Chuck Grassley's ready to run interference for Jeff Sessions

After meeting with his longtime colleague Jeff Sessions on November 29, Senator Chuck Grassley signaled that he will not only support President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, but also limit Democrats’ ability to expose the nominee’s record during confirmation hearings.

In a statement enclosed in full below, the Judiciary Committee chair warned he will not allow a repeat of the 2001 debate over President George W. Bush’s nominee for the same job, John Ashcroft. In Grassley’s view, those hearings “turned into a reckless campaign that snowballed into an avalanche of innuendo, rumor and spin.”

Citing Senate consideration of the last four attorneys general as precedent, Grassley promised a “fair and thorough vetting process” for Sessions: hearings lasting one to two days, without a large number of outside witnesses. He expressed the hope that Democrats “will resist what some liberal interest groups are clearly hoping for – an attack on [Sessions’s] character.”

Grassley “intends to hold the hearing before the President-elect is sworn in.” His statement explained, “it is customary to hold a hearing for the Attorney General prior to the Inauguration as was the case with both Attorney General Eric Holder and Attorney General John Ashcroft.”

In other words, after presiding over a committee that slow-walked numerous federal judicial nominees, after obstructing a Supreme Court nominee for an unprecedented length of time, Grassley is in a hurry to get Sessions confirmed. He doesn’t want to get bogged down examining the nominee’s extreme views on immigration policy or criticism of the Americans with Disabilities Act or the racially motivated conduct that kept Sessions out of a federal judgeship in the 1980s.

Still no word from Grassley on any of Trump’s abnormal behavior or disregard for the Constitution. Some watchdog.

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Post Election: Architects Struggle to Address Equity and Sustainability

Steve Wilke-Shapiro, a Des Moines-based architect with a passion for historic preservation and sustainable development, shares how Donald Trump’s victory has divided the community of architects. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Architecture is an odd profession. We fancy ourselves as masters of a universe where the smallest details (the edge around a door frame, for example) have meaning. We talk to each other about Design as if buildings themselves were sentient: “I don’t think that window wants to stretch all the way up to the ceiling.”

We don’t do this to be elitist and self-absorbed, though many an architect has been justly accused of nurturing an overdeveloped ego. Rather, we honestly believe in design as a tool for enhancing the human experience. We have the privilege of influencing the disposition of huge amounts of capital and human energy. We believe that through design, we can be agents of positive social change.

To some extent, the architect is by definition “progressive.” Our job is to alter the world, to imagine things that have never been and then describe them to others so that those things can be made real. There is an element of hope in every line we draw that our work will change the world for the better, and a sense of value in discharging this responsibility.

Yet architecture is also a conservative venture. There is a huge weight in the fact that our decisions have broad implications for our clients, our businesses, our reputations. Our creativity is circumscribed by a framework of building codes, financial, and logistical constraints. Despite our best efforts to fight these forces of inertia, there are tangible negative effects. We are as a profession too accepting of mediocre design (it pays the bills). Our leadership is measurably whiter than the American population as a whole, and primarily male. The “entry fee” to become an architect requires substantial investment in education followed by arduous and expensive licensing hurdles, both of which tend to favor people with middle- to upper-income resources. These qualities breed a resistance to institutional change.

Architecture is also highly sensitive to cycles largely outside our control: economic, environmental, and social. This season however, it is of course politics, not design that has driven a wedge into the profession.

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IA-Sen: Grassley leads by 17 points in new Selzer poll

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is outperforming the top of the Republican ticket and leads former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge by 53 percent to 36 percent in the latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. The Register’s William Petroski wrote up the key findings:

The Iowa Poll shows Grassley has broad support, leading Judge among all groups tested except for four: Democrats, Hillary Clinton supporters, former Bernie Sanders supporters and people who identify with no religion. Among political independents, Grassley leads Judge 54 percent to 30 percent. He leads among men and women and among all age, income and education groups.

Grassley’s job approval rating — with 56 approving and 30 percent disapproving among all adults, not just likely voters — is identical to where it stood in September 2010, before he cruised to victory that November, defeating Democrat Roxanne Conlin by 31 percentage points.

Among the same 642 “likely voter” respondents, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by just 43 percent to 39 percent.

Selzer’s poll was in the field before the release of a 2005 videotape in which Trump bragged about assaulting women he finds attractive. Democrats have blasted Grassley for condemning Trump’s comments but urging Republicans to stick with the GOP ticket, because of the election’s likely impact on the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt the Trump tape will affect Grassley’s re-election numbers, though.

Iowa Republicans have been spiking the football on this race for some time. Yesterday the Twitter accounts of Grassley’s campaign and campaign manager Bob Haus directed followers to the liberal Daily Kos website, where IA-Sen is now listed as safe Republican. Various other election forecasters see the race the same way.

Many Iowans who preferred State Senator Rob Hogg for U.S. Senate, as I did, have privately expressed frustration that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent almost no money here, after intervening in the Democratic primary to recruit and promote Judge. The DSCC’s tactical choice is understandable, because more than half a dozen other Senate seats are better pickup opportunities than Iowa’s. But I do wish they’d stayed out of the primary. Although Judge had higher name recognition, I never did see evidence that she was in a position to make this race more competitive than Hogg. She has held relatively few public events around the state since winning the nomination. Hogg would have been much a more active campaigner, which might have helped our down-ballot candidates.

Was Grassley ever truly vulnerable? Beating a six-term senator was always going to be hard in a state that generally re-elects its incumbents. Grassley has been able to spend millions more dollars on tv ads than any challenger could have managed. (I enclose below his latest positive spot.) His support took a hit from his handling of the Supreme Court vacancy, which inspired the DSCC to recruit Judge. I would guess that refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland is the main reason Grassley’s leading by “only” 17 points now. Selzer’s polls for the Des Moines Register in September and October 2010 showed him 31 points ahead of Roxanne Conlin.

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IA-02 GOP nominee Christopher Peters joins #NeverTrump camp

Dr. Christopher Peters, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district, announced today that he will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In a prepared statement, Peters said his “views don’t fully align with either party’s platform” and asserted that neither major-party nominee has exhibited the “character and judgment necessary to be president.” He rejected the “lesser of two evils” approach to voting, which in his view won’t “bring us closer to fixing” a “deeply flawed” political system.

Since launching his campaign in March, Peters has often promised to be an “independent voice” for Iowans, in contrast to five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who “votes with the Democrats more than 90 percent of the time.” Up to now, he had avoided taking a clear stand on Trump’s candidacy. For example, speaking to Kevin Barry of KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids in May, Peters said, “The top of the ticket I can’t control, so I’m not going to worry about it. It’s kind of like taking the Serenity Prayer at a certain point. My focus is the second district, specifically Iowa, more broadly the country as a whole. […] I don’t think Mr. Trump cares whether I endorse him or not, because he’s rich, and I’m not that rich. So I think he’ll do just fine. […] I don’t think it affects this race too much, or in any way I can control.”

When Barry pressed Peters on whether he is behind Trump, Peters replied, “He’s got till November to earn my vote. We don’t know who all the candidates are going to be yet, and we don’t know all their policy positions. Again, if I’m an independent voice, and that’s who I am, I’ll vote [for] whoever I want to vote for in November, and I haven’t made that decision yet.”

Peters did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, nor has he appeared at any Trump campaign rally in Iowa. He spoke at U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser in late August, but left that event before Trump’s featured speech and photo op with Iowa GOP leaders. A Libertarian candidate for Iowa Senate in 2010, Peters went to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s rally in Des Moines over Labor Day weekend but didn’t endorse Johnson then or now.

In today’s statement, Peters said “Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so.” Scroll down to read the full commentary.

Peters and Loebsack are will attend their first candidate forum today at the Coralville Public Library, beginning at 2 pm. IA-02 leans Democratic, with a partisan voting index of D+4. The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district’s 24 counties contain 171,027 active registered Democrats, 146,108 Republicans, and 172,729 no-party voters.

Although dozens of GOP members of Congress have joined the #NeverTrump ranks, Peters is the only federal candidate in Iowa willing to repudiate the party’s nominee. To my knowledge, only two other Iowa Republicans on the ballot this year have said publicly they will not vote for Trump: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara and State Representative Ken Rizer. State Senator Jack Whitver, who is up for re-election in 2018, has called on Trump to step aside without saying whether he would vote for Trump, assuming he remains the nominee. State Senator David Johnson, whose term also runs through 2018, left the Republican Party in June to express his opposition to Trump.

Final note: While numerous Republicans cited their concern for daughters or granddaughters when denouncing the explosive Trump videotape from 2005, I applaud Peters for condemning Trump’s “character deficiencies” as a father of three teenage sons: “if I ever learned that any of them grew up to be men who conduct themselves like Trump, I would be deeply disappointed.”

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Zika funding a classic case of systemic Congressional failure

U.S. House and Senate members returned to work Tuesday, no better equipped to handle basic tasks of governance than they were before their unusually long summer recess.

You might think funding to combat a public health emergency would be easy to pass even in a hyper-partisan, election-year atmosphere. But you would be wrong, because legislation to pay for a Zika virus response remains tied up over “poison pills.”

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