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Steve King backing Daniel Webster, not Kevin McCarthy, for House speaker (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 08, 2015 at 09:40:00 AM CDT

Representative Steve King (IA-04) announced on Twitter yesterday that he will support Representative Daniel Webster of Florida for House speaker, because Webster "will run a Membership driven" U.S. House. King nominated Webster for speaker in January. Both he and Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) voted for Webster that day, rather than to re-elect House Speaker John Boehner.

Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos reported yesterday for The Hill that the House Freedom Caucus endorsed Webster, "a bold move that raises serious doubts about whether Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy can cobble together the 218 votes on the House floor he needs to be promoted." To my knowledge, King does not belong to the House Freedom Caucus, but Blum does. I haven't seen any news release or social media posting from Blum this week about the speaker's race; I am seeking comment from his office on whether he will support Webster again. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah is also running for the speaker's position.

McCarthy has been the heavy favorite to replace John Boehner, but he drew criticism even from fellow Republicans after saying on Fox News that everyone thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable until House Republicans put together a special committee to investigate Benghazi. Clinton has been hammering McCarthy at her recent public appearances, including in Iowa yesterday, and featured his remarks in her campaign's first national television commercial.

I will update this post as needed. Just for fun: last night, Stephen Colbert ran a devastating Late Show segment on McCarthy's tendency to deliver word salad-like statements rather than coherent remarks on matters of national importance.

UPDATE: McCarthy dropped out of the speaker's race on the morning of October 8. SECOND UPDATE: Michael Calderone reported for the Huffington Post on allegations that McCarthy dropped out after a conservative activist threatened to expose an extramarital affair. Both McCarthy and the other House Republican at the center of the rumors deny that they had an affair.

Blum's office did not respond to my request for comment on whether he will support Webster for speaker again. Blum has not alluded to the speaker's race on his Twitter account. He posted a link on Facebook to a report on McCarthy withdrawing from the race, but did not comment on that news or say whom he favors to replace John Boehner.

Representative David Young (IA-03) has not mentioned the speaker's race on any of his social media feeds, to my knowledge.

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Grassley finally on board with criminal justice reform: How good is the bill?

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 22:00:00 PM CDT

Yesterday Senator Chuck Grassley stood with colleagues from both parties to unveil the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. President Barack Obama advocated for criminal justice reform in this year's State of the Union address, but six months ago, prospects for any progress toward that goal seemed dim. All paths to passing such a bill led through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Grassley chairs. As Senator Richard Durbin noted yesterday, Grassley had been "very skeptical" about criminal justice reform and "said so repeatedly." For example, Grassley delivered a harsh Senate floor speech in March, accusing the "leniency industrial complex" of misleading people about "nonviolent" or "low level" drug offenders. Who would have guessed the same man would stand up now to hail this "landmark piece of legislation" as the "biggest criminal justice reform in a generation" and the product of "a very thoughtful bipartisan deliberation by the Congress"?

I enclose below a summary of the Sentencing Reform and Correction Act's key points, along with a press release with links to the full bill text and a section-by-section analysis. I also included several perspectives on the bill's value. Reform advocates have generally embraced the step; the non-profit Sentencing Project called it "momentous legislation," ending the "disastrous era of 'tough on crime' politics." On the other hand, Shane Bauer argued in Mother Jones that the bill "doesn't live up to its own hype."

Scroll to the end of this post to read the full text of Grassley's March 10 floor speech, which underscores how hard his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee had to work to bring the chairman around.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I've never found much to admire about tea party hero Senator Mike Lee of Utah, but all credit to him for making criminal justice reform a priority. At yesterday's press conference, he recalled a story that ignited his passion to work for change. When Lee was an assistant U.S. attorney, a case came to his office involving a father of two in his mid-20s. The man had "made some mistakes," selling marijuana three times over a 72-hour period while carrying a gun. He was slapped with a 55-year mandatory minimum sentence. "I don't mean to condone what he did," Lee said, "but I've never met anyone who thought a 55-year sentence was appropriate in that case. He's going to be in jail until he's 80."

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IA-02: State Senator Mark Chelgren makes campaign against Dave Loebsack official

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:46:36 PM CDT

After dropping some unsubtle hints in recent days, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren confirmed today that he will run for Congress in Iowa's second district, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. He will launch the campaign in Iowa City this afternoon on October 6 before appearing at the Scott County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf. Scott County has the largest population and Johnson County (containing Iowa City) the second-largest among the 24 counties in IA-02.

Speaking to the Register, Chelgren said he doesn't dislike five-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, but "This is a question of who is better suited to change Washington, D.C. [...] you are not going to do it by following party lines and doing what you are told." In reality, Loebsack has not blindly followed the lead of his fellow House Democrats. The Progressive Punch database of Congressional voting indicates that Loebsack is only the 157th most progressive current member of the House. He has also voted with Republicans rather than with most of his own caucus on more than 30 percent of the "crucial votes" tallied by Progressive Punch since 2007.

A business owner in Ottumwa, Chelgren told the Register he is running to represent the people of southeast Iowa and hopes to bring to Washington his experience creating jobs at the local level. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in July, Chelgren outlined other key themes of his potential Congressional campaign: changing our trade policy, upgrading our infrastructure, fixing a "massively broken" education system, and bringing more long-range planning to the federal government.

Chelgren's ten-vote victory in a 2010 Iowa Senate race neither party had its eye on still evokes unprintable words from many Democrats. Despite being the most vulnerable GOP Iowa Senate incumbent going into the 2014 election cycle, Chelgren managed to win re-election by 374 votes after calling attention to some unforced errors by the Democratic candidate. So no one should count him out.

That said, IA-02 would be a long-shot prospect for any Republican candidate in 2016. The district leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,325 active registered Democrats, 136,237 Republicans, and 183,235 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential election year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

UPDATE: Added below Chelgren's press release announcing his candidacy.

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IA-03: Democratic establishment consolidating around Jim Mowrer

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:49:39 AM CDT

The candidate filing deadline may be nearly six months away, but it seems increasingly likely that the fight for the Democratic nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district will be a two-way contest between Desmund Adams and Jim Mowrer. Today Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), the only Democrat left in Iowa's Congressional delegation, made his "full support" for Mowrer official. I enclose the statement from Mowrer's campaign after the jump. It includes a list of well-known endorsers, such as former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, State Senators Dick Dearden and Bob Dvorsky, State Representatives Charlie McConkey, Todd Prichard, and Abby Finkenauer, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, three IDP State Central Committee members, and Democratic Party chairs in five IA-03 counties.  

Endorsements at this stage are not aimed at persuading Democratic primary voters. Rather, they serve mainly to deter other candidates from getting into the race. They also signal to donors inside and outside Iowa that Mowrer is the "serious" candidate. He already was likely to raise substantially more money than Adams, by virtue of his strong fundraising effort as the 2014 Democratic candidate against Representative Steve King in IA-04.

On a related note, last month the Cook Political Report changed its rating on IA-03 from "toss up" to lean Republican. One reason: "Each day Mowrer consolidates support, the less likely it is that Democrats' very top choice, U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt, gets in. Former Gov. Chet Culver was rumored to be interested but now looks unlikely to run." I'm intrigued that a handful of unnamed sources (including one "operative") managed to convince beltway experts that Klinefeldt would be the "gold standard" candidate in IA-03. Not meaning to knock Klinefeldt, but I've had scores of conversations with local Democrats about this race. It's hardly a consensus view that the U.S. attorney would be the strongest possible candidate to face first-term Republican David Young.

Speaking of Young, earlier this month James Hohmann and Elise Viebeck reported for the Washington Post that he had signed a contract with the National Republican Congressional Committee as a condition for getting help from the NRCC's incumbent protection program. You can view the fundraising, communication, and political requirements laid out in that contract here.

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,572 active registered Democrats, 163,096 Republicans, and 163,748 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office. More than half of the district's voters and roughly two-thirds of the Democrats live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

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Iowa reaction to John Boehner stepping down as House speaker (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 26, 2015 at 17:44:02 PM CDT

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner surprised most politics-watchers yesterday by announcing that he will step down as speaker and retire from Congress at the end of October. As Jennifer Steinhauer noted in the New York Times, Boehner's move "lessened the chance of a government shutdown because Republican leaders joined by Democrats will almost certainly go forward with a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating [after September 30], and the speaker will no longer be deterred by those who threatened his job." Boehner was a frequent target of right-wing talk radio hosts and occasionally at war with the most conservative House Republicans, who now insist on ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Remarkably, a nationwide NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday indicated that 72 percent of Republican primary voters are dissatisfied with the work of Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 44 percent are "very" dissatisfied, and 36 percent want Boehner and McConnell replaced immediately.

I sought comment from all four Iowans in the House on Boehner stepping down and asked the three Republicans whether they would be inclined to support House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker. McCarthy has been the front-runner for the job ever since Boehner's heir apparent, Eric Cantor, lost his GOP primary last year. Other credible candidates for House speaker include Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Jeb Hensarling; Josh Israel profiled them and McCarthy for Think Progress.

I enclose below statements provided by Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and well as reaction from Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). None of the Republicans directly answered the question about supporting McCarthy. Neither King nor Blum mentioned that they were among the 25 House Republicans who did not vote to re-elect Boehner as speaker in January.

I also included former Representative Tom Latham's reaction to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's comments about Boehner stepping down. Rubio drew cheers from the audience at the Values Voters Summit in Washington when he told them the news, adding, "The time has come to turn the page. The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country." Latham and Boehner were smoking buddies and close friends during Latham's 20-year career in the House.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from King's guest column, "What We Need in Our Next Speaker of the House," published in the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal on September 28. This sentence is ironic: "And legislation should pass or fail on the floor of Congress on its merits instead of being blocked in backroom deals because of personal politics." Surely King knows that the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill would have passed the House easily (mostly with Democratic votes), had it ever been brought to the floor. King and his allies successfully pressured Boehner not to put that bill to a vote of the full House.

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Grassley, Ernst blind to realities about abortions after 20 weeks

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 24, 2015 at 07:08:58 AM CDT

A bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed to overcome a U.S. Senate filibuster on September 22. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the 54 senators (51 Republicans and three Democrats) who supported cloture on the motion to proceed to debating the bill. But under Senate rules, 60 votes are needed for cloture. Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine joined 40 members of the Democratic caucus in opposing the motion. Collins cited problems with the legislation's wording on exceptions for rape and incest and the "glaring deficiency" of providing "no exceptions for when the physical health of the mother is at risk of serious harm."

In a Senate floor statement, Grassley claimed the bill was "aimed at protecting women and children." He repeatedly cited the testimony of one gynecologist who used to perform abortions but became an anti-abortion activist after a family tragedy. While speaking in favor of the bill, Ernst recounted one Newton, Iowa family's story of having a son who survived an early premature birth, asserting, "As Micah proves, babies at five months can survive outside of the womb."

Grassley and Ernst appear ignorant about the circumstances that typically lead to abortions later in pregnancy.

Only about 1 percent of pregnancy terminations happen after 20 weeks gestation. Most abortion providers (including Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's Iowa clinics and the Emma Goldman clinic in Iowa City) do not terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks. Many women seeking abortions after that point have discovered fetal abnormalities incompatible with life outside the womb, as described here and here, or they have a serious health condition making it dangerous to continue the pregnancy. The happy experience of Micah's family does not "prove" that other women could have the same outcome if they continued a life-threatening pregnancy or carried to full term a fetus missing vital organs.

Other reasons for women to seek abortions after 20 weeks include domestic violence and logistical delays in accessing abortion earlier in pregnancy. The federal government and states should address those problems in other ways that do not limit women's right to make their own medical decisions.

After the jump I've enclosed the full texts of Senate speeches by Grassley and Ernst about the so-called "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." I also included comments from Ernst after the Senate vote as well as the Guttmacher Institute's case against the legislation.

P.S.- Ernst quoted Micah's mother, Danielle Pickering: "I bet that if Micah could have gone up to everyone who opposes the bill and give them a big hug, he could change all of their minds." I would suggest that Ms. Pickering open her mind by talking to women like Christy Zink or Danielle Deaver.  

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IA-Sen: Rob Hogg making Senate bid official

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 21, 2015 at 13:42:00 PM CDT

After two months of exploring a candidacy, Democratic State Senator Rob Hogg will make his bid for U.S. Senate official tomorrow, launching a three-day tour of twelve Iowa communities. His full announcement and tour schedule is after the jump. Hogg will kick off the campaign in Callender (Webster County), "a community 15 miles southwest of Fort Dodge."

"I will be making my announcement in Callender as a symbol of my support for small towns and rural Iowa," Hogg said.  "I am also announcing in Callender because my grandmother was born in Callender in 1902 and family is important to me."

Former State Senator Tom Fiegen and former State Representative Bob Krause are also seeking the Senate nomination and have appeared at numerous local Democratic events this year. Krause and Fiegen competed in the 2010 IA-Sen primary, finishing well behind Roxanne Conlin in that contest. This year, Fiegen is branding himself as a "Bernie Sanders Democrat," posting far more frequently on social media about the Sanders presidential effort than about his own Senate bid. Whether Democratic activists who are "feeling the Bern" will translate into a large base of support for Fiegen after the Iowa caucuses remains to be seen.

Although both Krause and Fiegen promote progressive values and policies, I plan to support Hogg in the Democratic primary. He has been fighting good fights in the Iowa legislature since 2003, sometimes battling bad legislation that had strong backing in his own caucus.

Whoever he may be, the eventual nominee will have an uphill battle against six-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley. Not only will the Senate Judiciary Committee chair likely be able to outspend his opponent, he has never lost an election and still has strong favorability numbers, according to most opinion polls. Speaking to Roll Call's Tom Curry last week, Iowa's senior senator speculated that Hogg would be the most difficult challenger for him to face: "I know him a little bit, not very much, but he will be a strong competitor."

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Iowans split three ways on bill to freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 18, 2015 at 21:59:27 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today to "block Planned Parenthood's federal funding for one year, giving time for Congress to fully investigate claims of wrongdoing by the provider," Sarah Ferris reported for The Hill. State investigations over the past two months have produced no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in relation to fetal tissue donations, despite sensational claims made by conservatives who cite misleadingly-edited undercover videos released this summer. The "Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015" passed on a mostly party-line vote of 241 to 187 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), who has a pro-choice voting record, opposed the Planned Parenthood bill, as did all but two House Democrats. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) were among the 239 Republicans who supported the bill. Just three Republicans voted against it.

Steve King (IA-04) was the only House member to vote "present." After the jump I've enclosed a statement King released earlier this week, explaining why, in his view, the bill "does not defund Planned Parenthood" and even "takes a huge step backwards from the initial conservative position that Planned Parenthood should not be receiving federal funds." The Hill quoted King as saying today, "I expect much stronger language than this in the CR coming up in the next few weeks. Innocent, unborn babies deserve more than just a show vote."

Shortly after the vote on Planned Parenthood funding, House members approved the so-called "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," by 248 votes to 177 (roll call). Blum, Young, and King all voted for that bill, while Loebsack opposed it. Emily Crockett reported for RH Reality Check that this bill

would add criminal penalties to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002. It seems to be inspired by [the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress] CMP's allegations that Planned Parenthood may have violated the law either by performing "partial-birth" abortions or by allowing infants to die after being born alive following an abortion. These allegations have not been substantiated.

On September 17, Iowa's representatives split along party lines on a bill Republicans and business lobby groups said would reduce "frivolous" lawsuits by imposing monetary sanctions on plaintiffs' attorneys deemed to have filed baseless claims. Blum, Young, and King all backed that legislation, which would amend Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; Loebsack voted against it. The White House has threatened to veto that bill.

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Iowans split as House votes on Iran nuclear deal (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 11, 2015 at 15:05:57 PM CDT

Today the four Iowans in the U.S. House split along party lines on several measures related to the multi-lateral agreement negotiated this summer to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

A resolution to approve the deal failed by 162 votes to 269 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 162 members (all Democrats) supporting the Iran agreement. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted no, as did all but one House Republican and 25 Democrats. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that "despite the defections, enough Democrats voted to support the deal to deprive the GOP of a veto-proof majority." Keeping the no votes below a two-thirds majority was mostly a symbolic victory; President Barack Obama appears unlikely to need to exercise his veto power, now that Democrats have blocked a disapproval resolution in the U.S. Senate.

A few minutes after the first Iran-related vote today, House members approved by 247 votes to 186 a resolution "To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran." Only two House Democrats joined Republicans to support that measure. Again, the Iowans split along party lines.

Yesterday, on a straight party-line vote of 245 to 186, House members approved a resolution "Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015." Marcos explained that the measure asserts "Obama didn't provide Congress with all documents pertaining to the Iran deal in violation of the congressional review law passed earlier this year." In May, Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King all supported the bill that cleared the way for this week's Congressional votes on Iran. Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa political reaction to the deal's announcement in July here.

UPDATE: Added comments on the Iran deal from the Iowa Congressional delegation and the Republican Party of Iowa, which promised to make this vote a campaign issue against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

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Grassley, Ernst explain why they voted to disapprove of Iran nuclear deal

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Sep 10, 2015 at 16:30:00 PM CDT

This afternoon Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a motion to disapprove the deal the U.S. and five other countries reached with Iran in July. All 54 Republicans and four Democrats voted for the disapproval measure, which needed 60 votes to proceed under Senate rules. GOP leaders plan to return to the issue next week, but they are unlikely to change the minds of the 42 Democrats who upheld today's filibuster. The U.S. House is expected to pass a disapproval motion, but without Senate action, President Barack Obama will not be forced to veto the measure.

Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted for the bill that allowed Congress to weigh in on the Iran deal. Both were skeptical when the Obama administration announced the agreement. Yesterday and today, both delivered Senate floor speeches explaining why they oppose the deal. You can watch Grassley's speech here and Ernst's here. I enclose below full transcripts released by each senator's office.

Incidentally, Ernst's campaign committee is list-building off the issue. At the end of this post, I enclose an e-mail blast that went out minutes before the Senate voted.

UPDATE: Added below a statement Ernst's office released after the vote.

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Jim Mowrer joins Democratic primary in IA-03

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 17, 2015 at 12:32:26 PM CDT

Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer, the 2014 Democratic challenger to Representative Steve King in Iowa's fourth district, announced this morning that he is running for Congress in Iowa's third district. Earlier this year, Mowrer moved his family from Boone to Des Moines. I've enclosed his campaign's statement after the jump, which lists 19 endorsers. Five are state legislators (two representing districts in IA-03), and five lead Democratic Party committees in IA-03 counties.

Speaking to Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register, Mowrer said he started thinking about running for Congress again a few months ago, when "a good friend" (Beau Biden) died: "That was another reminder of how fleeting life can be and we need to take action to change our world while we have the opportunity to do so." Mowrer has known the Biden family for a long time; he chaired the Iowa veterans committee backing Joe Biden for president before the 2008 caucuses.

Earlier this year, Mowrer ran for Iowa Democratic Party state chair and was elected first vice chair. He confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he resigned from that position this morning.

At this writing, Mowrer's campaign website Jim for Iowa consists of a landing page, a volunteer sign-up form, a contribution button, and a link to the candidate's biography. I assume issue positions and other information will be added soon. Mowrer is on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Mowrer raised an impressive amount of money for his 2014 campaign against King, more than $2.1 million. So he starts this effort with an unusually large e-mail list of supporters and contributors. He may not match his 2014 fundraising levels, since IA-03 GOP incumbent David Young is neither as well-known as King, nor hated by Democrats across the country. But Mowrer will surely raise enough money to run a competitive district-wide race.

Mowrer will have at least one rival in the Democratic primary: Desmund Adams. State Senator Matt McCoy took himself out of the running last week. Simone Pathe reported for Roll Call on August 14 that some Democrats are recruiting U.S. Attorney Nick Klinefeldt to run in IA-03, and that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee included both Klinefelt and Mowrer in a recent poll. According to Pathe, that poll did not test former Governor Chet Culver, who said earlier this year that he was thinking about running for Congress. I don't know any local Democrats who expect Culver to get in to this race at this point.

The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office indicate that the sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,997 active registered Democrats, 163,107 Republicans, and 163,172 no-party voters.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 16, 2015 at 15:37:38 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors' latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives "were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn't obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul." An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client "threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign." But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as "a knee-jerk, emotional reaction." Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

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Background on Kim Weaver, Democratic challenger to Steve King in IA-04

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 15, 2015 at 14:59:32 PM CDT

While the four presidential hopefuls attracted the most attention at last night's "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake, some big Iowa political news preceded their pitches. Kim Weaver delivered her first major speech as a Congressional candidate in the fourth district. Given the smooth delivery, I would never have guessed she hasn't run for office before.

After telling the audience a little about her background, Weaver talked about some of her key issues: protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; supporting the middle class; raising the minimum wage; fighting to change a "predatory" student loan system; supporting women's access to health care; immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship; clean water and environmental protections. The packed house frequently applauded, especially loudly when Weaver said, "These are some of the things I stand for. What I stand against is Steve King." Iowa Democrats love to hate King. Weaver argued the seven-term incumbent "doesn't represent Iowa values," citing his offensive comments about immigrants and votes against Katrina aid and even a Farm Bill (because he thought it contained too much hunger assistance).

Weaver's campaign is online at WeaverforCongress.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her website contains brief statements on most of the issues her stump speech covered. After the jump I've posted her announcement video and excerpts from her official bio.

Taking on King is a daunting task for any Democrat. The 39 counties in IA-04 contain 119,020 active registered Democrats, 176,515 Republicans, and 174,355 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

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IA-03: State Senator Matt McCoy not running

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 12, 2015 at 12:29:15 PM CDT

Democratic State Senator Matt McCoy announced today that he will not be a candidate in Iowa's third Congressional district in 2016. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, McCoy said "now is not my time to run," citing his desire to be present for his son's last two years of high school.

McCoy was planning to run in IA-03 in 2002, before then Democratic Representative Leonard Boswell moved to Des Moines. Redistricting following the 2000 census had put Boswell's Decatur County farm in the heavily Republican fifth district.

Desmund Adams is the only declared Democratic challenger to first-term Representative David Young. The 2014 nominee Staci Appel ruled out running earlier this summer. Former Governor Chet Culver and Jim Mowrer, who ran against Representative Steve King in 2014, are rumored to be considering the IA-03 race.

Young is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's target list and not yet widely known among his constituents, but Washington Democrats were cool to the idea of McCoy running.

According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 150,997 active registered Democrats, 163,107 Republicans, and 163,172 no-party voters.

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Filibuster blocks Joni Ernst's bill to defund Planned Parenthood (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 03, 2015 at 19:58:03 PM CDT

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst's bill seeking to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood failed to reach the 60-vote threshold today to pass a cloture motion for proceeding to debate. Background and details on today's vote are after the jump, along with the full text of the legislation and some Iowa political reaction to the Planned Parenthood funding controversy.

UPDATE: Added more comments from Senator Chuck Grassley. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman is spearheading an inquiry into Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation practices. Whereas Ernst would end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood immediately, Grassley appears open to continuing to fund the organization, depending on the findings from that investigation.  

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One pro-choice Democratic woman's question for EMILY's List

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 31, 2015 at 13:18:12 PM CDT

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the first Congressional candidate endorsed this cycle by the influential political action committee EMILY's List. The PAC's mission is straightforward: "We elect pro-choice Democratic women to office." EMILY's List did not get involved in the 2014 primary to represent Iowa's first district, in which three of the five candidates were pro-choice women. But the PAC's leaders have signaled they will fight to help Vernon win the IA-01 nomination in 2016.

As in the last election cycle, Vernon's main competition for the right to face Republican Rod Blum will be former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy. Even before Murphy officially entered the race last week, EMILY's List took the first shot at the 2014 Democratic nominee. Cristinia Crippes reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on July 20,

"Pat Murphy cannot be trusted to stand up for women and families across Iowa -- just look at his long record of trying to restrict women's access to health care and put politics in the middle of decisions that should be left between women and their doctors," Emily's List press secretary Rachel Thomas said in a statement.

On July 29, EMILY's List fleshed out that case with a graphic I've enclosed below, highlighting Murphy's "pro-life" votes and statements between 1996 and 2007.

This lifelong Democrat and third-generation supporter of reproductive rights in Iowa has one question for the EMILY's List strategists: Do you really want to go there?

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State Senator Mark Chelgren "seriously" considering IA-02 campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 31, 2015 at 08:39:52 AM CDT

State Senator Mark Chelgren is looking "seriously" at running against five-term Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa's second Congressional district, he told Bleeding Heartland yesterday. He said he has no timeline for making a decision. If he runs for Congress, his key issues would include:

• The economy. Chelgren said our country's manufacturing base "has been deteriorating over the past 50 years." He added that he doesn't support how the U.S. has negotiated trade agreements. Asked whether he would support giving the White House trade promotion authority, which Congress passed last month, Chelgren replied, "Hell no." While the economy and the world have "changed dramatically," American policy-makers "have done almost nothing to upgrade our infrastructure." Chelgren clarified that he was not talking primarily about 20th-century infrastructure like roads and railroads but about 21st-century needs such as high-speed internet access "to every community." Meanwhile, the federal government is keeping interest rates "artificially low" and "diluting the strength of the economy" by printing money.

• Education. Chelgren believes "our education system is massively broken." It "was designed to create assembly-line workers" or people working in office cubicles, rather than to prepare students for the modern economy.

• Long-range planning. "We have politicians at the state and federal level that think in two-year increments," whereas we need "better vision" looking five to ten years ahead, according to Chelgren.

By this point in the 2012 election cycle, three Republicans had announced plans to run against Loebsack. Not only has no GOP candidate launched a campaign in IA-02 yet, I haven't heard rumors about any prospective candidates other than Chelgren. Loebsack's last general-election opponent, Marionette Miller-Meeks, is unlikely to run again after losing to Loebsack three times, twice in Republican wave years (2010 and 2014). Former State Representative Mark Lofgren, who lost last year's GOP primary to Miller-Meeks, is running for Iowa Senate district 46 in 2016. Chelgren doesn't need to choose between serving in the state legislative and running for Congress, because he was just re-elected to a second four-year term and won't be on the ballot in Iowa Senate district 41 again until 2018.

IA-02 leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,562 active registered Democrats, 136,215 Republicans, and 182,047 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

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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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