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A Steve King triumph over DREAMers and how the Iowans voted on Defense Authorization bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 19, 2015 at 13:23:44 PM CDT

Catching up on Iowa Congressional news, on May 15 the U.S. House approved a $612 billion Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2016 by 269 votes to 151 (roll call). Not surprisingly, all four Iowans supported the bill on final passage. Votes on several amendments were the most interesting part of the process, as was the case during House debate of the first two spending bills to clear the lower chamber this year.

Follow me after the jump for details on last week's defense-related votes by Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Notably, King and his allies removed language that would have allowed military service by some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. The House approved some other amendments by voice vote; click here for brief descriptions.

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Iowans must vote to protect net neutrality, and to keep it working for everyone

by: desmoinesiowa15

Mon May 18, 2015 at 09:29:52 AM CDT

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on federal or state policies. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The FCC's landmark decision in February to protect net neutrality was widely heralded as a victory for most Internet users. The Federal Communications Commission even committed to making America's broadband networks fast, fair, and open. However, as more information became available, it became clear that the FCC's decision to reclassify the Internet as a depression-era utility would make it anything but fair.

Title II was developed for old communication devices, like telephone networks in the 1930s. This regulatory classification is more than 80 years old, and was never intended for the fast-moving, innovative world of Internet and app infrastructure. Title II will re-classify the Internet as a utility, and increase state and local fees for Internet access. Infrastructure issues, when left to Congress to update, become a part of a slower-moving, bureaucratic structure. Upgrades to the Internet happen much faster than upgrades to roads and bridges; it does not make sense to regulate them the same way.

Instead of making sure that the Internet remained open for all, the FCC's decision ensured that low-income and underserved Americans will pay higher rates, making the Internet less accessible. Dozens of groups have spoken out about how Title II regulation will be harmful for small businesses, particularly those owned by minority groups. When chambers of commerce and unions agree that something is harmful, it is generally a good sign that it is time to re-think.

Representatives Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King should follow the lead of the diverse coalition that has spoken out against Title II regulation - including the Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Urban League, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and dozens more - to draft bipartisan legislation that protects all Internet users from high fees and keeps the Internet truly open.  

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All Iowans vote for bill allowing Congress to review Iran deal

by: desmoinesdem

Sun May 17, 2015 at 20:21:26 PM CDT

All four Iowans voted for a bill that overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House on May 14, which would allow Congress to weigh in on any deal the Obama administration may strike with Iran. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The carefully negotiated bill, which President Obama is expected to sign, gives Congress the power to approve or disapprove of a nuclear agreement with Iran during a 30-day period when economic sanctions could not be lifted.

Should the House and Senate vote to disapprove of the deal, and then override a likely Obama veto, the administration would be barred from waiving some economic sanctions on Iran as part of international accord.

I haven't seen any comments on this bill from Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) or from Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03, or Steve King (IA-03). Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted for the bill on the Senate floor earlier this month. Critics including Senator Ted Cruz have said the compromise would allow an Iran deal to go forward even if only a minority in Congress agree.

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The disconnect in the Des Moines Register's coverage of Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 15, 2015 at 11:54:36 AM CDT

An important Congressional vote went unreported in the Des Moines Register this week, despite two lead editorials in the paper within the past month urging Congress to act on that very issue.

The disconnect provides a good example of a problem I flagged in this post about the Des Moines Register's political coverage. Ever since the Register closed its Washington bureau, Iowans are less likely to know what our representatives in Congress are doing on our behalf.  

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Steve King, Rod Blum vote against Patriot Act revision for opposite reasons

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 16:03:03 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved the USA Freedom Act, which revises some provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act and extends them until December 2019. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1 without Congressional action. The main changes in the bill concern bulk data collection and domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Groups advocating for civil liberties are seeking more changes to the USA Freedom Act following a recent federal appeals court ruling, which "determined that the NSA's telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001."

Proponents argue that the USA Freedom Act strikes a reasonable compromise between security and privacy. The overwhelming majority of House members agreed, as the bill passed by 338 votes to 88 (roll call). Representative David Young (IA-03) was among the 196 Republicans who voted yes, while Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 142 Democratic supporters.

Forty-one Democrats and 47 Republicans, including Iowa's Steve King (IA-04) and Rod Blum (IA-01), opposed the USA Freedom Act. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King warned that the bill amounted to "data disarmament," with too little weight given to "the investigative value" of information gathered through bulk collection techniques, or how to protect "the vital data we need for national security."

In a Twitter post yesterday, Blum said he voted against the bill "because it continues the violation of the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens." In a Facebook post, Blum added, " Protecting your constitutional right to privacy is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to stand strong for the Fourth Amendment in Congress. I think America can be secure WITHOUT sacrificing our civil liberties." I am seeking a more extensive comment and will update this post if I receive one. Blum has long aligned himself with the Iowa GOP's "Liberty" wing.

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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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House seeks to block EPA water rule: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 12, 2015 at 22:59:22 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today by 261 votes to 155 to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the "waters of the United States" rule. The EPA released the final version of that rule last month. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other agribusiness groups have long bashed the proposed regulation as a threat to farmers. Last summer, Kyle Rabin wrote a clear and concise "debunking" of the Farm Bureau's deceptive hyperbole.

Today's votes to pass the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act" came from 24 Democrats and all the Republicans present, including Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Meanwhile, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted with most of the House Democrats against the bill--a pleasant surprise, since he voted for last year's version of the same legislation.

I've been accused of being hostile to Loebsack, in part because Bleeding Heartland has called attention to a few bad votes for Republican bills seeking to rein in the EPA. Some of those bills were merely silly, while others posed a real threat to public health if enacted. I appreciate that since last November's election, Loebsack has voted against several House GOP efforts to target the EPA. More like that, please.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I haven't seen any official statement from the Iowans in Congress about today's vote, but I'll update this post as needed.

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House passes first 2016 spending bills: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 05, 2015 at 06:53:47 AM CDT

Catching up on Congressional news, last week the U.S. House approved a joint Republican framework setting top-line numbers for the federal budget as well as the first two spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Along the way, House members considered amendments covering a wide range of issues, from regulations on incandescent light bulbs to "prevailing wage" rules for federal construction projects to medical marijuana advice for Americans who receive their health care through the Veterans Administration.

Follow me after the jump for details on the latest votes by Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

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IA-01, IA-03: Poll finds so-so ratings for Rod Blum and David Young

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 01, 2015 at 16:35:00 PM CDT

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) as "one-term wonders." Public Policy Polling's latest Iowa survey will encourage them:

Rod Blum has a 31/31 favorability rating in his district, with a 38% plurality having no opinion one way or the other. David Young is worse off with a 24/35 favorability rating and 41% having no opinion about him. Both of these folks' fate will probably be up to which way the political winds are blowing next fall.

Full results from the PPP poll are here. The margin of error for subsamples in a single Congressional district will be larger than for the full sample of 1,219 Iowa voters surveyed between April 23 and 26.

Three Democrats have entered the race in IA-01: Monica Vernon, Ravi Patel, and Gary Kroeger. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar is considering a challenge here too. The district is the most Democratic-leaning in Iowa. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, IA-01 contains 154,096 active registered Democrats, 133,458 Republicans, and 189,153 no-party voters.

No Democrats have announced candidacies in IA-03. Several are considering the race, including State Senator Matt McCoy. Former State Senate candidate Desmund Adams has been touring the district talking with Democratic activists over the last couple of months. At this writing, IA-03 contains 150,975 active registered Democrats, 162,894 Republicans, and 160,498 no-party voters.

Any comments about Iowa's Congressional races are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Banking, taxes, and cybersecurity

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 21:51:24 PM CDT

It's been a while since Bleeding Heartland checked in on how Iowa's four U.S. House members have been voting. After no House roll calls for more than two weeks, the second half of April has been unusually busy.

Follow me after the jump to see how Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted on more than a dozen bills that reached the House floor this month, covering a range of economic, fiscal, and security issues.

Incidentally, I'm always intrigued by how rarely members of Congress comment on bills they vote for or against on the House floor. For instance, I didn't see any press release from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King about any of the legislation discussed below. Instead, members of Congress often play up bills they've introduced which have zero chance of becoming law. This month Blum has repeatedly publicized work on lost causes such as co-founding a caucus backing term limits for members of Congress, and introducing a lifetime ban on lobbying by members of Congress. Like Steve King's attempted end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality, Blum's posturing has more to do with image-making than legislating.  

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Iowa Congressional 1Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 18:21:19 PM CDT

First-quarter financial reports are up for all U.S. House candidates at the Federal Election Commission's notoriously user-unfriendly website.

The big news came from IA-01, where a newcomer to campaigning pulled in one of the biggest single-quarter hauls by a non-incumbent in Iowa history. To my knowledge, the only Iowa challenger who has raised more for a U.S. House race in one quarter than Ravi Patel just did was former First Lady Christie Vilsack in her 2012 marquee race against Representative Steve King. I believe that King is the only Iowa incumbent who has raised more than half a million dollars for a U.S. House race in one quarter; he did it twice during that re-election campaign against Vilsack in a redrawn IA-04.

Follow me after the jump for highlights on fundraising in all four Iowa districts. Bonus points if you can guess which former Iowa Congressional candidate is still carrying debt from two campaigns ago.  

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The Phony Estate Tax Farm Confiscation Ploy

by: daveswen

Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 18:24:11 PM CDT

(Thanks for this post on an important and timely issue. Iowa's three Republicans in the U.S. House all voted for the estate tax repeal that passed today; Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack voted against it. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Dave Swenson

Senator John Thune, from my home state of South Dakota, has a degree in business and an MBA.  He knows little of tax math, incidence, or outcomes from what I can tell. Like many mouthpieces on many topics, he doesn't let facts get in the way of a heartfelt story, though.  And the best story the GOP has spun over the last decade or so is the tale of woe and intrigue associated with the dreaded federal estate tax, which they've disingenuously rebranded as the "death tax."

Thune co-sponsored the just-passed House bill to eliminate the federal estate tax and at that time said:

For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one's life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned. Currently more than 70 percent of family businesses do not survive to the second generation, and 90 percent of family businesses do not survive to the third generation.

Without citing one example, Thune intimated that the federal estate tax was destroying or would destroy businesses and was terrorizing grieving survivors.

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Ted Cruz's first tv ad, plus highlights from his latest Iowa trip

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 06, 2015 at 14:07:21 PM CDT

On Easter Sunday, Senator Ted Cruz became the first presidential candidate this cycle to run a television commercial. The video and transcript are after the jump, along with highlights from Cruz's events in Sioux City, Dubuque, Durango, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines on April 1 and 2.

Nothing I've seen or heard from Cruz lately changes my view that he will crash and burn in the Iowa caucuses.

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Iowa voting and reaction to the House Republican budget

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 13:32:15 PM CDT

The U.S. House approved a draft budget yesterday with some drama along the way. Details on the important budget provisions and how the Iowans voted are after the jump.
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House still going after EPA's science advisors: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 19:20:00 PM CDT

Today the U.S. House passed a new version of a bill to change who can serve on the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisory board. As happened last year, the Iowans split along party lines.
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Steve King discusses "retribution" from House leaders over immigration stance

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 07:26:03 AM CDT

According to Representative Steve King (R, IA-04), he and other House conservatives are facing "retribution" from House Speaker John Boehner after they insisted that any Homeland Security funding bill must include language against President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.
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Pass the popcorn: Rod Blum's former aide to run as an independent in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 09, 2015 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

James Lynch has a scoop tonight: a former field director for Representative Rod Blum's 2014 campaign plans to run as an independent candidate in Iowa's first district next year.
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Iowa Republicans vote against Amtrak funding

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 07:00:02 AM CST

The U.S. House approved $8 billion in funding for Amtrak passenger rail on Wednesday. Keith Lang and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

Since its inception in 1971, Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects.

The measure would authorize about $982 million per year for the company's national network and another $470 million annually for its popular Northeast U.S. routes.

The bill, which would expire in 2019, sets another $300 million per year for construction on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company's inspector general.

All 184 Democrats present voted yes, including Iowa's Dave Loebsack (IA-02). But as the 316 to 101 roll call shows, more than 100 House conservatives voted against the Amtrak bill, including Iowa's Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

Young should know better. Currently, the only Amtrak routes across Iowa travel through the southern part of the state, calling at stations in the third and second Congressional districts. (King used to represent some of those southwest Iowa counties, but he hasn't since the last redistricting.) Anyway, Young has lived on the east coast long enough to understand how important passenger rail is for the U.S. transportation system.  

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Homeland Security funded through fiscal year: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 03, 2015 at 19:52:53 PM CST

A bill funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through September 30 is headed to the White House, stripped of language intended to undermine President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. Details on the voting and procedural maneuvers are after the jump, along with reaction from some of the Iowans in Congress.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) has repeatedly posted this image of a fish trap to convey his view that House Republicans played into a scheme to legalize what he calls Obama's "amnesty." In his press release, he asserted that "The White House is having a fish fry."

Steve King fish trap photo B_M6IkVW0AAfupp.jpg-large_zpsgg05jdou.jpeg

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Iowa reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 03, 2015 at 12:45:47 PM CST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to members of Congress this morning, covering the expected ground about U.S.-Israeli relations and the danger posed by negotiating with Iran. Yesterday President Barack Obama defended his administration's policies and suggested that events had disproved Netanyahu's warnings about the 2013 agreement designed to halt Iran's nuclear program. Obama isn't planning to meet with Netanyahu during this Washington trip because of the Israeli election happening later this month.

At least 50 Congressional Democrats skipped today's speech, mainly because Republicans had invited Netanyahu to speak without working through White House channels. Furthermore, many people feel it's inappropriate for the U.S. Congress to appear to support one political party leader two weeks before an Israeli election. Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference yesterday, Netanyahu disingenuously said, "The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue." Which of course has been the entirely predictable outcome of this episode. For that reason, this Jewish blogger is among the roughly half of Americans who disapprove of Republican leaders inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress.

All of the Iowa Republicans in Congress attended today's speech. I've enclosed some of their comments below and will update this post as needed. UPDATE: Representative Steve King (IA-04) put his reaction on YouTube.

Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) watched the speech from his office. I enclose below his statement, explaining his views on U.S.-Israeli relations and his reasons for staying away from the "spectacle." I support his position 100 percent. The Republican Party of Iowa accused Loebsack of insulting "America's ally" by not hearing the prime minister's thoughts. But Loebsack did listen to what Netanyahu had to say--from an appropriate distance. Incidentally, House Minority Nancy Pelosi commented that while listening to Netanyahu this morning, she was "saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States."

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