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Supreme Court saves health insurance subsidies for 6 million Americans (and 40,000 Iowans)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 25, 2015 at 16:10:00 PM CDT

Some 40,000 Iowans will continue to receive federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance, thanks to a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court opinion announced today. Plaintiffs in King v Burwell had argued that Congress intended for subsidies to be available only to Americans who purchased health insurance through state-run exchanges. Chief Justice John Roberts rejected that interpretation in his opinion (pdf), joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Amy Howe explained the ruling in "plain English" at the SCOTUS blog, where Lyle Denniston wrote a separate analysis of the opinion.

Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia accused his colleagues of changing "usual rules of statutory interpretation for the sake of the Affordable Care Act," as the Supreme Court majority did (in his view) when it upheld the individual mandate to purchase health insurance in 2012.

A ruling for the plaintiffs in King v Burwell would not only have threatened health care access for roughly 6.4 million people who receive subsidies for health insurance purchased through the federal website Healthcare.gov. It could have caused cascading effects such as sharp premium increases for millions of Americans who do not qualify for subsidies but would nevertheless have been priced out of the health insurance market. In theory, Congress could have fixed the problem with a one-paragraph bill clarifying that people who buy insurance through the federal exchange qualified for subsidies, but most House and Senate Republicans appeared unwilling to go that route.

Today's Supreme Court decision removes the only remaining threat to federal health insurance subsidies for eligible Iowans. Last month, several insurance companies applied to offer policies for 2016 to Iowans through the exchange. Only one provider did so for 2015, and if that company had pulled out of Iowa, health insurance subsidies would not have been available to anyone in our state for next year.

UPDATE: Added Iowa political reaction below. Note that several of the Republican statements renew a vow to repeal and replace "Obamacare." Though destroying the system created by the 2010 health care reform law was transparently the goal of the King v Burwell plaintiffs, their lawyers maintained the charade that the lawsuit was only about getting the Obama administration to follow the Affordable Care Act.

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Five strengths of Hillary Clinton's campaign launch and Iowa swing

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 14, 2015 at 23:46:54 PM CDT

Hillary Clinton kicked off her presidential campaign Saturday with a big rally on New York City's Roosevelt Island. TIME published the full transcript (as prepared) of her speech, which covered values and personal reflections about her mother as well as a long list of policies she would champion in order to win "Four Fights" for Americans. Clinton then traveled to Sioux City, where her remarks at a house party were "simulcast to 650 house parties nationwide, including 55 in Iowa" on Saturday evening. This morning, hundreds of people turned up to see Clinton in Des Moines, at her first Iowa event of this year that was open to the public. After the rally, she gave interviews to Radio Iowa's O.Kay Henderson and the Des Moines Register before heading to Burlington for a house party in the afternoon.

From where I'm sitting, Clinton helped her cause quite a bit this weekend.  

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Democratic presidential candidates converging on Cedar Rapids, July 17

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 11, 2015 at 17:00:00 PM CDT

The Iowa Democratic Party's annual Hall of Fame dinner will draw a larger-than-usual crowd this year, thanks to confirmed appearances by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Governor Martin O'Malley, and former Senator Jim Webb. (I assume former Senator Lincoln Chaffee, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, will join the list of speakers as well.) Tickets for the event at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex on Friday, July 17 are available here.

After the jump I've posted details on the seven Iowa Democrats who will be honored at the Hall of Fame event. No one deserves the "outstanding elected official" award more than Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum. Following Iowa statehouse politics closely can be a discouraging pastime, especially this year, but the highest-ranking Democratic woman to serve in the Iowa Senate always makes progressives feel well-represented. I can't think of a better candidate for governor in 2018.

Former State Representative and Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran will receive the Iowa Democratic Party's "outstanding supporter" award. Outside her home town, she is best known for having served as mayor during the devastating 2008 floods.

The "outstanding activist" award is going to Tri-County Democrats chair Kurt Meyer. He was the runner-up candidate to lead the Iowa Democratic Party in January. As I wrote at that time, Meyer has done tremendous organizing work in northern Iowa. His efforts contributed to Mitchell County being the whitest county in the U.S. to vote for Barack Obama (and Howard County the fifth-whitest to favor Obama over Mitt Romney), as well as to State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm's narrow victory over Republican Senator Merlin "Build my fence" Bartz in 2012. Without Wilhelm, there's no Iowa Senate majority.  

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Weekend open thread: latest Des Moines Register Iowa caucus poll edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jun 07, 2015 at 17:00:34 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. After the jump I've enclosed highlights from Selzer & Co's latest Iowa poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics. I had planned to focus on that poll last weekend, until I heard the devastating news about Beau Biden.

Speaking of the Selzer poll, I'm waiting for the self-styled "Dr. Politics" (Iowa State University professor Steffen Schmidt) to square his assertion that Iowa Democrats "truly hate [Hillary] Clinton's 'listening tour' campaign" with Selzer's findings that 86 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers view Clinton favorably, and 57 percent say she is their first choice for president. Yes, Bernie Sanders got great turnout for his Iowa events last weekend. But where is the evidence that Iowans "hate" the Clinton campaign?

The Des Moines Register ran lots of articles featuring poll results this past week. I got a kick out of the "Captain Obvious" headline for this piece: "Moderates, very conservative in GOP not always in sync." You don't say. I guess that's why moderate and very conservative Republicans have gravitated toward different presidential candidates every four years for the last several decades.

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It's about time: MoveOn and Democracy for America suspend Run Warren Run campaign

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 02, 2015 at 07:32:06 AM CDT

Democracy for America and MoveOn.org announced today that effective June 8, they will suspend the effort to convince Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Organizers say the Run Warren Run campaign collected more 365,000 signatures on petitions since December and generated substantial support in other ways, described in detail in the press release enclosed below. From where I'm sitting, there are better ways to spend $1.25 million on progressive advocacy efforts. Warren will receive a copy of the petition, and MoveOn and DFA will presumably retain contact information for everyone who signed.

Today's announcement says nothing about whether MoveOn.org or Democracy for America will endorse one of the two Democrats running for president as progressive alternatives to Hillary Clinton: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. The Iowa Democrats I know who were excited about Warren seem to be either supporting Sanders already or leaning in that direction. Run Warren Run ceased to have any real purpose the day Sanders announced his candidacy, but this past month, organizers have continued to ask Iowans to sign petitions, claiming there was a real chance Warren would change her mind.

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Martin O'Malley's immediate problem: Bernie Sanders

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 31, 2015 at 21:36:32 PM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley launched his presidential campaign in Baltimore yesterday before holding events in the Quad Cities and Des Moines later in the day. He was well-received at both venues and in New Hampshire today. I challenge any Democrat to find much to disagree with in O'Malley's message.

O'Malley's pitch to Democrats draws several indirect contrasts to front-runner Hillary Clinton, starting with the "new leadership" tag line on his campaign materials. His stump speech includes riffs on declining real wages, trade policy and the banking industry that put him to Clinton's left. But from what we saw in Iowa this weekend, O'Malley has a lot of work to do to.

O'Malley's immediate problem isn't the large lead for Clinton in name recognition and opinion polls. It's that Senator Bernie Sanders has already claimed the "progressive alternative to Hillary" niche.  

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Just when I was starting to think Mike Huckabee was smart

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 26, 2015 at 16:13:54 PM CDT

Blogger's lament: let's say you have a post in progress about a Republican carving out a promising niche in a crowded presidential field. He's talking about highly salient issues for non-wealthy Americans, in a way that will distinguish him from most of his rivals. Not only do those policies relate to the well-being of many voters, they also allow the candidate to position himself against "elite" GOP strategists and other establishment figures hated by the party's conservative base.

Then the guy does the stupidest thing you could imagine.

With one Facebook status update on Friday, Mike Huckabee may have wiped out any chance of broadening his appeal through the smart decision to focus his early campaign rhetoric on Social Security and trade.

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Iowans split on party lines over 20-week abortion ban

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 13:50:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House passed by 242 votes to 184 (roll call) a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. House GOP leaders originally planned to pass this legislation around the anniversary of the Roe v Wade ruling in January, but pulled the bill from the floor "following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape." Sarah Ferris and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill yesterday that the bill "requires a 48-hour waiting period, informed consent forms and mandatory counseling for victims of rape and sexual assault before abortions." The latest version "eliminates a requirement for rape victims to go to the police, though it did not change a controversial provision that allows victims of incest to receive an abortion only if they are under 18 years old."

Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the 20-week abortion ban, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it. Iowa's House members split along the same party lines regarding another anti-abortion bill that passed earlier this year, as well as a resolution that would "overturn the District of Columbia's law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on reproductive health choices."

I haven't seen any comments from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King on yesterday's votes, but I'll update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added a statement from Blum.After the jump I've enclosed comments from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire, an e-mail blast Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign sent regarding the vote, and a statement from the pro-choice PAC EMILY's List, which has endorsed Monica Vernon in the Democratic primary to challenge Blum.

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While Iowa GOP levels playing field for underdogs, DNC gives them extra burden

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 07, 2015 at 13:25:14 PM CDT

Democrats in Iowa and nationally have been worried all year that a more competitive GOP presidential campaign will boost Republican organizing and enthusiasm going into the 2016 general election.

Yet this week, while the Iowa GOP announced plans to help long-shot presidential candidates be heard on equal footing, the Democratic National Committee sharply limited opportunities for voters to compare the whole presidential field side by side.  

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Highlights from Bernie Sanders' first day as a Democratic presidential candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 18:26:39 PM CDT

After serving in Congress for 25 years as an independent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president.  
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Iowa caucus: PPP finds Walker leading GOP field, Clinton way ahead among Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 29, 2015 at 11:14:50 AM CDT

Public Policy Polling is out with its first Iowa caucus survey since last May. Click here for full results or here for Tom Jensen's polling memo. I enclose below highlights and my thoughts on the most interesting findings.

Any comments related to the Iowa caucus campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Fake Iowan for Hillary

by: sarased

Mon Apr 20, 2015 at 22:05:06 PM CDT

(Thanks for this first-person account of an Iowa campaign stop that drew international attention. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Last Tuesday morning, I woke up a lifelong Iowan, a working mom, a wife, a small business owner. By dinner, I was being portrayed by national - and international - media as a "fake" Iowan.

It has taken nearly a week for the reality of my unexpected cup of coffee with Hillary Clinton to sink in. As soon as she sat down, I realized how privileged I was to have her ear that morning. The experience, from start to now, has been surreal, to say the least.  

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Excessive demands for personal attention hurt the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 08:41:47 AM CDT

Hillary Clinton embarked on a road trip to Iowa immediately after making her campaign official on Sunday. She has several small-scale events scheduled for today and tomorrow in Monticello (Jones County) and Norwalk (Warren County), a sign she is committed to winning over Iowa caucus-goers.

Most politically engaged Iowans look forward to seeing presidential candidates in person during caucus season. We like to hear first-hand where the contenders stand on issues that matter to us. As a group, we are generally willing to give all contenders serious consideration before making up our minds.

Unfortunately, some Democratic activists seem to think that candidates prove their worth in Iowa by fawning over local VIPs. That mentality hurts the Iowa caucuses, especially when pooh-bahs broadcast their sense of entitlement to national reporters covering the campaign.

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Still not convinced Martin O'Malley is running for president

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 12, 2015 at 22:49:00 PM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign for quite a while. These past few days, he continued to walk and talk just like a presidential candidate would in Iowa. On Thursday, he spoke at Simpson College and headlined a fundraiser for State Representative Scott Ourth before speaking to a good crowd in a heavily Democratic Des Moines neighborhood. The next day, he taped an episode of "Iowa Press" on Iowa Public Television (video and full transcript here; excerpts after the jump). O'Malley wrapped up Friday with a well-received speech at the Polk County Democrats' spring event (click through for video or audio). The stump speech blended a summary of his accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor with a vision for the future. For laughs and applause, he threw in some good jabs at tea party Republicans. Before and after the speech, O'Malley worked the room of activists. His staff had put down placemats and postcards for people to take home.

Yet I still can't shake the feeling that O'Malley will not follow through with running for president.  

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Hillary Clinton's Iowa campaign team taking shape

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 09, 2015 at 12:40:00 PM CDT

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to formally launch her presidential campaign later this month, her team continues to hire capable staff who are well-known to Iowa Democratic activists.
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Mid-week open thread: Iowa caucus myths edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 21:51:22 PM CDT

Bleeding Heartland doesn't participate in the annual ritual of publishing fake news stories on April 1, but Pat Rynard's recent post on Iowa caucus myths captures the spirit of April Fool's Day, in a sense, by highlighting some common misconceptions about our state's marquee political event. I agree with a lot of his points, especially debunking the idea that agricultural issues are of primary importance to Iowa caucus-goers, and that county party chairs are the best analysts regarding the state of play on the ground.

One myth not mentioned by Rynard would be high on my list: the idea that only Barack Obama's campaign turned out a significant number of first-time caucus-goers in 2008. In fact, both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton attracted enough supporters that same night to have blown away any Democratic candidate who had ever won the Iowa caucuses before. A superb combination of GOTV and messaging delivered the victory Obama needed, but the outcome was much more about him winning than Clinton or Edwards losing. Reporters and commentators who have repeatedly pushed the frame of Hillary's big "Iowa problem" continually fail to acknowledge that she inspired roughly 70,000 supporters to stand in her corner on a cold January night--a much higher number than most Iowa politics watchers would have anticipated a few months earlier.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

P.S.- Bleeding Heartland is a few weeks out from re-launching Iowa wildflower Wednesday, but signs of spring wildflowers are visible across the state. I've heard reports of snow trillium in bloom, and I've seen foliage for many native plants that will flower within the next month or so, including dog-tooth violets, Virginia bluebells, Virginia waterleaf, and toothwort.  

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Iowa caucuses news roundup and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 30, 2015 at 16:46:17 PM CDT

Aside from Senator Ted Cruz kicking of his presidential campaign, last week was a relatively quiet one in Iowa caucus news. But there are still plenty of stories and prospects to discuss.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Follow me after the jump for a news roundup.

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Martin O'Malley walks like a candidate and talks like a candidate, but...

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley continues to do everything a politician would do to set up a strong Iowa caucus campaign.

So why am I still having trouble believing he will offer himself to Democrats as a alternative to Hillary Clinton?  

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Who will be Jim Webb's potential Iowa caucus supporters?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 14:00:00 PM CDT

As first reported by Pat Rynard last week, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb has hired an Iowa state director for his upcoming presidential campaign.  
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Grassley and Ernst remarkably casual about remarkable Iran letter

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 09:38:11 AM CDT

You wouldn't know it from reading their press releases, but Iowa's U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst did something unprecedented this week. Along with 45 Republican colleagues, they signed an "Open Letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," warning that any negotiated agreement with President Barack Obama's administration will not be binding unless "approved by Congress," and therefore could be revoked by the next president.

I have been trying to imagine the uproar if Congressional Democrats had sent a letter like that to Soviet leaders when President Ronald Reagan was negotiating the START arms control treaties. The Iranian foreign minister wasn't the only one to express "astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration." Vice President Joe Biden's response was scathing.

Grassley and Ernst have sent out several official comments on policy issues since Monday, none of them alluding to their extraordinary step to undermine the president's negotiations with a foreign power. When asked about the letter during their weekly press calls, they feigned surprise that the matter has spawned so much controversy.

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