise significant campaign funds. Factor in Patel's youth and the fact that he has mostly lived in IA-02, and there was never any reason for him to think winning the primary wouldn't be a "tough battle." Backers were allegedly getting ready to launch a super-PAC to support his candidacy, a move without precedent in this state.

Before we assume Patel still has a future in Iowa politics, let's wait to learn more about why he quit this race. Pat Rynard cited a Dubuque Telegraph-Herald article from a few days ago, which showed that Patel "didn't have much of an answer on some basic issues Congress would face, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and dealing with ISIS." I find it hard to imagine any highly-motivated candidate would drop out because of some bad press nearly a year before the primary. Rynard speculated that Patel made a "mature" decision to end a candidacy with a low probability of success. If so, good for him, but count me among the cynics waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Patel's exit leaves Vernon and Gary Kroeger as the only declared Democratic candidates in IA-01. Vernon will be heavily favored. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third behind Pat Murphy and Vernon in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, is considering a repeat bid here. Winning the Democratic nomination would be an uphill battle for Dandekar for various reasons.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. IA-01 Representative Rod Blum is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Congressional incumbents.

UPDATE: Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) endorsed Vernon on June 24: "She has proven that she is committed to improving the lives of Iowa's working families. I look forward to having her in Congress along side of me, fighting for the people of Iowa." Loebsack lived and worked in Linn County (now the most populous in IA-01) for most of his adult life and represented the county in Congress from 2007 through 2012, when it was part of the second district.

Added below statements from Vernon and Kroeger on Patel dropping out.

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How the Iowans voted on the latest House repeal of an "Obamacare" tax

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 22, 2015 at 19:14:06 PM CDT

Late last week, the U.S. House voted yet again to repeal a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, which was part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Effective lobbying by medical device manufacturers has repeatedly put this legislation on the GOP Congressional agenda, even though those manufacturers profited from other provisions in the health care reform law.

Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 46 House Democrats who joined all the Republicans present to pass the "Protect Medical Innovation Act" by 280 votes to 140 (roll call). Loebsack voted for a similar bill in 2012 but not for repealing the same tax in September 2013, when Republicans were trying to defund Obamacare as a condition for approving further federal government spending. In recent years, Loebsack has voted against most of the several dozen House bills to repeal all or part of health care reform, with a few notable exceptions.

Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) supported the latest medical device tax repeal bill. Fellow Republican Steve King (IA-04) missed the June 18 vote, but we know where he stands. He has supported any and all efforts to scrap Obamacare, including rescinding this very tax in 2012 and 2013.

Next time the Iowans in the U.S. House claim to care about the deficit, remember that this bill would reduce federal revenues by nearly $25 billion over ten years without any spending cuts to offset the lost revenue.

The White House has warned that President Barack Obama would veto this bill, since it grants "a large tax break to profitable corporations" that are gaining new customers, thanks to health care reform. Bleeding Heartland user Jon Muller explained the economics here and exposed the "pure rent-seeking behavior" of an industry that "wants the fruits of ACA, but does not wish to put anything back on the table to make it happen."

Another must-read on this issue is Matt Gardner's post for the Tax Justice blog from earlier this year: "Big Medical Device Makers Decry Device Tax While Dodging Billions by Offshoring Profits." I've enclosed excerpts below but encourage you to click through to read Gardner's whole piece.

UPDATE: Added below David Young's press release about this vote.

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Joni Ernst breaks a promise to military victims of sexual assault

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 21, 2015 at 19:00:00 PM CDT

"Alarming rates" of rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military, most of which go unpunished, are an ongoing scandal. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has been the leading voice in the Senate for reforms to address the "vastly underreported" problem. Last year, Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin both supported a bill Gillibrand introduced, which would have taken sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command.

While former Representative Bruce Braley served in the U.S. House, he repeatedly introduced legislation aimed at reducing rates of sexual assault in the military and removing "decisions over investigating and prosecuting sexual assault allegations [...] from the normal chain of command." Braley's guest at the 2014 State of the Union address was Service Women's Action Network executive director Anu Bhagwati, whose group "has been at the center of the national effort to reform the military's handling of military sexual assault."

As the Republican nominee facing Braley in last year's U.S. Senate campaign, Joni Ernst talked a good game on this issue. After disclosing that she had faced sexual harassment while serving in the Iowa National Guard, Ernst promised to support reforms that would remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command, even if she got "push-back" from Pentagon leaders or GOP Senate colleagues. She also said ensuring "sexual crimes in the military are both independently investigated and prosecuted [...] should not be a partisan issue, and as a woman in uniform, I know that we must act now."

Last week, Ernst had a chance to walk the walk. Instead, she helped kill Gillibrand's amendment to the 2016 defense authorization bill, going back on her campaign pledge and casting a rare vote in opposition to her fellow Iowa Republican Grassley.

Follow me after the jump for more background and details on Ernst's broken promise.

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House approves Intelligence Authorization Act: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 17, 2015 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved by by 247 votes to 178 (roll call) a bill to fund sixteen intelligence agencies for the next fiscal year. Most of the Republican caucus supported the bill, including Iowa's Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Although 31 Democrats also voted yes, most of the House Democrats, including Dave Loebsack (IA-02), opposed the bill, as did 25 Republicans. None of the Iowans issued a statement explaining their votes, but I will update this post if I see any relevant comments.

Because the Intelligence Authorization Act is mostly classified, it's not clear how much money House members appropriated to run the various intelligence agencies. The Obama administration requested $53.9 billion for the National Intelligence Program for fiscal year 2016, while the Pentagon requested $17.9 billion for the Military Intelligence Program. According to The Hill's Julian Hattem, House Democrats who opposed the bill "objected to provisions limiting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, budget maneuvers they called 'gimmicks' and other provisions." Congressional Republicans had promised to abide by the "sequester" spending limits for next year's budget, but the intelligence funding bill gets around those limits by using money from the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations fund. The same maneuver added spending to the 2016 Defense Authorization bill House members approved last month.

Before the vote on final passage of the intelligence funding bill, House members considered an amendment to remove language that would "ban the government from transferring detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. or a recognized 'combat zone.'" Loebsack and most of the House Democrats voted for that amendment, but Iowa's three Republicans helped to vote it down (roll call). The White House contends that restricting transfers from Guantanamo would "violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles" and "could interfere with the President's authority to protect sensitive national security information."

Some House members in both parties warned last week that a "one-sentence provision tucked into an annual intelligence policy bill [...] could hobble the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board," but leaders did not allow floor votes on several amendments that sought to reverse the restrictions on the privacy board.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Bonus points if you can provide a good reason the federal government runs so many separate intelligence and security agencies.

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House rebuffs Obama on trade bill; how the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 12, 2015 at 16:15:02 PM CDT

A rare visit to Capitol Hill by President Barack Obama wasn't enough to bring House Democrats on board with a crucial companion bill for "fast-track" trade authority today. The House rejected the trade adjustment assistance bill by a surprisingly wide margin of 126 to 302 (roll call). A few minutes later, House members narrowly approved the other part of the trade legislation by 219 votes to 211 (roll call). However, the fast-track package can't reach Obama's desk without both parts clearing the lower chamber. David Dayen explained the significance of the votes well at Salon. I've enclosed excerpts from his analysis below, but you should click through to read the whole piece. Dayen lays out several possible next steps for Congressional leaders who support giving Obama fast-track authority, with a view to approving a new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Splitting the trade bill into two House votes was a gambit to let the trade adjustment assistance language pass with primarily Democratic support, while the fast-track language passed with primarily Republican support. As Dayen describes, the concept has worked for decades but didn't pan out today. Only 40 Democrats fell in line with Obama, while 144 voted against the trade adjustment assistance provisions, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Representative Steve King (IA-04) also voted against the trade adjustment assistance language, even as Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) were among the 86 Republicans to vote yes. All three Iowa Republicans were in the yes column on the subsequent vote for the fast-track language. Loebsack again voted no, as did all but 28 House Democrats. After the jump I've enclosed Blum's statement; I will update as needed with comments from the other Iowans in Congress.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the fast-track trade bill the U.S. Senate approved last month by 62 votes to 37 (roll call). They have consistently supported trade promotion authority for the president. In that Senate vote, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham voted for fast-track, while Rand Paul voted no, along with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

In case you missed it, I highly recommend State Representative Chuck Isenhart's warning that the "Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could threaten our ability to enforce state laws." Conservatives as well as progressives have reason to fear that outcome.

UPDATE: Added below more Iowa political reaction to these votes. House leaders will bring the trade adjustment assistance legislation up for another vote next week.

SECOND UPDATE: Added a statement from Monica Vernon, one of Blum's three Democratic challengers in IA-01. She opposes fast-track legislation.

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Iowans split on party lines as House repeals country-of-origin labeling for meat

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 11, 2015 at 10:00:33 AM CDT

The U.S. House voted yesterday to "repeal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken products." The U.S. Department of Agriculture has required meat products to list the country of origin since 2009 and most recently revised the rule in 2013.

Multiple polls have found that some 90 percent of American adults support country-of-origin labeling for meat. U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld the rule. However, last October the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of a challenge brought by Canada and Mexico, saying the U.S. labeling rule unfairly discriminates against imported meat products. Last month the WTO rejected the U.S. appeal of that decision, though advocates of the rule say reduced consumer demand for imported meat stemmed from the "Great Recession" beginning in 2008, rather than from labeling requirements. A broad coalition of farm, labor, environmental, and consumer groups have long opposed any change to country-of-origin labeling. This week, 282 organizations urged the U.S. House not to repeal the rule, while more than 100 business and industry groups advocated repeal to avoid retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Yesterday House members easily passed the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 by 300 votes to 131 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 234 GOP representatives to support the bill. The Democratic caucus was more divided, with 66 House members in favor of repealing the labeling rule and 121 opposed. Iowa's Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters this week, "I'm still a supporter of COOL (country-of-origin labeling) but I also recognize the rule of law and international trade has to be respected and I want to respect it." Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill, "The White House has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy regarding the [country-of-origin labeling] legislation."

UPDATE: King spoke on the House floor in favor of this bill; you can view his remarks here. Among other things, he said the current labeling rule penalizes Iowa farmers raising pigs that were born in Canadian farrowing operations.

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Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst opposed Patriot Act revisions (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 02, 2015 at 09:39:56 AM CDT

Two provisions of the Patriot Act and one other legal provision granting surveillance powers expired on Sunday night, as the U.S. Senate failed to pass either a short-term Patriot Act extension or the House-approved USA Freedom Act, which would revise parts of that law. Jamie Dupree wrote a good overview of the key points of contention, including the National Security Agency's bulk data collection practices. Julian Hattem previews the next likely steps in the Senate and House (assuming the Senate approves an amended version of the USA Freedom Act this week). Carl Hulse analyzed the "lose-lose-lose result" for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who prefers not to curtail NSA surveillance powers but arguably "overplayed his hand."

How Congress will resolve this dispute remains unclear, but we have learned one thing from the last ten days: Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst oppose the current bipartisan compromise on how to revise the Patriot Act. For Ernst, the expiring Patriot Act provisions "are critical to the safety and security of our country"--a view similar to Representative Steve King's reasons for voting against "data disarmament" when the House considered the USA Freedom Act.

In Grassley's more nuanced view, Congress should enact "meaningful reform by ending the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records under Section 215" of the Patriot Act, while allowing the government to gather such information in a targeted way. Grassley also objects to how the USA Freedom Act would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  

Details on the relevant Senate votes are after the jump, along with statements from Grassley and Ernst. I've also noted which Republican senators who are running for president supported either the USA Freedom Act or a short-term Patriot Act extension.

UPDATE: Grassley and Ernst split on June 2 as the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act. Details on their votes are below, along with their explanations. While Iowa's two Republican senators have voted differently on a handful of amendments or motions related to consideration of other bills, today's votes represent their first major policy disagreement since Ernst was sworn in.

Scroll to the end of this post for details on how the GOP presidential candidates voted today.

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IA-01: Rod Blum a top target for EMILY's List

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 15:24:02 PM CDT

First-term Representative Rod Blum will be one of the top targets next year for EMILY's List, the political action committee supporting pro-choice Democratic women announced today.  
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Are state laws in the cross-hairs of trade deals?

by: openureyes

Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 10:51:56 AM CDT

(Important points raised by the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee and a member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

By STATE REP. CHUCK ISENHART, Dubuque

For two years, along with other state legislators, I have waved yellow flags about the Pacific and European trade deals being negotiated by the Obama Administration.

As Congress moves to give the president authority to "fast-track" trade treaties with other nations -- meaning Congress would give up its ability to change the agreements -- those flags are turning red.

Why do state legislators care? Proposed language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could threaten our ability to enforce state laws. This undermines the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States." Congress may give the President the ability to effectively negotiate this amendment away.

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