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Congress

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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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Banking, taxes, and cybersecurity

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 21:51:24 PM CDT

It's been a while since Bleeding Heartland checked in on how Iowa's four U.S. House members have been voting. After no House roll calls for more than two weeks, the second half of April has been unusually busy.

Follow me after the jump to see how Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted on more than a dozen bills that reached the House floor this month, covering a range of economic, fiscal, and security issues.

Incidentally, I'm always intrigued by how rarely members of Congress comment on bills they vote for or against on the House floor. For instance, I didn't see any press release from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King about any of the legislation discussed below. Instead, members of Congress often play up bills they've introduced which have zero chance of becoming law. This month Blum has repeatedly publicized work on lost causes such as co-founding a caucus backing term limits for members of Congress, and introducing a lifetime ban on lobbying by members of Congress. Like Steve King's attempted end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality, Blum's posturing has more to do with image-making than legislating.  

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Weekend open thread: Latest Steve King publicity stunt edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 09:48:19 AM CDT

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

Iowa's own Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) grabbed national attention this week by introducing a bill to "prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases," thereby stopping the U.S. Supreme Court from "destroying traditional marriage." After the jump I've posted King's official statement about the "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act" as well as the full text.

President Barack Obama would surely veto this bill, even if it quickly passed the U.S. House (unlikely) and Senate (less likely). So King's effort looks like a publicity stunt to bolster his image as one of the leading culture warriors on the right.

Out of curiosity, I asked Drake Law School Professor Mark Kende, an expert on constitutional law, whether it would theoretically be possible for Congress to limit the Supreme Court's authority to consider any case on marriage. According to Kende, the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to "make exceptions to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction." Most Congressional efforts along these lines have failed to become law. However, a 19th-century precedent exists; in that case, Congress blocked the Supreme Court from ruling on an appeal in which justices had already heard oral arguments.

Whether King's proposal would be constitutional is a more complicated question, Kende said. The Reconstruction-era law blocked a specific kind of appeal based on habeas corpus but did not bar the Supreme Court from ruling on all cases in that area of the law. The Constitution allows some leeway for "jurisdiction stripping" as a Congressional check on the judiciary, but that doesn't necessarily mean citizens could be prevented from taking any case about their fundamental marriage rights to the Supreme Court.

In an alternate universe where Congress passed and the president signed King's bill, the twelve federal appellate court rulings would be binding in their regions. Most federal court rulings on same-sex marriage bans have supported the principle of marriage equality. Only a divided 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld states' ability to limit marriage rights to opposite-sex couples.

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Senate confirms Loretta Lynch as attorney general; Grassley and Ernst vote no

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 18:55:20 PM CDT

The U.S. Senate finally confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general today, more than five months after President Barack Obama nominated her and nearly two months after the Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded her nomination. The confirmation vote was held up in part because of a dispute over abortion-related language in a separate human trafficking bill. Senate Democrats filibustered that bill several times in March. Compromise wording that allowed both sides to claim victory led to a unanimous vote to approve the trafficking bill yesterday.

Lynch has had more than 50 senators backing her confirmation for some time, but whether her nomination could get to a final vote on the floor was another question. This morning, twenty Republicans joined the entire Democratic caucus to approve cloture on Lynch's nomination by 66 votes to 34 (roll call). As expected, Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted against the motion; they've been on record for weeks opposing the attorney general nominee. According to a report by Alexander Bolton of The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "worked quietly to round up more than 60 votes" for cloture in order to avoid "publicly validating" a rules change Democrats implemented in 2013, which allowed most presidential nominees to reach a floor vote with support from a simple majority of senators.

The Senate confirmed Lynch later today by 56 votes to 43 (roll call). The ten Republicans who supported her included four who are considered among the most vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2016. Grassley and Ernst voted no again. I enclose below Grassley's floor statement explaining his opposition and Ernst's official comment after the vote.

The three GOP presidential candidates now serving in the Senate--Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz--all voted against cloture on Lynch's nomination. Paul and Rubio then voted against her confirmation, while Cruz was absent for that vote.

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Grassley, Ernst vote for Medicare reimbursement deal

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 19:30:00 PM CDT

Changes to entitlement programs rarely attract strong bipartisan support, but on Tuesday the U.S. Senate approved a bill to change how Medicare sets reimbursement rates for doctors by 92 votes to 8 (roll call). All of the no votes came from Republicans, but Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the bill. Follow me after the jump for background and details.
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Rod Blum and Steve King voted against Medicare reimbursement deal

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 30, 2015 at 09:44:53 AM CDT

A rare event happened on Thursday, as the U.S. House approved by a large bipartisan majority a bill changing a major entitlement program. Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among those who opposed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
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IA-01: EMILY's List backing Monica Vernon

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 09:40:30 AM CDT

A leading political action committee for pro-choice Democratic women has endorsed Monica Vernon in Iowa's first Congressional district. EMILY's List announced their support today in a statement I've posted after the jump. The PAC didn't endorse any of the three women who sought the IA-01 nomination in 2014, but donated $10,000 and bundled another $233,283 to Staci Appel's campaign in IA-03.

Vernon finished second in the 2014 primary and is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination this cycle. However, she may not be the only pro-choice woman in this race. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third in last year's primary, is considering another Congressional bid.

Please share any comments about the IA-01 campaign in this thread.

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Iowa voting and reaction to the House Republican budget

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 13:32:15 PM CDT

The U.S. House approved a draft budget yesterday with some drama along the way. Details on the important budget provisions and how the Iowans voted are after the jump.
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House still going after EPA's science advisors: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 19:20:00 PM CDT

Today the U.S. House passed a new version of a bill to change who can serve on the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisory board. As happened last year, the Iowans split along party lines.
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Steve King discusses "retribution" from House leaders over immigration stance

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 07:26:03 AM CDT

According to Representative Steve King (R, IA-04), he and other House conservatives are facing "retribution" from House Speaker John Boehner after they insisted that any Homeland Security funding bill must include language against President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.
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IA-03: Matt McCoy confirms he's thinking about it

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 20:30:00 PM CST

State Senator Matt McCoy has confirmed that he may seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district next year. At least two other Democrats are thinking about challenging first-term Representative David Young as well.
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Iowa Republicans vote against Amtrak funding

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 07:00:02 AM CST

The U.S. House approved $8 billion in funding for Amtrak passenger rail on Wednesday. Keith Lang and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

Since its inception in 1971, Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects.

The measure would authorize about $982 million per year for the company's national network and another $470 million annually for its popular Northeast U.S. routes.

The bill, which would expire in 2019, sets another $300 million per year for construction on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company's inspector general.

All 184 Democrats present voted yes, including Iowa's Dave Loebsack (IA-02). But as the 316 to 101 roll call shows, more than 100 House conservatives voted against the Amtrak bill, including Iowa's Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

Young should know better. Currently, the only Amtrak routes across Iowa travel through the southern part of the state, calling at stations in the third and second Congressional districts. (King used to represent some of those southwest Iowa counties, but he hasn't since the last redistricting.) Anyway, Young has lived on the east coast long enough to understand how important passenger rail is for the U.S. transportation system.  

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Keystone XL bill dead for now but will be back

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 15:58:52 PM CST

As expected, the U.S. Senate failed yesterday to override President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would clear the way for building the Keystone XL pipeline. Supporters of the bill managed 62 votes, five short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted yes, along with all of their Republican colleagues and eight Democrats (roll call). Republicans will now try to attach the Keystone language to some bill the president won't want to veto. Laura Barron-Lopez reported for The Hill,

"If we don't win the battle today, we will win the war, because we will attach it to another piece of legislation," Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who wrote the bill, said Wednesday.

Hoeven said Republicans are likely to try to attach the legislation to a long-term transportation funding bill. Congress faces a May 31 deadline to approve new transportation funding.

"This is coming back in the form an infrastructure bill, a road bill that we are all voting for," said Manchin.

Keystone supporters are optimistic that Obama won't veto a six-year highway bill if it includes Keystone, despite vows by the president to veto any attempt to circumvent the federal review process of the pipeline.

If attaching Keystone to a transpiration bill doesn't work, supporters say, they will try to link it to a broader energy package.

That sounds like a good strategy. I suspect Keystone XL is a price Obama would be willing to pay for a long-term transportation funding bill. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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