16 Iowa politics predictions for 2016

Hoping to improve on my percentages from last year, I offer sixteen Iowa politics predictions for 2016. Please spin your own scenarios in this thread.

I finally gave up on trying to predict whether Governor Terry Branstad will still be in office at the end of the year. Although his close adviser David Roederer "emphatically" says Branstad will serve out his sixth term, I am convinced the governor will resign early. But I can’t decide whether that will happen shortly after the November 2016 election or shortly after the Iowa legislature’s 2017 session.

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Chairman Grassley oversees "worst year for judicial confirmations in over half a century"

Speaking shortly after the 2014 general election, Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, promised to "work to confirm consensus nominees" for the federal bench, based on factors such as "intellectual ability, respect for the Constitution, fidelity to the law, personal integrity, appropriate judicial temperament, and professional competence."

But as the Alliance for Justice noted in a recent report on judicial confirmations in 2015,

Only 11 [federal] judges were confirmed, the fewest in a single year since 1960. Only one court of appeals judge was confirmed, the worst since none were confirmed in 1953. And as confirmations dwindled, vacancies shot up. In 2015, vacancies rose from 43 to 66 (they’ll hit 70 by January 1), and officially-designated “judicial emergencies” went up nearly 160% from 12 to 31.

I enclose below the full Alliance for Justice review, with graphs comparing judicial confirmations by year for the last three presidents and during the seventh year of office for the last four two-term presidents. Click here to access the report online, where you can follow the hyperlinks.

Two nominees for judicial vacancies in Iowa are among 14 "consensus" nominees whose confirmations did not come up on the Senate floor before the winter recess, contrary to what was once "routine practice" in the Senate. People for the American Way pointed out in a November 9 blog post that even though Grassley "promised to process [judicial] nominees in the order he received them," he "leapfrogged" Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, whom President Barack Obama nominated in mid-September, "over ten longer-waiting district court nominees." Ebinger would fill a vacancy in Iowa’s Southern District, which is not a judicial emergency. Most of the non-controversial nominees left hanging until the new year would alleviate judicial emergencies; see the appendix to the Alliance for Justice report.

Jennifer Bendery reported today for the Huffington Post that the growing number of vacancies and emergencies are

hurting the court system — and the people it serves. Civil cases are being delayed for years at a time. Judges are burning out trying to keep up. Semi-retired judges are pulling full-time hours to help keep their courts from collapsing under their own weight. The Senate is effectively strangling parts of the judicial system.

“They’re a co-equal branch,” [Carl] Tobias [a scholar of federal judicial selection at the University of Richmond School of Law] said. “Especially in Texas or the border states or the eastern district of California, these judges are just overwhelmed. They carry huge caseloads.”

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the "omnibus" budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the "tax extenders" and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named "On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566"), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders "opposed the tax package" but "did not whip their members against it." Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He "has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October," Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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IA-03: More signs Chet Culver may run

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Former Governor Chet Culver "is getting closer" to joining the Democratic field in Iowa’s third district, Civic Skinny reports in the latest edition of the weekly Cityview.

He is looking at the numbers — the money numbers and the registration numbers — and lining up a staff. He is studying the issues and talking to longtime supporters. He is looking at the problems of running — and, he hopes, serving — while still being a good father to two teenagers and a supportive husband to a wife who works part-time as a lawyer in Des Moines. […]

Culver says he is getting in shape physically for a run and just got a good report from his doctor.

Last week, Culver made clear that he would enjoy returning to public service, views IA-03 as a "good fit," and is confident he could raise the resources to run a successful campaign.

Civic Skinny speculated that beating the other likely candidates in the Democratic field (Desmund Adams, Jim Mowrer, and Mike Sherzan) "probably wouldn’t be hard [for Culver], with his name recognition and zest for campaigning." But I would expect a battle royal in an IA-03 primary involving the former governor. Not only has Mowrer lined up support from many prominent local Democrats, he is rumored to have strong backing in labor circles. Culver’s uneasy relationship with organized labor dates to the 2006 gubernatorial primary, when some large unions including AFSCME endorsed his main rival Mike Blouin. The bad blood really set in when the governor vetoed a collective bargaining bill in 2008.

It’s also important to remember that for a Congressional race, Culver will not be able to collect very large donations from his strongest supporters. Individual contributions for federal candidates max out at $2,700 for the primary election and $2,700 for the general election (but that money can’t be used until after the June 2016 primary). During the first four months of 2006, Culver’s campaign for governor collected $25,000 gifts from three donors, $10,000 from five more donors, and $5,000 from more than a dozen others. Two more $10,000 gifts and some $5,000 checks came in during the final weeks before the 2006 primary. Culver’s 2005 campaign disclosure report included several $10,000 gifts and one for $15,000 as well.

Running a Congressional primary campaign will be less expensive than running for governor statewide, especially since about two-thirds of the registered Democrats in the district live in Polk County. Nevertheless, Culver will have a short time span to raise a lot of money in increments of no more than $2,700 from any one person.

Any comments about the IA-03 campaign are welcome in this thread.

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