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Iowa GOP

Will elite support translate into Iowa Republican caucus-goers for Chris Christie?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 06, 2015 at 16:58:36 PM CDT

From a liberal's perspective, Bruce Rastetter is the closest thing Iowa has to a James Bond villain. After making his fortune off a polluting industry (large-scale hog confinements), Rastetter provided the "seed money" for the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which quickly became one of the most influential conservative dark money groups, a "prolific funder" of negative ads often "deemed false." In 2009, Rastetter played a key role in coaxing Terry Branstad out of political retirement. He then parlayed his status as the top donor to Branstad's 2010 gubernatorial campaign into an appointment to the prestigious Iowa Board of Regents. Thanks to a little intervention from the governor, Rastetter moved quickly into a leadership position on that board, where he "blurred the line" between business and board work, hoping to expand one of his corporations' land holdings on another continent. Last month, Rastetter made news as the apparent mastermind behind hiring business executive Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, over strong objections by stakeholders on campus.

A certain type of Republican is as attracted to Rastetter's power as many Democrats are repelled by it. The "quiet but fierce" Rastetter is a top donor to GOP establishment candidates and committees in Iowa. He dislikes the "kingmaker" label often attached to him, but who else could get the governor, lieutenant governor, both U.S. senators, three U.S. House members, and nine presidential candidates to show up for an event in its first year, the way Rastetter did for his Iowa Ag Summit in March?

Rastetter says he donates to candidates to "make a difference," not to "get access." Whatever his motives, he has tremendous influence. Governor Branstad said earlier this year that he keeps in touch with Rastetter "at least once a week" and "greatly" values the businessman's opinions. So do some other high-dollar Republican donors, who flew with Rastetter to New Jersey in 2011, hoping to recruit Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Last week, most of those business leaders stood with Rastetter again to endorse Christie's presidential bid. The event in Des Moines capped a good couple of months for Christie here in recruiting backers from the Iowa GOP establishment.

How much will those endorsements help the New Jersey governor win over rank and file Iowa Republicans who show up at precinct caucuses?  

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Prominent Iowa Republican moderate switches parties

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 22, 2015 at 13:21:58 PM CDT

Todd Dorman has big news in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette: Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson changed his party registration to Democratic last week.

As a Democrat, I welcome any fair-minded person to our party. But as the daughter of a Rockefeller Republican, I'm saddened by yet another sign GOP moderates are a vanishing breed.  

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Pat Grassley will chair the Iowa House Appropriations Committee

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 16, 2015 at 12:20:00 PM CDT

Five-term State Representative Pat Grassley announced on Twitter this morning that he will chair the Iowa House Appropriations Committee. The previous chair, Chuck Soderberg, retired from the legislature last month. I don't know who else lobbied Speaker-Select Linda Upmeyer for this prize committee assignment, but I will update this post if I learn more.

The grandson of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Pat Grassley was first elected to the Iowa House in 2006. He chaired the House Economic Growth and Rebuild Iowa committee in 2011 and 2012 and has chaired the House Agriculture Committee since the 2013 legislative session. He represents a safe Republican district covering Grundy County and parts of Hardin and Butler counties. Grassley's most competitive re-election bid was the 2012 Republican primary in House district 50, after redistricting pitted him against then-colleague, State Representative Annette Sweeney.

Many Iowa politics watchers expect Grassley to run for secretary of agriculture in 2018, assuming the current incumbent Bill Northey seeks the Republican nomination for governor.

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Iowa House district 5 special election coming on November 3

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Sep 15, 2015 at 14:55:11 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad has set the special election to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5 for November 3, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told KTIV news today. Last month, Soderberg announced plans to resign in order to become general manager for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in Des Moines.

A map of House district 5 is after the jump. Even in a low-turnout special election, Democrats don't have a realistic chance of winning this seat, where Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the vote in 2012 and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of vote in last year's U.S. Senate race. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office show that House district 5 contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters.

The special election in House district 5 will still be important, though. Whoever wins the Republican district nominating convention could be set up for a long legislative career. UPDATE: The GOP special nominating convention will take place on the evening of September 28 at the Farm Bureau Building in Le Mars.

Soderberg's retirement will allow newly-selected Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer to choose someone new to chair the House Appropriations Committee. I expect the 2016 Iowa legislative session to be largely unproductive, not only because it's an election year but also because Branstad's funding vetoes this summer destroyed any incentive toward bipartisan cooperation. That said, lawmakers cannot adjourn without passing a budget for the next fiscal year, so the Appropriations Committee chair will be an important player at the Capitol next year.

Notably, four key Republicans who were involved in this year's budget negotiations (including Soderberg) have quit their jobs since Branstad exercised his veto power. The governor's communications director Jimmy Centers announced last week that he too will soon leave the administration for an unspecified private-sector job.

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A deep dive into Iowa Caucus History

by: fladem

Sun Sep 13, 2015 at 10:47:13 AM CDT

(Although I've been following Iowa politics for a long time, some of these patterns were news to me. Looking forward to the rest of this series. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

This is part of a series on primary polling history. Over the next three weeks we will do a detailed look at the history of the Iowa Caucuses from 1980 to now. This piece will start with an initial look at the data. I should note that I firmly believe that most writing about politics is rather ignorant. Few political writers about primary politics know very much about the history of the events they are covering. As I hope to show, if you look at the history, you can find lessons that you can apply to our understanding of the 2016 Caucuses. This table compares the winner in Iowa with their average in polling in the two weeks before and after September 1st.

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Iowans split as House votes on Iran nuclear deal (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 11, 2015 at 15:05:57 PM CDT

Today the four Iowans in the U.S. House split along party lines on several measures related to the multi-lateral agreement negotiated this summer to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

A resolution to approve the deal failed by 162 votes to 269 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 162 members (all Democrats) supporting the Iran agreement. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted no, as did all but one House Republican and 25 Democrats. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that "despite the defections, enough Democrats voted to support the deal to deprive the GOP of a veto-proof majority." Keeping the no votes below a two-thirds majority was mostly a symbolic victory; President Barack Obama appears unlikely to need to exercise his veto power, now that Democrats have blocked a disapproval resolution in the U.S. Senate.

A few minutes after the first Iran-related vote today, House members approved by 247 votes to 186 a resolution "To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran." Only two House Democrats joined Republicans to support that measure. Again, the Iowans split along party lines.

Yesterday, on a straight party-line vote of 245 to 186, House members approved a resolution "Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015." Marcos explained that the measure asserts "Obama didn't provide Congress with all documents pertaining to the Iran deal in violation of the congressional review law passed earlier this year." In May, Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King all supported the bill that cleared the way for this week's Congressional votes on Iran. Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa political reaction to the deal's announcement in July here.

UPDATE: Added comments on the Iran deal from the Iowa Congressional delegation and the Republican Party of Iowa, which promised to make this vote a campaign issue against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

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Iowa AG Miller to GOP lawmakers: No authority to investigate fetal tissue transfers

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 04, 2015 at 17:59:34 PM CDT

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has informed 56 Republican state legislators that his office has neither "jurisdiction over transfers of fetal tissue" nor the "authority to investigate or demand information about the transfer of fetal tissue." In a letter dated today, Miller noted that "Iowa does not have any state laws governing the transfer of fetal tissue," which means that only offices of U.S. Attorneys are able to enforce federal laws in this area.

Last month, the GOP lawmakers asked Miller's office "to investigate current and planned abortion operations within Iowa to ensure compliance with the law." Their letter set out ten detailed questions regarding the disposal, donation, or possible sale of body parts following abortions. Miller directed the legislators to contact U.S. attorneys' offices in Iowa if they "have reliable information that federal laws relating to fetal tissue are being violated."

I enclose below the August 24 letter from Iowa House and Senate Republicans, today's written response from Miller, and a two-page letter Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided to the Attorney General's Office regarding the lawmakers' query. Planned Parenthood's response noted that the organization "does not now, and has not in the past, participated in" any fetal tissue donation programs but adheres to "rigorous standards of care" and "compliance with all applicable laws and regulations" in every area of its work, including abortion services.

Many Iowa Republicans will be furious, not only because Miller will not act on their unfounded suspicions, but also because the Attorney General's Office responded to their query in what appears to be a textbook late-afternoon, pre-holiday-weekend news dump.

Also worth noting: Iowa House Speaker-select Linda Upmeyer and incoming House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow did not sign the August 24 letter to Miller, but House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl, incoming Majority Whip Joel Fry, and Assistant Majority Leaders Zach Nunn, Jarad Klein, and Walt Rogers did. Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix did not sign the letter, but Minority Whip Jack Whitver and Assistant Minority Leaders Rick Bertrand, Randy Fenestra, Charles Schneider, and David Johnson did.

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Key Iowa Republican budget negotiators eager to leave Capitol

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 26, 2015 at 17:00:00 PM CDT

In the span of a few weeks, four Republicans who were heavily involved in shaping this year's state budget have made sure they won't be at the negotiating table during the Iowa legislature's 2016 session. First, Matt Hinch quit as Governor Terry Branstad's chief of staff. The weekly Business Record reported yesterday that Hinch "joined the Des Moines office of government affairs and lobbying group Cornerstone Government Affairs as a vice president."

Days after the Branstad administration announced Hinch's departure, Kraig Paulsen resigned as Iowa House speaker. He plans to be a back-bencher next year and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016. It's not yet clear whether he will remain an attorney for the Cedar Rapids-based trucking firm CRST International, or whether he will seek a different private-sector job.

Last Friday, Branstad's office announced that Jake Ketzner was leaving as the governor's legislative liaison. I've enclosed the full statement on the staff changes after the jump. Yesterday, the marketing and lobbying firm LS2group revealed that Ketzner will be their newest vice president, specializing in "campaign management, government affairs, and public affairs."

Finally, House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg told journalists yesterday that he will resign to take a leadership role in the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, a powerful interest group.

I can't blame these Republicans for not wanting to spin their wheels at the Capitol during next year's legislative session. Election years are not conducive to bipartisan deal-making in the best of times. Last month, possibly influenced by Hinch and Ketzner, Branstad poisoned the well with vetoes that erased most of the House GOP's budget concessions to Senate Democrats. Although Paulsen insisted he had negotiated in good faith, he and his top lieutenant Linda Upmeyer (the incoming House speaker) didn't lift a finger to override the governor's vetoes.

Newly-elected House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow told a conservative audience in Urbandale today, "I'm not as skeptical about next year as maybe some are. I think there's a lot of good things that we can get done [in the legislature]," Rod Boshart reported.

That makes one of us. Seeing Hinch, Paulsen, Ketzner, and Soderberg vote with their feet reinforces my belief that next year's legislative session will mostly be a waste of many people's time and energy.

P.S.- Some grade A political framing was on display in the governor's press release enclosed below: "During the 2015 session, Ketzner worked across party lines to secure bipartisan support for historic infrastructure investment that an economic development study called a prerequisite for economic development in Iowa." In other words, he helped persuade lawmakers to increase the gasoline tax. Ketzner's official bio at LS2goup likewise speaks of his work "across party lines to secure bipartisan support for significant transportation and broadband infrastructure investments."

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Linda Upmeyer will be first woman Iowa House speaker; Chris Hagenow to be majority leader

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 20, 2015 at 18:59:16 PM CDT

Iowa House Republicans chose Linda Upmeyer to replace Kraig Paulsen as House speaker today. First elected to the legislature in 2002, Upmeyer has served as majority leader since 2011. House leaders did not release details on today's vote. State Representative Josh Byrnes was the only other candidate to seek the speaker's post, despite rumors that one or more other Republicans were sounding out colleagues about the race. All credit to Byrnes for putting himself out there against the party establishment favorite. That takes guts.

O.Kay Henderson posted highlights from Upmeyer's remarks to reporters today, as well as the audio clip. Not known for showing a lot of emotions in public, Upmeyer's voice broke as she talked about her late father, Del Stromer, who served as House speaker during the 1980s. She doesn't sound inclined to change much about how Paulsen was running the lower chamber, but joked, "I use more words than Speaker Paulsen, and I will try to curb that temptation going forward."

Chris Hagenow will move up from majority whip to replace Upmeyer as majority leader, and Joel Fry will move from an assistant majority leader position to majority whip. Matt Windschitl will continue to serve as House speaker pro-tem. Hagenow told reporters that no one else sought the majority leader post. Bobby Kaufmann ran for majority whip.

Henderson quoted Byrnes as saying,

"I feel like I'm in that movie, Groundhog Day....It's the same leadership in the House, the same leadership in the Senate. It's the same governor and the parameters just feel like they're just set and we can't move from them. We need new ideas. We need new energy, we need to be able to accept other people's concepts and infuse those in and I hope that, you know, she can do that."

According to Byrnes, rank-and-file legislators are upset with missed deadlines, as the legislature has failed to set state school aid levels on time and met for weeks past its scheduled adjournment date. Byrnes also said Iowans are soured by the hyper-partisanship they see from statehouse politicians. [...]

Upmeyer told reporters she'll address the concerns Brynes raised.

"We never should be comfortable with where we're at," Upmeyer said. "We always should be striving for innovation and to do things smarter and better and so I absolutely applaud that."

No need for a lot of innovation here, Madam Speaker: just accept reasonable compromises instead of refusing to budge from your initial negotiating position, and approve school funding bills on time, as happened for a decade and a half before Iowa House Republicans decided to stop following state law a few years back.

After the jump I've enclosed official comments on the House leadership election from the Republican Party of Iowa and House Minority Leader Mark Smith, as well as a Facebook status update Byrnes posted after today's vote.

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Throwback Thursday: Curt Hanson's crucial Iowa House special election victory

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 13, 2015 at 21:00:00 PM CDT

Today is State Representative Curt Hanson's birthday. Six years ago at this time, he was in the thick of the first state legislative campaign following the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage equality. Hanson's win in a highly competitive House district was probably the second most important special election in recent Iowa history (after Liz Mathis's victory in November 2011, which protected the Democratic Iowa Senate majority).

Kicking off an occasional "throwback Thursday" series, Bleeding Heartland takes a look at Hanson's first campaign for the Iowa House.

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Update on the race to replace Kraig Paulsen as Iowa House speaker

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 12, 2015 at 09:57:12 AM CDT

Iowa House Republicans will meet in Des Moines on August 20 to choose a new speaker, Erin Murphy reported earlier this week. Outgoing Speaker Kraig Paulsen surprised mtost Iowa politics watchers when he announced last week that he will step down from leadership before next year's legislative session and will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2016.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer and State Representative Josh Byrnes quickly let it be known that they will run for speaker. The rumor mill expects another House Republican to seek the position, but to my knowledge, no one has gone public with that ambition. Several House members have not responded to my request for comment, including Representative Peter Cownie, who was rumored to be interested in the speaker's post two years ago. I've heard rumblings about Representative Guy Vander Linden, but speaking by phone on August 10, he told me, "I don't intend to run for speaker. I don't feel prepared to run for speaker." He said he undecided on whom he will support to replace Paulsen but inclined to back Upmeyer, because "continuity is important."

House Majority Whip Chris Hagenow is supporting Upmeyer for speaker and formally announced on Monday that he will seek the post of majority leader. Current House Speaker Pro-Tem Matt Windschitl is also backing Upmeyer and does not appear interested in moving up to majority leader.

According to the Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich, over the weekend WHO talk radio host Simon Conway referred to State Representative Walt Rogers (currently one of four assistant majority leaders) as "quite probably the next majority leader" of the Iowa House. However, Rogers told me he will not run for majority leader, because he's "having fun and working hard" with Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. Rogers was an early Santorum endorser during the last election cycle, and Santorum in turn supported Rogers' short-lived Congressional campaign.

Rogers declined to comment when I asked whether he will support Upmeyer for speaker.

As for whether Vander Linden might run for majority leader, he told me, "I haven't given it any serious consideration," adding, "I would give a politician's 'Never say never.'"

Governor Terry Branstad is wisely staying out of the speaker's race.

Spin your own scenarios in this thread, and please contact me if you know of another House Republican actively seeking the post of speaker or majority leader.  

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Joni Ernst confirms she won't endorse before the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 08:40:04 AM CDT

The first Republican presidential debates did not affect U.S. Senator Joni Ernst's plans to remain neutral before the 2016 Iowa caucuses.  
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Preview of the coming Iowa House Republican leadership battle

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 06, 2015 at 10:02:24 AM CDT

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2016 and will step down from leadership before next year's legislative session. His surprise move kicks off what will be the most competitive leadership election within the House Republican caucus since colleagues elected Paulsen minority leader shortly after the 2008 general election.

Linda Upmeyer, a seven-term incumbent who has served as majority leader since 2011, immediately confirmed that she will run for speaker. She would be the first woman to lead the Iowa House, and to my knowledge, the first child of an Iowa legislative leader to follow a parent in that role. Upmeyer's father Del Stromer was House speaker for part of the 1980s.

She won't get Paulsen's job without a fight, though.  

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Where are they now? Mariannette Miller-Meeks edition

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 03, 2015 at 11:24:45 AM CDT

GOP county leaders in the second Congressional district elected Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee on August 1, the Iowa GOP announced in a press release. An Army veteran and ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks was the Republican challenger to Representative Dave Loebsack in IA-02 three times: in 2008, 2010, and 2014. She also served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health in Governor Terry Branstad's administration from January 2011 to January 2014, when she stepped down in preparation for her third Congressional campaign. She currently lives in Ottumwa.

Although Miller-Meeks was not able to unseat Loebsack, she left a lasting mark on Iowa politics in at least one way. I am convinced that her coattails in the Ottumwa area pulled Mark Chelgren over the line in his 2010 Iowa Senate race against Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman. Chelgren won that election by ten votes in a district considered so heavily Democratic that neither party spent any serious money there. Don't get me started on how Chelgren managed to win re-election last November. Democrats should have been able to get Iowa Senate district 41 back. Chelgren may be the GOP nominee against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

The Iowa GOP just opened a field office in Ottumwa, signaling that Republicans view that part of southeast Iowa as fertile ground. Thanks in part to a strong history of organized labor at area factories, Ottumwa has traditionally supported Democratic candidates. In fact, Wapello County was one of just five Iowa counties to vote for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election as well as one of just four counties to vote for Bonnie Campbell in her 1994 gubernatorial race against Terry Branstad.

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State Senator Jason Schultz has a strange view of treachery

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jul 11, 2015 at 09:56:23 AM CDT

State Senator Jason Schultz weighed in last night on the controversy over Confederate flag displays: "I'm now convinced the whole Confederate flag issue is simply about progressives teaching the establishment R's how to jump through hoops."

During our ensuing dialogue, Schultz revealed the level of nuanced thinking and temperate choice of words one would expect from a Ted Cruz endorser.  

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Republicans, this is how to talk about the Confederate flag

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 07, 2015 at 07:05:00 AM CDT

While too many Republicans of national stature "tread carefully" in commenting on displays of the Confederate flag, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann provided a clinic this week on how to talk about the issue.
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New Q-poll finds smaller lead for Scott Walker in Iowa caucus field

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 01, 2015 at 13:10:00 PM CDT

Quinnipiac's latest poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers shows a smaller lead for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and a half-dozen candidates fighting for second place in a field of sixteen candidate. Click here for the polling memo and here for more on the methodology and polling sample. The statistical margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent for this live interviewer survey of 666 likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers between June 20 and 29. Walker still has a statistically significant lead with 18 percent of respondents naming him as their first choice. The rest of the field is clustered at 10 percent or lower, but there is a semblance of a top tier, comprised of Ben Carson and Donald Trump (10 percent each), Ted Cruz and Rand Paul (9 percent each), Jeb Bush (8 percent), and Marco Rubio (7 percent).

All other candidates are at 5 percent or below: Mike Huckabee and "don't know/didn't answer" (5 percent each), Rick Perry and Rick Santorum (4 percent each), Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal (3 percent each), John Kasich (2 percent), and Lindsey Graham and Chris Christie (1 percent each). George Pataki did not register even 1 percent support.

A poll like this exposes the absurdity of television networks restricting debates to the top ten candidates in a field of sixteen (fourteen declared already, with Walker and Kasich planning to announce later this month). The GOP presidential field is what you might call a "right royal mess."  

After the jump I've posted highlights on the favorability numbers from the latest Q-poll. Any comments about the Republican caucuses are welcome in this thread. Last Friday, Jennifer Jacobs published an interesting Des Moines Register story about possible changes to the Iowa GOP's rules for "binding" its delegates to presidential candidates before the 2016 Republican National Convention.

P.S.- Retail politics are important in Iowa, but Christie's poor favorability ratings in this poll and others show that coming here often (nine times in the last three years alone, plus several visits in 2011 and 2012) won't necessarily endear a candidate to Iowa Republicans.  

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Iowa reaction to Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jun 27, 2015 at 06:42:23 AM CDT

In a 5-4 decision announced Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states and ordered state governments to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in the country. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges, joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer. Each of the dissenting justices wrote a separate opinion; all are available in this pdf file after Kennedy's opinion. Amy Howe explained the majority opinion in "Plain English" while Lyle Denniston posted a brief analysis.

Follow me after the jump for Iowa reaction on both sides of the marriage debate. Two years ago, Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa politicians' comments on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Windsor, which struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriages but left state bans intact.

As a group, Iowa Democratic politicians are more enthusiastic and less cautious about welcoming marriage equality now than was the case in 2009, when the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state's Defense of Marriage Act. Many Iowa Republicans called for elected officials to overturn the 2009 Varnum v Brien ruling by passing a constitutional amendment, but reacting to the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, few in the Iowa GOP sounded hopeful that there was any chance to reinstate state bans on same-sex marriage.

I will update this post as needed.  

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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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Congress passes "fast-track" trade promotion authority: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 25, 2015 at 07:14:58 AM CDT

Less than two weeks after an embarrassing defeat for President Barack Obama's trade agenda, a trade promotion authority bill is headed to the president's desk. The trade promotion authority legislation, often called "fast-track" or TPA,

will allow the White House to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The Senate will not be able to filibuster them, and lawmakers will not have the power to amend them.

The expedited process, which lasts until 2018 and can be extended until 2021, greatly increases Obama's chances of concluding negotiations on the TPP [12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership], which is a top goal of the president's.

Follow me after the jump for details on how the Iowans in Congress voted on the latest trade-related bills. Bleeding Heartland covered the Iowans' legislative maneuvering in late May and early June here. For background and context, I highly recommend David Dayen's article for The American Prospect magazine, which covers the modern history of trade negotiations and how fast-track emerged some 40 years ago. Dayen also explores "the political transfer of power, away from Congress and into a potent but relatively obscure executive branch office: the United States Trade Representative (USTR)."

I also enclose below some Iowa reaction to the latest Congressional voting on trade. Representative Steve King (IA-04) highlighted one angle I hadn't heard before, claiming victory because new language allegedly will prevent the president from negotiating provisions on climate change or immigration in trade agreements. UPDATE: Those provisions may not stay in the related bill King is counting on. More on that below.

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- Iowa Watchdog.org
- On Brief: Iowa's Appellate Blog
- On the Campaign Trail with Ed Tibbetts
- Politically Speaking
- Price of Politics, etc.
- O.Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa
Iowa Democrats
- Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
- Iowa Democratic Party
- Iowa House Democrats
- Iowa Senate Democrats

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