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Congress

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

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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IA-01: Ravi Patel to benefit from Iowa's first candidate-specific super-PAC?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 28, 2015 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

Pat Rynard broke an interesting story today at Iowa Starting Line: a super-PAC is being created to support Ravi Patel's campaign in Iowa's first Congressional district. Patel is one of three declared Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Representative Rod Blum. He has already raised a shocking amount of money for a first-time candidate--more than half a million dollars by the end of March. That haul included funds from some 80 people who maxed out to Patel's campaign for the general election as well as for the primary. Congressional campaigns can't spend more than $2,700 from any individual donor before the 2016 primary, but a super-PAC could collect and spend as much as anyone wants to donate, anytime.

Rynard quotes Patel adviser Norm Sterzenbach (a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party) as saying, "There is already one Super PAC operating in this race. EMILY's List came out early with their support of Monica Vernon and we fully expect them to run a considerable independent campaign on her behalf." Yes and no.

EMILY's List did endorse Vernon early. Technically, that group is a regular political action committee, not a super-PAC. The Women Vote! super-PAC is associated with EMILY's List, and it spent quite a bit of money during the last election cycle, but mostly not on expenditures for women in competitive Democratic primaries for U.S. House seats. It remains to be seen how much money EMILY's List will put behind Vernon; I would guess not nearly as much as a super-PAC would spend for Patel or against his rivals. EMILY's List gave $10,000 directly to Staci Appel's 2014 campaign in IA-03 and bundled another $233,283 in contributions to Appel, who had no competition in her primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. P.S.- If Rynard's sources are correct, Jeff Link will lead the super-PAC for Patel.  

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A Steve King triumph over DREAMers and how the Iowans voted on Defense Authorization bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 19, 2015 at 13:23:44 PM CDT

Catching up on Iowa Congressional news, on May 15 the U.S. House approved a $612 billion Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2016 by 269 votes to 151 (roll call). Not surprisingly, all four Iowans supported the bill on final passage. Votes on several amendments were the most interesting part of the process, as was the case during House debate of the first two spending bills to clear the lower chamber this year.

Follow me after the jump for details on last week's defense-related votes by Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Notably, King and his allies removed language that would have allowed military service by some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. The House approved some other amendments by voice vote; click here for brief descriptions.

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Iowans must vote to protect net neutrality, and to keep it working for everyone

by: desmoinesiowa15

Mon May 18, 2015 at 09:29:52 AM CDT

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on federal or state policies. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The FCC's landmark decision in February to protect net neutrality was widely heralded as a victory for most Internet users. The Federal Communications Commission even committed to making America's broadband networks fast, fair, and open. However, as more information became available, it became clear that the FCC's decision to reclassify the Internet as a depression-era utility would make it anything but fair.

Title II was developed for old communication devices, like telephone networks in the 1930s. This regulatory classification is more than 80 years old, and was never intended for the fast-moving, innovative world of Internet and app infrastructure. Title II will re-classify the Internet as a utility, and increase state and local fees for Internet access. Infrastructure issues, when left to Congress to update, become a part of a slower-moving, bureaucratic structure. Upgrades to the Internet happen much faster than upgrades to roads and bridges; it does not make sense to regulate them the same way.

Instead of making sure that the Internet remained open for all, the FCC's decision ensured that low-income and underserved Americans will pay higher rates, making the Internet less accessible. Dozens of groups have spoken out about how Title II regulation will be harmful for small businesses, particularly those owned by minority groups. When chambers of commerce and unions agree that something is harmful, it is generally a good sign that it is time to re-think.

Representatives Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King should follow the lead of the diverse coalition that has spoken out against Title II regulation - including the Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Urban League, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and dozens more - to draft bipartisan legislation that protects all Internet users from high fees and keeps the Internet truly open.  

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The disconnect in the Des Moines Register's coverage of Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 15, 2015 at 11:54:36 AM CDT

An important Congressional vote went unreported in the Des Moines Register this week, despite two lead editorials in the paper within the past month urging Congress to act on that very issue.

The disconnect provides a good example of a problem I flagged in this post about the Des Moines Register's political coverage. Ever since the Register closed its Washington bureau, Iowans are less likely to know what our representatives in Congress are doing on our behalf.  

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Steve King, Rod Blum vote against Patriot Act revision for opposite reasons

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 16:03:03 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved the USA Freedom Act, which revises some provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act and extends them until December 2019. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1 without Congressional action. The main changes in the bill concern bulk data collection and domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Groups advocating for civil liberties are seeking more changes to the USA Freedom Act following a recent federal appeals court ruling, which "determined that the NSA's telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001."

Proponents argue that the USA Freedom Act strikes a reasonable compromise between security and privacy. The overwhelming majority of House members agreed, as the bill passed by 338 votes to 88 (roll call). Representative David Young (IA-03) was among the 196 Republicans who voted yes, while Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 142 Democratic supporters.

Forty-one Democrats and 47 Republicans, including Iowa's Steve King (IA-04) and Rod Blum (IA-01), opposed the USA Freedom Act. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King warned that the bill amounted to "data disarmament," with too little weight given to "the investigative value" of information gathered through bulk collection techniques, or how to protect "the vital data we need for national security."

In a Twitter post yesterday, Blum said he voted against the bill "because it continues the violation of the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens." In a Facebook post, Blum added, " Protecting your constitutional right to privacy is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to stand strong for the Fourth Amendment in Congress. I think America can be secure WITHOUT sacrificing our civil liberties." I am seeking a more extensive comment and will update this post if I receive one. Blum has long aligned himself with the Iowa GOP's "Liberty" wing.

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Iowans split on party lines over 20-week abortion ban

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 13:50:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House passed by 242 votes to 184 (roll call) a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. House GOP leaders originally planned to pass this legislation around the anniversary of the Roe v Wade ruling in January, but pulled the bill from the floor "following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape." Sarah Ferris and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill yesterday that the bill "requires a 48-hour waiting period, informed consent forms and mandatory counseling for victims of rape and sexual assault before abortions." The latest version "eliminates a requirement for rape victims to go to the police, though it did not change a controversial provision that allows victims of incest to receive an abortion only if they are under 18 years old."

Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the 20-week abortion ban, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it. Iowa's House members split along the same party lines regarding another anti-abortion bill that passed earlier this year, as well as a resolution that would "overturn the District of Columbia's law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on reproductive health choices."

I haven't seen any comments from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King on yesterday's votes, but I'll update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added a statement from Blum.After the jump I've enclosed comments from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire, an e-mail blast Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign sent regarding the vote, and a statement from the pro-choice PAC EMILY's List, which has endorsed Monica Vernon in the Democratic primary to challenge Blum.

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House seeks to block EPA water rule: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 12, 2015 at 22:59:22 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today by 261 votes to 155 to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the "waters of the United States" rule. The EPA released the final version of that rule last month. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other agribusiness groups have long bashed the proposed regulation as a threat to farmers. Last summer, Kyle Rabin wrote a clear and concise "debunking" of the Farm Bureau's deceptive hyperbole.

Today's votes to pass the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act" came from 24 Democrats and all the Republicans present, including Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Meanwhile, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted with most of the House Democrats against the bill--a pleasant surprise, since he voted for last year's version of the same legislation.

I've been accused of being hostile to Loebsack, in part because Bleeding Heartland has called attention to a few bad votes for Republican bills seeking to rein in the EPA. Some of those bills were merely silly, while others posed a real threat to public health if enacted. I appreciate that since last November's election, Loebsack has voted against several House GOP efforts to target the EPA. More like that, please.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I haven't seen any official statement from the Iowans in Congress about today's vote, but I'll update this post as needed.

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Grassley, Ernst back Trade Promotion Authority as Senate vote fails

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 12, 2015 at 20:03:40 PM CDT

Today Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a motion to proceed to debating a "fast-track" bill that would allow President Barack Obama "to negotiate new trade deals without amendments from Congress." Obama wants the authority so that he can negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which most Congressional Democrats oppose. The motion to proceed to debating the Trade Promotion Authority bill gained just 52 votes in favor (roll call), well short of the 60 needed for cloture. All of the Senate Republicans support the fast-track bill, including Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

I enclose below statements from Grassley and Ernst on the trade issue and today's failed vote. Grassley called on Obama to "put the bully pulpit of the presidency" behind expanding trade. Perhaps he is not aware that within the last week, the president has used White House meetings, phone calls from Vice President Joe Biden, a high-profile speech, and at least one media interview to bring his fellow Democrats on board with his trade agenda. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Elizabeth Warren have been leading the opposition to fast-track trade authority. After today's vote, Obama met with ten Senate Democrats generally considered to be for expanded trade. Most of them would need to join Republicans to get to the 60 votes needed to proceed to debate or end debate on Senate bills.

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Grassley, Ernst vote for bill on Congressional review of Iran deal

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 08, 2015 at 16:00:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. Senate approved by 98 votes to 1 a bill that would let Congress vote to disapprove any agreement the U.S. may reach with Iran regarding that country's nuclear program. Iowa's The lone vote against the bill came from Senator Tom Cotton, who spearheaded a letter 47 GOP senators sent to Iranian leaders earlier this year. He argued that any deal with Iran should be a formal treaty subject to Senate ratification.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted for the bill, although Grassley was one of only six senators (all Republicans) to vote against ending debate before the vote on final passage. I have not seen any statement from Grassley explaining why he voted against cloture but for the final bill anyway. I'll update this post as needed.

After the jump I've enclosed a statement from Ernst as well as more details on the bill's provisions and on failed attempts by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to offer amendments on the Senate floor.  

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