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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IA-Sen: Grassley running a negative ad for the first time in decades

Only a few days after launching his general-election advertising blitz, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley started running a 30-second commercial attacking his Democratic challenger Patty Judge. I enclose the video and transcript below, along with the response from the Judge campaign.

Grassley did not run any negative commercials during his 2010 re-election bid. In fact, I am fairly certain you’d have to go back to the 1980s to find any attack ads paid for by Grassley’s campaign. UPDATE/CORRECTION: I’ve been told Grassley ran one negative spot against Democratic challenger David Osterberg in 1998, saying (among other things) that the former Iowa lawmaker had been educated in socialist Sweden. SECOND UPDATE: Osterberg confirmed Grassley ran negative advertising in his race, but he recalls that the commercial was on radio rather than television. Scroll to the end of this post for details.

Incumbents who are not worried about the election typically stick to positive messages in their paid media. The last four public polls of Iowa’s U.S. Senate race have found Grassley ahead of Judge by 45 percent to 38 percent (CBS/YouGov), 51 percent to 42 percent (Quinnipiac), and 52 percent to 42 percent (Suffolk and Marist). Those are smaller leads than the senator has had over previous Democratic challengers.

SEPTEMBER 2 UPDATE: The Washington Post’s James Hohmann called Grassley’s ad "another very telling sign of how scared Senate Republicans are running right now," adding that the attack was "thin gruel."

The commercial hits former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge for not voluntarily taking a pay cut when the Great Recession led to a state budget deficit. Grassley, of course, has accepted many pay increases when the federal deficit was much larger…

Grassley’s campaign manager Bob Haus told KCCI-TV that the ad "states just the facts pure and simple" and that Grassley will run more commercials focused on Judge’s record.

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IA-Sen: Chuck Grassley's back on tv, and he brought his lawnmowers

The "barrage" of television commercials promoting U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s re-election began a few days ago. The senator’s campaign stayed off television for most of the summer following short buys for two commercials in late May and early June.

In style and content, the new 60-second ad resembles the first commercials Grassley ran during the 2010 general election campaign. The focus is on the senator’s personal qualities and work ethic, not policy accomplishments. The viewer hears about Grassley’s past work in factories as well as on the farm, his near-perfect attendance for Senate floor votes, and his commitment to visiting all 99 counties every year. Finally, as Iowa politics watchers have come to expect, the ad includes footage of Grassley mowing his own lawn, using his "cheap" invention of two push mowers attached to the back of a riding mower.

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Patty Judge, in new tv ads: "Washington changed Chuck"

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Patty Judge took the fight to 36-year Senator Chuck Grassley in her campaign’s first two general election television commercials, launched on Tuesday. Both 30-second spots assert that Grassley has "changed" during his long tenure in Washington. One spot features Judge delivering the message alongside a cardboard cutout of the incumbent. A string of "ordinary Iowans" question the cardboard Grassley during the other ad. Scroll down for videos and transcripts.

Grassley hasn’t run any commercials since the two ads his campaign aired before the June primary, which Bleeding Heartland analyzed here and here. I’m surprised he didn’t prepare a spot to run during the Rio Olympics, after reporting more than $1.2 million in contributions during the second quarter and nearly $6 million cash on hand as of June 30. Judge’s campaign raised $347,707 during the second quarter and had only $228,292 cash on hand at the end of June.

Three of the four Iowa polls released this month showed Grassley’s support barely above 50 percent; Judge was running 9 or 10 points behind. The most recent survey, conducted by CBS/YouGov, found Grassley leading Judge by only 45 percent to 38 percent. An incumbent polling below 50 percent traditionally signals an opening for the challenger.

But contrary to KCRG’s misleading headline and write-up, a 45-38 lead is not a "statistical tie." The margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent in CBS/YouGov’s poll means that assuming professional sampling methods, there’s a 95 percent chance that Grassley’s support is between 41 and 49 percent, and that Judge’s support is between 34 and 42 percent. In other words, Grassley is extremely likely to be ahead if CBS/YouGov’s respondents are representative of the likely voter universe. He’s just not dominating the race by the kind of margins he’s enjoyed over previous Democratic opponents.

Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reviewed data from earlier re-election campaigns pointing to Grassley’s strong performance among no-party voters, as well as his "crossover appeal" for thousands of Iowa Democrats.

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How Grassley and Ernst voted on latest proposals to keep guns from "terrorists"

Another day, another exercise in kabuki theater within the halls of Congress. Hoping to limit the fallout from Monday’s rejection of proposals to expand background checks and make guns more difficult to obtain for people on federal watch lists, U.S. Senate leaders held votes on more gun control proposals today. A compromise amendment led by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine was expected to be the main agenda item.

But as Alexander Bolton reported for The Hill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "cut the legs out from a bipartisan effort to keep suspected terrorists from buying guns."

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Dave Loebsack joins House sit-in over gun votes; Steve King gets mad

Dozens of U.S. House Democrats staged a protest in the House chamber yesterday, demanding a vote on gun control legislation. Shouting ensued when Speaker Paul Ryan gaveled the House back in for late-night votes after a recess that had lasted most of the day. The "#NoBillNoBreak" sit-in kept going overnight and continues this morning, even though House Republicans voted to adjourn until July 5 shortly after a 3 am vote on a Zika virus funding bill. UPDATE: Democrats ended the protest early Thursday afternoon.

Iowa’s Representative Dave Loebsack joined the sit-in late yesterday morning and stayed for much of the day. He returned to the House floor Wednesday evening, giving a short speech around 10 pm central time. O.Kay Henderson posted the full audio clip at Radio Iowa. My partial transcript is below.

I would prefer for the sit-in to be about legislation such as stronger background checks or an assault weapons ban, rather than the "no fly, no buy" bill that has grabbed the most attention since the Orlando massacre. But it is symbolically important for Democrats to stand up to the National Rifle Association and expose Republican cowardice on this issue. Eric Boehlert observed last night that in 1999, "31 Senate Republicans voted in favor of mandating background checks at gun shows," and in 1994, "42 House Republicans voted for President Bill Clinton’s crime bill, which included a ban on assault weapons." Now hardly any Congressional Republicans will back even the most popular gun control measures. Large majorities of Republicans and many gun owners support universal background checks, including for private gun sales.

Representative Steve King showed up in the House chamber Wednesday evening, around the time Loebsack spoke. Unlike his GOP colleague Louis Gohmert, King didn’t mix it up with Democrats. But a little before 2 am, he vented on Twitter, "I’ve had it with the gun grabbing Democrats and their sit in anti 2nd amendment jihad. I’m going to go home and buy a new gun."

Apparently he is under the impression that Democrats get upset when someone buys a gun. As long as the purchase happens with an appropriate background check, I couldn’t care less if King prefers to spend money on additional firearms. I trust the congressman will store his new weapon appropriately, so his young grandchildren can’t get hold of it and hurt someone.

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