Rod Blum comes out against Republican health care plan Updated: So does David Young

A little more than two weeks after House Republicans released their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) announced on Twitter that he will not support the American Health Care Act. According to Blum, the bill “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans. I’m a ‘no’ on current version – need to drive down actual costs!” Speaking to The Hill the same day, he added, “We need real competition driving prices down. We don’t need the government telling us what should be in an insurance policy. The government has a role to play. We need to help people who need the help.” Blum had previously said directly and through staff that he was studying the bill.

Like all other House Republicans, Blum has voted multiple times for “Obamacare” repeal bills that would have done nothing “to lower premiums for hardworking Americans,” let alone “drive down actual costs.” However, the stakes are higher now that a GOP-controlled Senate and Republican president might enact new health care legislation. I don’t know what kind of plan Blum is envisioning, but there is no magic wand Congress can wave to “help people who need the help” without the government setting minimum standards for health coverage and regulating the market in other ways.

Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus. Although that group has not taken an official stand against the AHCA, some of its prominent members are on various “whip counts” of Republicans opposing the bill. Since no Democrats are backing a plan that would leave millions uninsured and drive up costs for millions more, House leaders can’t spare more than 21 GOP members in any floor vote on their health care bill. Some Congress-watchers have already counted more defectors than that.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among the first House Republicans to come out against the AHCA. He supports “rip it out by the roots” repeal of “Obamacare” instead. I doubt the amendments unveiled this week to satisfy House conservatives will change his mind. UPDATE: A staffer told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble on March 22 that King is “undecided–leaning no” on the bill. SECOND UPDATE: White House spokesperson Sean Spicer announced that King will support the bill. Seeking confirmation. A member of the House whip team told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that King “went from no to yes in the WH [White House] today after assurances about Senate tweaks.” UPDATE: King released a video statement explaining his decision to support the AHCA. He’s still committed to repealing Obamacare. He hopes Republicans will strip “essential health benefits” out of the bill, paving the way for other measures he wants, like health savings accounts and selling insurance across state lines. He said he told President Donald Trump in a White House meeting today that he worked very hard for total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but that legislation won’t be brought up this year, because leaders don’t think they can get the votes. He said he had a “firm commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a manger’s amendment to strip out “mandates” and “essential health benefits” from the House bill. King views this bill as the “best chance” for the “closest thing” to total repeal of Obamacare in the current political environment. He later tweeted that he and Trump had negotiated “the best possible improvement on ObamaCare Repeal.”

Representative David Young (IA-03) has repeatedly said he is studying the bill and the Congressional Budget Office analysis of its impact. Young’s staff have told constituents this week that he is still undecided. I consider him likely to vote yes if the bill comes to the floor–which may never happen, if leaders conclude they don’t have the votes. For what it’s worth, The Hill’s whip count put Young in the “leaning/likely no” camp because he said on March 15, “I want to make sure it is something that works in the end for all Americans, and that it would pass if it gets over to the Senate.” Several GOP senators have said the AHCA will not pass the upper chamber. UPDATE: Young announced in a March 22 statement, “While the American Health Care Act, legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, is a very good start, it does not yet get it right and therefore I cannot support it in its’ [sic] present form.” I’ve added his whole press release below.

Neither of Iowa’s U.S. senators have clarified how they would vote on the Republican bill. Senator Chuck Grassley has made conflicting statements, telling House members the bill must be changed so that insurance premiums don’t skyrocket for older people not yet eligible for Medicare. On the other hand, Grassley has said Republicans can’t afford to miss what could be their only opportunity to keep six years of promises. Senator Joni Ernst said at town-hall meetings in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines on March 17 that she is studying the AHCA’s potential impact on Iowans and insurance premiums. I hate to break it to her: no alternative plan will magically make cheap insurance widely available while maintaining guaranteed coverage for people for pre-existing conditions and letting children stay on their parents insurance through age 26.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the Iowa Hospital Association estimates between 200,000 and 250,000 Iowans would lose their insurance coverage under the Republican plan. More on that story below.

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Kim Weaver, Dirk Deam considering Congressional bids in IA-04

At least two Democrats are actively exploring a campaign against eight-term Republican Representative Steve King in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

Long-term care ombudsman Kim Weaver, who was King’s challenger in 2016, confirmed her interest in a repeat bid today. Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal,

Weaver said Tuesday she is passionate about making sure people in the 4th District have strong rural education and protections that the federal Medicare and Social Security programs won’t be cut.

Weaver also told Hayworth she has name recognition and “a good framework within the district” for a campaign. In recent months, she has depicted her low-budget 2016 campaign as an efficient use of grassroots energy:

While Kim’s bid to take the seat wasn’t successful, she received a higher percentage of the vote in all 39 of her counties than both Hillary Clinton and [U.S. Senate nominee] Patty Judge. Because she was working full time while campaigning, she was unable to raise millions of dollars like other candidates. Despite this, she ran a campaign where her final dollar per vote was only $1.22. This is compared to $14.00 per vote in the 1st District and just under $10.00 per vote in the 3rd District. This shows just how well a true grassroots campaign can work.

Weaver raised only $159,626 during the 2016 election cycle but received roughly the same percentage of the vote as Jim Mowrer did in 2014, when he raised and spent more than $2 million running against King.

Click here for more background on Weaver’s life and career. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter. UPDATE: Added below a statement from Weaver on forming an exploratory committee.

Iowa State University political science Professor Dirk Deam is also exploring a Congressional campaign in IA-04. He recently discussed his plans in a Facebook post and with Iowa State Daily reporter Danielle Gehr. Scroll down for excerpts from those pieces and more background information from Deam’s Facebook page.

Election analysts, including most recently Roll Call, rate IA-04 as a “solid Republican” district. Its 39 counties contain 122,811 active registered Democrats, 194,477 Republicans, and 177,035 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Voters in IA-04 favored Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election by a 60.9 percent to 33.5 percent margin. King received about 61.2 percent of the vote against Weaver.

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Mike Sherzan is first Democrat running in IA-03; field likely to expand soon

Mike Sherzan made it official yesterday: he is running for Congress again in Iowa’s third district. I enclose below his announcement and background on the candidate, who finished second to Jim Mowrer in the 2016 Democratic primary. Sherzan has attended numerous recent political events in central Iowa, including last night’s fundraiser for the House Truman Fund in Des Moines.

In a short new video, Sherzan said, “Like most Iowans, I’m fed up with what’s going on with Washington politics. Iowans deserve a progressive leader, not a Washington career politician. That’s why I’ve decided to run for Congress.” During last year’s campaign, he highlighted his business practices as a reflection of his values: treating workers fairly, sharing profits with employees, paying women the same as men, and promoting employees of either gender based on performance.

Speaking to Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register, Sherzan criticized “the lack of leadership we have in the 3rd District” and charged, “We have individuals who have been elected to office who hid their intentions, in my opinion, and they’re using what people voted for to put into policy and then legislative action their own agendas, they’re far-right agendas.”

GOP Representative David Young has drawn criticism this week for voting against a House resolution seeking to force President Donald Trump to release his tax returns. During a public forum in Urbandale on February 23, Young had said, “Donald Trump should release his taxes. It’s a no-brainer.”

At least one candidate will likely compete against Sherzan for the Democratic nomination in IA-03. Anna Ryon, an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate, has scheduled a “Meet Anna/Special Announcement” event in Des Moines on March 8, which is International Women’s Day. Ryon confirmed last month that she is considering a Congressional campaign and already has a website up. UPDATE: Added below a March 2 news release from Ryon about her upcoming event.

Pat Rynard reported for Iowa Starting Line on February 28,

Some recent rumors point to longtime Iowa political consultant Pete D’Alessandro strongly considering a bid as well. D’Alessandro served most recently as Bernie Sanders’ campaign coordinator for Iowa in the caucus. He’s been involved in nearly every major Iowa Democratic race in one way or the other for the past two decades, serving in key roles on Tom Vilsack, Chet Culver and Leonard Boswell’s campaigns, as well as Bill Bradley’s Iowa Caucus operation in 2000.

When I sought comment, D’Alessandro didn’t rule out a campaign in IA-03: “Bernie Sanders has inspired so many people over the last two years–both veterans of the political process and those new to the process. Like many of them, I’m looking as to how I can help move the progressive movement forward. Running for office is certainly one of those options.”

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 167,249 active registered Democrats, 177,408 Republicans, and 167,222 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Young won re-election in 2016 by 53.4 percent to 39.7 percent, outperforming the top of the GOP ticket by about five points. Although Trump carried IA-03 by 48.5 percent to 45.0 percent, the swing to the Republican presidential nominee here was significantly smaller than in Iowa’s first and second Congressional districts.

IA-03 is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s long list of 2018 targets but not among the 20 top-priority Republican-held districts.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention State Senator Matt McCoy, who considered but decided against running for Congress in 2016. He is up for re-election next year in Senate district 21, covering parts of Des Moines and West Des Moines. He would have to abandon his seat in the legislature in order to challenge Young in 2018.

SECOND UPDATE: McCoy didn’t rule out running for Congress, telling me, “I won’t make any decision until fall 2017.”

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David Young on the Affordable Care Act: Raising more questions than answers

Former Des Moines Register investigative reporter Tom Witosky dissects a letter he received from the Republican who represents Iowa’s third Congressional district. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Congressman David Young has scheduled a town hall meeting for today at Living History Farms. Clearly, one of the topics to be discussed will be the Affordable Health Care Act and what the Republican majority intends to do to it.

As fate would have it, I received a lengthy response from Congressman Young about my concerns about the Republican plans on Tuesday.

First some background. Up until I became eligible for Medicare almost a year ago, my wife and I purchased our health insurance on the federal exchange.

Our experience was good. We kept our doctors, the level of deduction was acceptable (stay healthy and you don’t need to worry about it) and the premium cost was acceptable. We received no subsidy. Especially important is the ACA requiring coverage of all purchasers with a pre-existing condition. My wife, who is still purchasing her health insurance on the exchange, has one that insurance companies commonly declined to cover or placed limits on.

I provide this background because Young’s letter to me outlines a position that attempted to persuade me major problems exist within the ACA that apparently deserve radical change.

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Five Democrats who might run for Congress in IA-01

Despite the huge swing toward Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans in northeast Iowa last year, Democrats are gearing up for a major challenge to GOP Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Many Iowans considered Blum’s 2014 victory a fluke of a GOP wave year, but he outperformed Trump by about 5 points while winning re-election in 2016.

Now IA-01 is in the top tier of pickup opportunities for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Blair Lawton is already on the ground organizing for the Iowa Democratic Party in the district.

A competitive Democratic primary here is a near-certainty. After the jump, I’ve posted background on five possible candidates, in alphabetical order. I’d welcome tips on others who may be considering this race.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,485 active registered Democrats, 144,687 Republicans, and 189,606 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, a traditional Democratic stronghold that is also Blum’s home base.

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Oh Oh, She's At It Again

Well, it looks like our own (your own?) Senator Joni Ernst has been spotlighted by Glen Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and writer Jordan Smith at The Intercept: “Senator Joni Ernst Puts Planned Parenthood–and Access to Birth Control–on the Chopping Block.”

Looks like she’s set to be the face of the ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ contingent. I may be mistaken but I think she’s going to be facing a firestorm over this and Vander Plaats et.al. won’t be able to save her. Between this and Terry Branstad’s local destabilization of Medicaid, I seriously wonder how her rural constituents are going to take this.

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