Steve King defends scrapping Ethics Office; Blum and Young say they oppose

The main order of business in the U.S. House on January 3 was electing the speaker on the first day of the new session. House members returned Paul Ryan to that position with only one dissenting vote from the GOP caucus, in contrast to January 2015, when Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among 25 Republicans not supporting Speaker John Boehner’s re-election.

The big news on Tuesday, however, was House Republicans backpedaling on their vote the previous night to gut the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

While staff for dozens of House members hid behind “we don’t know” or “we’ll get back to you” in response to constituent calls, King became one of the few “loud and proud” supporters of the amendment. In fact, he will seek to abolish the office rather than merely neutering it.

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Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to Me

A personal story about the impact of Obamacare. -promoted by desmoinesdem

For the past couple days I’ve been encouraging folks to share their Affordable Care Act story with their senators and congressperson. Fair’s fair. So here’s mine:

Dear Congressman Young,

You and I have talked a number of times since you introduced yourself to me and my husband Scott at the Iowa State Fair in 2014. I’ve always appreciated your willingness to listen to me.

I know that Congress will be acting on the Affordable Care Act and today I’m writing to you to tell you my Affordable Care Act story.

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Grassley still determined to hold short, early Sessions confirmation hearings

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley announced on December 21 that he will continue to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee in the new Congress. In doing that job, his priorities will be “the hearings and confirmation process on executive branch nominations to the Department of Justice, starting with United States Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. The committee will also receive and process the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice. Grassley plans to focus on reforming the federal criminal justice system, conducting rigorous oversight of the FBI and Justice Department, ensuring the immigration laws are enforced, working to keep competition in the prescription drug market, reining in excessive government regulations, and protecting whistleblowers and the tools used to root out fraud against the federal government.”

Sessions can expect a less than “rigorous” vetting when Grassley’s committee takes up his nomination next month.

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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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