Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

capital1.JPG

The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the "omnibus" budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the "tax extenders" and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named "On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566"), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders "opposed the tax package" but "did not whip their members against it." Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He "has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October," Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

Continue Reading...

Loebsack, King cross party lines on bill halting refugees from Syria, Iraq

capital1.JPG

Today the U.S. House approved a bill that "would prevent any refugees from Syria or Iraq from entering the United States until the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence certify that none of them are dangerous," Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among 47 Democrats who joined 242 Republicans to pass the bill (roll call). Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) also voted yes, but Representative Steve King (IA-04) was one of only two House Republicans to vote no. His office has not yet responded to my request for comment or issued a statement explaining that vote.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which according to White House would "’provide no meaningful additional security for the American people’ and impose new certification requirements that effectively end the refugee program" to assist those fleeing Syria or Iraq. Marcos reported, "GOP aides noted that because of absences, the vote would have met the two-thirds requirement to override a presidential veto if that vote had been held Thursday. Still, there’s no guarantee that Democrats would vote to override the president if the bill comes back to the floor." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sounds confident the bill will not clear the upper chamber.

I will update this post as needed with comments from Iowa’s Congressional delegation or other reaction to today’s vote. The epic fail of the day goes to the Republican Party of Iowa for sending out the press release enclosed below. In that statement, Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann "applauds King, Blum, Young on Refugee Vote." Check the roll call first, guys.

Note: most of the perpetrators of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris were French citizens.

UPDATE: King’s office provided the following statement: "I voted against the American SAFE Act because it fails to restore Congress’ Article 1 authority over admissions of migrants to the United States. How can we trust this Obama Administration who will not utter the words ‘radical Islamic jihad’ to accurately screen Syrian and Iraqi refugees as required in this bill? For that reason, I submitted an amendment to rules, which was ultimately not adopted, that would create international safe zones for refugees in their homeland. The safety and security of the American people is paramount. I respect the House trying to find a solution but I do not believe this was the right or strong enough one."

The Iowa GOP issued a corrected press release, blaming "incorrect press reports of a unanimous Republican vote" for their error. Always wait for the official roll call. I’ve added the new statement below, along with a screen shot of a tweet (since deleted) from state party co-chair Cody Hoefert thanking all three Iowa Republicans "for voting to strengthen our national security."

SECOND UPDATE: Blum’s statement is below as well.

THIRD UPDATE: Added Loebsack’s official comment on the vote. When I asked whether Loebsack would vote to override a presidential veto of this bill, his communications director Joe Hand responded, "Will have to see what happens in the Senate before we talk overriding any possible veto."

FOURTH UPDATE: I’ve seen lots of progressives criticize Loebsack’s vote on social media, and some of that feedback must be getting through. On Friday afternoon, Loebsack for Congress sent out an e-mail blast with the subject line "my vote." Scroll to the end of this post to read the full text. Most of the commenters on Loebsack’s Facebook status update about this vote criticized his stance. As of November 21, neither Loebsack nor his staff had responded publicly to the comments.

Continue Reading...

Iowa reaction to Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline

President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he is rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Earlier in the week, TransCanada had asked the Obama administration to suspend its review of the pipeline project, presumably hoping to "delay the review process in hopes that a more sympathetic Republican administration will move into the White House in 2017."

I enclose below the full text of the president’s statement on Keystone and reaction from members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation. U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst sharply criticized the decision, as did Republican Representative David Young (IA-03). I have not seen any comment from GOP Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) or Steve King (IA-04) but will update this post as needed. King is currently visiting the Middle East. Both he and Blum have consistently backed the Keystone XL project.

Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) refrained from criticizing the president’s decision, instead calling on politicians to "focus on the issues that are important to the American people." Loebsack’s voting record on Keystone XL is mixed, but earlier this year he twice supported a bill that would have authorized the pipeline. (Obama vetoed that legislation.)

All three Democratic presidential candidates welcomed the news about Keystone’s demise, while most of the GOP field denounced Obama’s decision.

The USA Today reported that Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement, "The critical factor in my determination was this: moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change." Kerry’s outstanding lifelong voting record on environmental issues was a major reason I became a precinct captain for him before the 2004 Iowa caucuses and continued to volunteer during that year’s general election campaign. I wish he had acted much sooner on Keystone XL, but better late than never. He doesn’t seem to have entirely convinced the president, though; speaking yesterday, Obama asserted that the pipeline would not have been "the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed" by climate hawks.

I enclose at the end of this post a joint statement from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition, which called on "all the other pipelines proposed from the Tar Sands of Canada and the Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota" to be rejected on the same grounds as Keystone XL. Energy analyst Aurelien Windenberger published an interesting commentary this week questioning whether the Dakota Access (Bakken) Pipeline even makes "economic sense" anymore for parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Click here for more background on the Bakken proposal.

UPDATE: Added below a statement from Pat Murphy, one of the Democratic candidates in Iowa’s first Congressional district.

Continue Reading...

Paul Ryan elected House speaker: How the Iowans voted

Yesterday House Republicans elected 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan as House speaker to replace the retiring John Boehner. Ryan received 236 votes to 184 for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and nine for Daniel Webster, the candidate endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus and some other conservatives. For some time after the implosion of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s aspirations to be speaker, Ryan had insisted he would prefer to remain Ways and Means Committee chair, but last week he succumbed to an intense recruiting effortby senior Republicans.

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for Ryan yesterday on the House floor. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted for Pelosi. I enclose below comments from Blum and King after the speaker election. Both had voted for Webster rather than to re-elect Boehner in January. Since Boehner announced his retirement last month, King has been one of the loudest advocates for Webster as speaker. Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus, so I suspect he was among the 43 Republicans who voted for Webster in a closed caucus meeting on October 28. However, neither Blum nor his staff responded to my request for comment on whether he supported Webster or Ryan, who received 200 votes in that closed meeting.

I did not see any public comment from Young in recent weeks on whom he would support for speaker. I assume he backed Ryan in closed session as well as on the House floor, but his staff did not disclose that information when I sought comment.

Webster said on October 28 that

his campaign for speaker had been a game-changer, one that had all but forced Ryan and others to promise an overhaul of the culture of the GOP Conference.

“I think we have changed the debate, changed the discussion away from a power-based system, away from a top-down approach, to one that works,” Webster said. “And if we can do that, we’ll be successful. If we don’t, we won’t be.”

King’s case for Webster slammed the "abuse of power plays by leadership" under Boehner and the "schism created by leadership’s persistent and relentless punishment of principled Members who vote their conscience." Ryan promised yesterday to unify the GOP caucus, suggesting he will not seek revenge on those who opposed him as speaker, like Boehner did earlier this year.

Continue Reading...

Steve King still pushing Daniel Webster for House speaker, not sold on Paul Ryan

Representative Steve King (IA-04) is still urging fellow Republicans to elect Representative Daniel Webster of Florida as speaker, even as House Ways & Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has gained momentum as a consensus choice to lead the chamber. King voted for Webster in the January election for House speaker and affirmed that he favored Webster when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was favored to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner.

After repeatedly saying he was not interested in the job, Ryan announced on Tuesday he would run for speaker if certain conditions were met. King advocated for Webster in a guest piece in yesterday’s Conservative Review. I’ve posted excerpts after the jump. Although King didn’t mention Ryan by name, he alluded to him when asserting, "We cannot have a reluctant Speaker. Webster is confident and sees the Speaker’s job as an opportunity to serve with purpose and principle."

Appearing on MSNBC’s "Hardball" program yesterday, King suggested it would be a "bridge too far" to change House rules so members could not pass a motion to remove the chair, as Ryan has demanded. He predicted that condition would be a big problem for many Democrats as well as for some Republicans. King also noted that while Ryan had promised not to bring any major immigration reform bill to the House floor while President Barack Obama is still in office, he is still concerned that a bill including a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants could come up in the next Congress. King and his allies successfully pressured Boehner not to bring the Senate’s 2013 bipartisan immigration reform up for a vote in 2013 or 2014.

King leads the House Republican group called the Conservative Opportunity Society. Another right-wing faction called the House Freedom Caucus includes first-term Republican Rod Blum (IA-01). I haven’t seen any recent public comment from Blum on his preference for speaker. Like King, he voted for Webster rather than for Boehner in January. The majority of House Freedom Caucus members voted last night to support Paul Ryan for speaker. According to Drew Desilver’s close look at the House Freedom Caucus for the Pew Research Center’s "Fact Tank," its members are more conservative and have less seniority than the average House Republican.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Continue Reading...
View More...