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How the Iowans voted on the short-term funding that prevented a government shutdown

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 19:00:00 PM CDT

On the last day of the 2015 fiscal year, both houses of Congress passed a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 11. Conservative Republicans failed to add language ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The White House has said President Barack Obama would veto any continuing resolution that did not include funds for the health care provider.

Senate leaders gave up this fight for the time being after a September 24 cloture motion on a short-term spending bill that excluded Planned Parenthood fell well short of the 60 votes needed. Iowa's Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported that bill, but it only gained 47 votes in favor.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate advanced a short-term continuing resolution without special language about Planned Parenthood. This time the cloture motion passed easily by 77 votes to 19 (roll call), with Grassley and Ernst both voting in favor. Today's vote on the continuing resolution itself was 78 to 20; again Grassley and Ernst supported the measure. In a conference call with Iowa reporters today, Grassley indicated that a partial government shutdown, as occurred in October 2013, would be costly: "We shouldn't do anything silly to add to the bad fiscal situation the federal government is in."

Of the senators who are running for president, Bernie Sanders voted for the continuing resolution. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted against it; Cruz fought a lonely battle yesterday "to add a one-year ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood" to the resolution. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham were on the campaign trail and missed these important votes.

Later this afternoon, the House approved the continuing resolution by 277 to 151 (roll call). All the Democrats present voted yes, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Iowa's House Republicans split with David Young (IA-03) joining 90 other GOP members in support of the resolution. Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 151 no votes. Earlier today, King had submitted four amendments to the continuing resolution in the House Rules Committee. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King said his amendments would "restore Article I authority" to Congress by defunding Planned Parenthood, the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama's executive orders on deferring deportations for some immigrants brought to this country illegally, and the 2010 health care reform law. However, King did not manage to get his amendments added to the continuing resolution.

I've enclosed political reaction to today's votes after the jump and will update this post as needed with comments from other members of the Iowa delegation. Blum is spinning his vote against the resolution as a stand against "back room deals" and kicking the can down the road, as opposed to a vote for shutting down the government.

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No comment from most Iowans in Congress as EPA expands farm worker pesticide protections

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 15:30:16 PM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of "stronger protections for the nation's two million agricultural workers and their families working on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses. These revisions to the 1992 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard will afford farmworkers similar health protections that are already afforded to workers in other industries." Under the old rules, exposure to chemicals incurred "an estimated $10 million to $15 million in annual health costs" among farm workers The new rules do not cover "persons working with livestock" and exempt "farm owners and their immediate family with an expanded definition of family." I've enclosed after the jump a fact sheet summarizing key changes, a short summary of the public health case for the rule, and a graphic that shows the old and new rules side by side. Click here for the EPA's press release on the changes and here for a more detailed five-page chart.

Fruit and vegetable farming isn't a huge industry in Iowa like it is in states with longer growing seasons, such as California or Florida. Still, Iowa farms have been producing more of what some call "specialty crops" as more consumers here seek out local food. Moreover, expanding fruit and vegetable production in Iowa has potential to create jobs and increase local incomes, according to this 2010 paper by Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson. So I sought comment from the Iowans in Congress on the new regulations. At this writing, I have not heard back from the offices of House Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), David Young (IA-03), or Steve King (IA-04). I also haven't received a comment from Senator Chuck Grassley. Senator Joni Ernst's communications director sent the following:

Senator Ernst believes that once again the Obama Administration is overstepping its bounds, expanding onerous regulations that fail to consider the full impact on stakeholders, like Iowa's agriculture industry. The EPA is continuing to act as an unchecked federal agency, adding burdensome new rules and costs. In addition, the EPA completely ignores the safety progress that has already been made under existing guidelines for our youth.

Iowa politicians tend to be hostile to any new regulation affecting farms or other agricultural facilities. Most of Iowa's federal representatives opposed the U.S. Department of Labor's efforts in 2011 to update protections for children on working farms. Every Iowan in Congress except for Senator Tom Harkin welcomed the department's decision to withdraw that rule in April 2012.

A spokesperson for Governor Terry Branstad said they don't have a reaction to the new farm worker safety rule yet but will evaluate it "in its entirety." I can't think of a time Branstad supported any regulation of farming practices, so I assume he will not be favorably disposed toward the new EPA rule. But if he's serious about making Iowa the "healthiest state," reducing unnecessary exposure to pesticides would be a worthy goal to embrace.

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Iowa reaction to John Boehner stepping down as House speaker (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 26, 2015 at 17:44:02 PM CDT

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner surprised most politics-watchers yesterday by announcing that he will step down as speaker and retire from Congress at the end of October. As Jennifer Steinhauer noted in the New York Times, Boehner's move "lessened the chance of a government shutdown because Republican leaders joined by Democrats will almost certainly go forward with a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating [after September 30], and the speaker will no longer be deterred by those who threatened his job." Boehner was a frequent target of right-wing talk radio hosts and occasionally at war with the most conservative House Republicans, who now insist on ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Remarkably, a nationwide NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday indicated that 72 percent of Republican primary voters are dissatisfied with the work of Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 44 percent are "very" dissatisfied, and 36 percent want Boehner and McConnell replaced immediately.

I sought comment from all four Iowans in the House on Boehner stepping down and asked the three Republicans whether they would be inclined to support House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker. McCarthy has been the front-runner for the job ever since Boehner's heir apparent, Eric Cantor, lost his GOP primary last year. Other credible candidates for House speaker include Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Jeb Hensarling; Josh Israel profiled them and McCarthy for Think Progress.

I enclose below statements provided by Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and well as reaction from Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). None of the Republicans directly answered the question about supporting McCarthy. Neither King nor Blum mentioned that they were among the 25 House Republicans who did not vote to re-elect Boehner as speaker in January.

I also included former Representative Tom Latham's reaction to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's comments about Boehner stepping down. Rubio drew cheers from the audience at the Values Voters Summit in Washington when he told them the news, adding, "The time has come to turn the page. The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country." Latham and Boehner were smoking buddies and close friends during Latham's 20-year career in the House.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from King's guest column, "What We Need in Our Next Speaker of the House," published in the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal on September 28. This sentence is ironic: "And legislation should pass or fail on the floor of Congress on its merits instead of being blocked in backroom deals because of personal politics." Surely King knows that the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform bill would have passed the House easily (mostly with Democratic votes), had it ever been brought to the floor. King and his allies successfully pressured Boehner not to put that bill to a vote of the full House.

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Iowans split three ways on bill to freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 18, 2015 at 21:59:27 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today to "block Planned Parenthood's federal funding for one year, giving time for Congress to fully investigate claims of wrongdoing by the provider," Sarah Ferris reported for The Hill. State investigations over the past two months have produced no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in relation to fetal tissue donations, despite sensational claims made by conservatives who cite misleadingly-edited undercover videos released this summer. The "Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015" passed on a mostly party-line vote of 241 to 187 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), who has a pro-choice voting record, opposed the Planned Parenthood bill, as did all but two House Democrats. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) were among the 239 Republicans who supported the bill. Just three Republicans voted against it.

Steve King (IA-04) was the only House member to vote "present." After the jump I've enclosed a statement King released earlier this week, explaining why, in his view, the bill "does not defund Planned Parenthood" and even "takes a huge step backwards from the initial conservative position that Planned Parenthood should not be receiving federal funds." The Hill quoted King as saying today, "I expect much stronger language than this in the CR coming up in the next few weeks. Innocent, unborn babies deserve more than just a show vote."

Shortly after the vote on Planned Parenthood funding, House members approved the so-called "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," by 248 votes to 177 (roll call). Blum, Young, and King all voted for that bill, while Loebsack opposed it. Emily Crockett reported for RH Reality Check that this bill

would add criminal penalties to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002. It seems to be inspired by [the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress] CMP's allegations that Planned Parenthood may have violated the law either by performing "partial-birth" abortions or by allowing infants to die after being born alive following an abortion. These allegations have not been substantiated.

On September 17, Iowa's representatives split along party lines on a bill Republicans and business lobby groups said would reduce "frivolous" lawsuits by imposing monetary sanctions on plaintiffs' attorneys deemed to have filed baseless claims. Blum, Young, and King all backed that legislation, which would amend Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; Loebsack voted against it. The White House has threatened to veto that bill.

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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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How Iowa law enforcement agencies justified armored vehicle requests

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 11:12:46 AM CDT

Marking the one-year anniversary of the militarized police crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Molly Redden wrote a fascinating piece for Mother Jones on how local law enforcement agencies have justified their requests for "combat style weapons, trucks, and armor." Redden noted that in public, representatives of police organizations have cited "hostage situations, rescue missions, and heavy-duty shootouts" to justify the need for military equipment. But when requesting mine resistant ambush protected vehicles through official channels, "very few sheriffs and police chiefs cite active shooters, hostage situations, or terrorism [...]." More often, they indicated plans to use the equipment for SWAT raids, drug enforcement, or serving warrants.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Redden obtained more than 450 local requests for armored vehicles submitted during the past two years. She uploaded the documents here. Ten requests came from Iowa law enforcement agencies (the Iowa State Patrol, five county sheriff's offices, and four city police departments). Those may not represent all the Iowa requests for armored vehicles; Redden told me she requested only applications with something written in the "special considerations" section of the form. However, I would assume that most police forces seeking to obtain heavy equipment from the military would explain why they need the armored vehicle and/or how they plan to use it.

After the jump I've enclosed links to the Iowa documents obtained by Redden and quoted each police or sheriff's department explanation for requesting an armored vehicle.

President Barack Obama implemented new federal rules in May to prohibit transfers of certain military equipment to local police: namely, "tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and large-caliber weapons and ammunition." All of the Iowa documents Redden obtained requested armored vehicles on wheels (though the Scott County Sheriff's Office indicated it would also accept tracked vehicles).

On a related note, in June the U.S. House rejected amendments to next year's military budget that would have "prohibited funds from being used for the Pentagon to transfer flash-bang grenades and armored vehicles to local police departments." Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) voted for the unsuccessful attempt to stop transfers of armored vehicles to police departments. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republican Steve King (IA-04) voted against that amendment.

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House bill targets "sanctuary cities": How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 28, 2015 at 09:42:14 AM CDT

Late last week the U.S. House voted to "withhold certain federal law enforcement grants to cities that have policies designed to shelter illegal immigrants from deportation," Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. The "Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act" passed on a mostly party-line vote of 241 to 179 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted for the bill, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it.

King is a leading voice for House conservatives on immigration policy, some of whom wanted the sanctuary cities bill to go further. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy helped bring the Iowa Republican on board last week by promising "to bring enforcement immigration legislation to the floor after August," Seung Min Kim reported for Politico, citing an e-mail King sent to fellow House members. What a change from two years ago, when King was battling to stop House leaders from bringing up the Senate-approved comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley has introduced legislation in the upper chamber to target "sanctuary cities" and presided over a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to discuss his bill on July 21, Mike Lillis reported. "There is no good rationale for noncooperation between the feds and state and local law enforcement," according to Grassley. A White House statement indicated that President Barack Obama would veto such legislation and urged Congress to give the president's 2014 executive orders on immigration "a chance to work," because they prioritize deporting "the worst offenders"--in contrast to the "coercive approach" of the House bill on sanctuary cities.

The term "sanctuary city" has no precise legal definition. No Iowa municipality has embraced the label, although Iowa City officials have considered the issue in recent years. Some maps of sanctuary cities do not show any existing in Iowa, while others list many Iowa locations where county officials will not honor a detainer from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement without a judge's approval. Incidentally, that policy doesn't just apply to a few liberal enclaves; county jails in rural, conservative areas like Ida, Monona, Greene, and Franklin counties have adopted the same approach.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in June, King offered an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill that "prohibits Justice Department grants from being used for policies employed by sanctuary cities to shelter illegal immigrants." King's amendment passed with support from fellow Iowa Republicans Blum and Young; Loebsack and every other Democrat present voted against it.

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All Iowans in House vote to block any mandatory labeling of GMOs in food

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jul 27, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Late last week the U.S. House approved a bill to make it harder for consumers to find out whether food products contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Although national polls have repeatedly shown that more than 90 percent of Americans believe foods with GMOs should be labeled, all four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for the misleadingly named "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015." Opponents nicknamed the bill the "Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act" or the "Monsanto Protection Act."

Follow me after the jump for details on the bill's provisions, how the Iowans voted on amendments House Democrats offered during the floor debate, and a list of Iowa organizations and business that urged members of Congress either to support or reject this bill.  

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Iowa Congressional 2Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 16, 2015 at 15:17:30 PM CDT

Congressional candidates were required to file quarterly campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by the end of July 15. Three of Iowa's four incumbents have no declared challengers yet, so most of the action was in the first district, where Monica Vernon's filing removed all doubt that Washington, DC Democrats want her to face first-term Representative Rod Blum, considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress.

Follow me after the jump for details from all of the Iowans' FEC reports. As happened during the first quarter, one would-be Congressional challenger out-raised each of the four incumbents for the reporting period.

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Iowa political reaction to the U.S. deal with Iran

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 14, 2015 at 20:07:02 PM CDT

President Barack Obama announced this morning a deal aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Negotiators representing the U.S., Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, China and Germany were involved in the talks. You can read the full text of the deal on the Washington Post's website. The United Nations will drop its sanctions on Iran, provided that country complies with the agreement, including granting international inspectors access to all nuclear sites.

Most of Iowa's Congressional delegation has already reacted to the news. I've enclosed their comments below and will update this post as needed. This spring, all four Iowans in the U.S. House and both of our U.S. senators voted for a bill Obama signed into law, which allows Congress to vote to approve or disapprove any deal with Iran. Speaking to reporters today, the president said, "I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement," adding "that he would veto any legislation that tried to prevent its implementation." Opponents of the deal would need to override that veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress; so far, just under half the U.S. senate appears inclined to block the deal.  

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Confederate flag controversy returns to U.S. House: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 09, 2015 at 22:28:39 PM CDT

The continuing controversy over displaying Confederate flags has divided the Republican caucus in the U.S. House, forcing leaders to cancel a vote planned for today on a bill to fund the Interior Department for the 2016 fiscal year.

For the second time in less than a month, Iowa's four U.S. representatives split along party lines over how to handle Democratic efforts to remove all Confederate flag images from the Capitol.

Follow me after the jump for background and details.

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Pat Murphy would enter this IA-01 primary as the underdog (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 30, 2015 at 14:15:05 PM CDT

Both Iowa Starting Line and Roll Call are reporting today that former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy is likely to run for Congress again in the first district. Murphy won the five-way 2014 primary with just under 37 percent of the vote.

Other Iowa Democrats have lost their first U.S. House race before winning a seat in Congress on the second try, including legends Neal Smith, Tom Harkin, and Berkley Bedell. Still, I am skeptical that northeast Iowa Democrats will want to give Murphy another shot at beating Republican Rod Blum.

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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Defense, trade, Medicare, chemicals, and power plants

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 29, 2015 at 23:51:38 PM CDT

While Congress is on recess until after July 4, it's time to catch up on an unusually busy few weeks in June for U.S. House members. Bleeding Heartland previously covered how Iowa's representatives voted on the failed and successful attempts to pass trade promotion authority, repeal of country-of-origin labeling requirements for meat, a bill to eliminate a tax on medical devices, and the Intelligence Authorization Act.

Follow me after the jump to find out how Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted on the latest defense budget bill, more trade-related policies, and legislation dealing with chemical safety, Medicare cost controls, and regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Iowa's representatives also voted last week on a matter relating to the growing national controversy over Confederate symbols.

Something you don't see often when looking through Congressional roll calls: three of Iowa's four House members crossed party lines more than once during the floor debate on the defense budget.

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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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Ravi Patel exits IA-01 Democratic primary

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 24, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Ravi Patel announced yesterday that he is no longer running for Congress in Iowa's first district. I enclose below the full statement from the Patel for Iowa website, which says "it has become clear" that a "tough battle for the Democratic primary nomination" would "have diverted energy and resources that should be directed at changing the course of our nation." Patel added that he will be able to have more influence on "public life in Northeast Iowa [...] through the private sector." He will offer full refunds to campaign contributors, who donated more than half a million dollars during the first quarter of this year alone.

I have no idea what prompted Patel's decision. The stated reason makes no sense, as "it has been clear" for months that Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon was the front-runner in this primary, and that she would also raise significant campaign funds. Factor in Patel's youth and the fact that he has mostly lived in IA-02, and there was never any reason for him to think winning the primary wouldn't be a "tough battle." Backers were allegedly getting ready to launch a super-PAC to support his candidacy, a move without precedent in this state.

Before we assume Patel still has a future in Iowa politics, let's wait to learn more about why he quit this race. Pat Rynard cited a Dubuque Telegraph-Herald article from a few days ago, which showed that Patel "didn't have much of an answer on some basic issues Congress would face, including the Renewable Fuel Standard and dealing with ISIS." I find it hard to imagine any highly-motivated candidate would drop out because of some bad press nearly a year before the primary. Rynard speculated that Patel made a "mature" decision to end a candidacy with a low probability of success. If so, good for him, but count me among the cynics waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Patel's exit leaves Vernon and Gary Kroeger as the only declared Democratic candidates in IA-01. Vernon will be heavily favored. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third behind Pat Murphy and Vernon in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, is considering a repeat bid here. Winning the Democratic nomination would be an uphill battle for Dandekar for various reasons.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. IA-01 Representative Rod Blum is widely considered to be one of the most vulnerable Congressional incumbents.

UPDATE: Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) endorsed Vernon on June 24: "She has proven that she is committed to improving the lives of Iowa's working families. I look forward to having her in Congress along side of me, fighting for the people of Iowa." Loebsack lived and worked in Linn County (now the most populous in IA-01) for most of his adult life and represented the county in Congress from 2007 through 2012, when it was part of the second district.

Added below statements from Vernon and Kroeger on Patel dropping out.

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How the Iowans voted on the latest House repeal of an "Obamacare" tax

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 22, 2015 at 19:14:06 PM CDT

Late last week, the U.S. House voted yet again to repeal a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, which was part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Effective lobbying by medical device manufacturers has repeatedly put this legislation on the GOP Congressional agenda, even though those manufacturers profited from other provisions in the health care reform law.

Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 46 House Democrats who joined all the Republicans present to pass the "Protect Medical Innovation Act" by 280 votes to 140 (roll call). Loebsack voted for a similar bill in 2012 but not for repealing the same tax in September 2013, when Republicans were trying to defund Obamacare as a condition for approving further federal government spending. In recent years, Loebsack has voted against most of the several dozen House bills to repeal all or part of health care reform, with a few notable exceptions.

Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) supported the latest medical device tax repeal bill. Fellow Republican Steve King (IA-04) missed the June 18 vote, but we know where he stands. He has supported any and all efforts to scrap Obamacare, including rescinding this very tax in 2012 and 2013.

Next time the Iowans in the U.S. House claim to care about the deficit, remember that this bill would reduce federal revenues by nearly $25 billion over ten years without any spending cuts to offset the lost revenue.

The White House has warned that President Barack Obama would veto this bill, since it grants "a large tax break to profitable corporations" that are gaining new customers, thanks to health care reform. Bleeding Heartland user Jon Muller explained the economics here and exposed the "pure rent-seeking behavior" of an industry that "wants the fruits of ACA, but does not wish to put anything back on the table to make it happen."

Another must-read on this issue is Matt Gardner's post for the Tax Justice blog from earlier this year: "Big Medical Device Makers Decry Device Tax While Dodging Billions by Offshoring Profits." I've enclosed excerpts below but encourage you to click through to read Gardner's whole piece.

UPDATE: Added below David Young's press release about this vote.

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House approves Intelligence Authorization Act: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 17, 2015 at 16:40:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved by by 247 votes to 178 (roll call) a bill to fund sixteen intelligence agencies for the next fiscal year. Most of the Republican caucus supported the bill, including Iowa's Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Although 31 Democrats also voted yes, most of the House Democrats, including Dave Loebsack (IA-02), opposed the bill, as did 25 Republicans. None of the Iowans issued a statement explaining their votes, but I will update this post if I see any relevant comments.

Because the Intelligence Authorization Act is mostly classified, it's not clear how much money House members appropriated to run the various intelligence agencies. The Obama administration requested $53.9 billion for the National Intelligence Program for fiscal year 2016, while the Pentagon requested $17.9 billion for the Military Intelligence Program. According to The Hill's Julian Hattem, House Democrats who opposed the bill "objected to provisions limiting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, budget maneuvers they called 'gimmicks' and other provisions." Congressional Republicans had promised to abide by the "sequester" spending limits for next year's budget, but the intelligence funding bill gets around those limits by using money from the Pentagon's Overseas Contingency Operations fund. The same maneuver added spending to the 2016 Defense Authorization bill House members approved last month.

Before the vote on final passage of the intelligence funding bill, House members considered an amendment to remove language that would "ban the government from transferring detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. or a recognized 'combat zone.'" Loebsack and most of the House Democrats voted for that amendment, but Iowa's three Republicans helped to vote it down (roll call). The White House contends that restricting transfers from Guantanamo would "violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles" and "could interfere with the President's authority to protect sensitive national security information."

Some House members in both parties warned last week that a "one-sentence provision tucked into an annual intelligence policy bill [...] could hobble the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board," but leaders did not allow floor votes on several amendments that sought to reverse the restrictions on the privacy board.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Bonus points if you can provide a good reason the federal government runs so many separate intelligence and security agencies.

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House rebuffs Obama on trade bill; how the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jun 12, 2015 at 16:15:02 PM CDT

A rare visit to Capitol Hill by President Barack Obama wasn't enough to bring House Democrats on board with a crucial companion bill for "fast-track" trade authority today. The House rejected the trade adjustment assistance bill by a surprisingly wide margin of 126 to 302 (roll call). A few minutes later, House members narrowly approved the other part of the trade legislation by 219 votes to 211 (roll call). However, the fast-track package can't reach Obama's desk without both parts clearing the lower chamber. David Dayen explained the significance of the votes well at Salon. I've enclosed excerpts from his analysis below, but you should click through to read the whole piece. Dayen lays out several possible next steps for Congressional leaders who support giving Obama fast-track authority, with a view to approving a new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Splitting the trade bill into two House votes was a gambit to let the trade adjustment assistance language pass with primarily Democratic support, while the fast-track language passed with primarily Republican support. As Dayen describes, the concept has worked for decades but didn't pan out today. Only 40 Democrats fell in line with Obama, while 144 voted against the trade adjustment assistance provisions, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Representative Steve King (IA-04) also voted against the trade adjustment assistance language, even as Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) were among the 86 Republicans to vote yes. All three Iowa Republicans were in the yes column on the subsequent vote for the fast-track language. Loebsack again voted no, as did all but 28 House Democrats. After the jump I've enclosed Blum's statement; I will update as needed with comments from the other Iowans in Congress.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the fast-track trade bill the U.S. Senate approved last month by 62 votes to 37 (roll call). They have consistently supported trade promotion authority for the president. In that Senate vote, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham voted for fast-track, while Rand Paul voted no, along with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

In case you missed it, I highly recommend State Representative Chuck Isenhart's warning that the "Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement could threaten our ability to enforce state laws." Conservatives as well as progressives have reason to fear that outcome.

UPDATE: Added below more Iowa political reaction to these votes. House leaders will bring the trade adjustment assistance legislation up for another vote next week.

SECOND UPDATE: Added a statement from Monica Vernon, one of Blum's three Democratic challengers in IA-01. She opposes fast-track legislation.

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Iowans split on party lines as House repeals country-of-origin labeling for meat

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 11, 2015 at 10:00:33 AM CDT

The U.S. House voted yesterday to "repeal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken products." The U.S. Department of Agriculture has required meat products to list the country of origin since 2009 and most recently revised the rule in 2013.

Multiple polls have found that some 90 percent of American adults support country-of-origin labeling for meat. U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld the rule. However, last October the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of a challenge brought by Canada and Mexico, saying the U.S. labeling rule unfairly discriminates against imported meat products. Last month the WTO rejected the U.S. appeal of that decision, though advocates of the rule say reduced consumer demand for imported meat stemmed from the "Great Recession" beginning in 2008, rather than from labeling requirements. A broad coalition of farm, labor, environmental, and consumer groups have long opposed any change to country-of-origin labeling. This week, 282 organizations urged the U.S. House not to repeal the rule, while more than 100 business and industry groups advocated repeal to avoid retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

Yesterday House members easily passed the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 by 300 votes to 131 (roll call). Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 234 GOP representatives to support the bill. The Democratic caucus was more divided, with 66 House members in favor of repealing the labeling rule and 121 opposed. Iowa's Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters this week, "I'm still a supporter of COOL (country-of-origin labeling) but I also recognize the rule of law and international trade has to be respected and I want to respect it." Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill, "The White House has not issued a Statement of Administration Policy regarding the [country-of-origin labeling] legislation."

UPDATE: King spoke on the House floor in favor of this bill; you can view his remarks here. Among other things, he said the current labeling rule penalizes Iowa farmers raising pigs that were born in Canadian farrowing operations.

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IA-01: Rod Blum a top target for EMILY's List

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 01, 2015 at 15:24:02 PM CDT

First-term Representative Rod Blum will be one of the top targets next year for EMILY's List, the political action committee supporting pro-choice Democratic women announced today.  
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