IA-01, IA-03: Polls find Blum and Young below 50 percent

Republican Representatives Rod Blum and David Young have approval ratings below 40 percent and re-elect numbers below 50 percent, according to new surveys from Public Policy Polling.

The Patriot Majority Fund, a super-PAC that largely opposes GOP incumbents, commissioned polls in nine House districts around the country, including the two in Iowa that Democrats will target next year.

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Rod Blum votes against hurricane, wildfire relief funding

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) was among 69 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted against a disaster relief bill today. Every Democrat present including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) supported the legislation, as did most of the GOP caucus, including Representatives David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Niv Elis and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The package includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund — including $4.9 billion for a disaster relief loan account — $16 billion to address national flood insurance program debt and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts. It also provided $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.

Congress will likely vote on more disaster relief funds later this fall, as costs pile up due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires in California and Oregon. According to Congressional reporter Jamie Dupree, “Florida lawmakers have already requested $27 billion in specific funding for the state; officials from Texas have asked for almost $19 billion.”

Blum’s district includes Cedar Rapids, which received substantial federal assistance after being devastated by flooding in 2008. At this writing, he has not explained his reasons for opposing today’s bill. Some Republicans were upset about the process, which did not allow for any votes on budget cuts to offset the new spending. Others wanted additional funding for the National Flood Insurance Program to come with strings attached. I will update this post as needed with comments from Blum, if any appear on his official website or his social media feeds.

All four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for a Hurricane Harvey aid package last month.

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Blum, Young, King back 20-week abortion ban with few exceptions

Republican U.S. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted today for a bill to make it a federal crime “for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.” The so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act contains only two exceptions: for termination “(1) that is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or (2) when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.” Women or girls must have reported the crime to law enforcement in order to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks.

All but two House Republicans supported the bill (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed it, as did all but three of his fellow House Democrats. Loebsack has never backed any version of this legislation. King tries to ban abortion at every opportunity and has co-sponsored more extreme “heartbeat” or “personhood” bills. He spoke on the House floor in support of the current legislation last night.

Iowa’s new 20-week abortion ban has fewer exceptions than the bill House Republicans just approved. Women pregnant due to rape or incest have no recourse. The only allowable terminations after 20 weeks may occur if “the pregnant woman has a condition which the physician deems a medical emergency,” or if “the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child.”

Neither the proposed federal ban nor Iowa’s law permit abortions after 20 weeks due to severe fetal anomalies, including those incompatible with life outside the womb. Iowa women are now required to continue pregnancies, potentially risking their own health or fertility, even if a 20-week ultrasound reveals a non-survivable medical problem. The same path would be forced on women nationwide if the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act became law. However, that won’t happen anytime soon, as the bill lacks enough support to clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

I enclose below a statement from King and will update as needed, if Iowa’s other U.S. House members comment on today’s vote.

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Jeff Danielson rules out Congressional campaign in IA-01

State Senator Jeff Danielson has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s first Congressional district, he told KWWL’s Ron Steele on September 21.

“I’ll remain focused on the Cedar Valley and support the candidates and causes I care about.”

Danielson is a professional firefighter for the City of Cedar Falls. He says that important obligation and commitment, in addition to his obligations as a current Iowa State Senator, make very difficult, if not impossible, to run a successful campaign for U.S. Congress at this time.

Danielson had been considering the race for several months, with a view to pushing Iowa Democrats to ditch “canned messages” and “purity tests” in favor of issues with broad appeal: “keeping people safe,” “being fiscally responsible,” investing in education, providing access to health care, and “focusing on an economy that rewards work.”

Four Democrats are running against two-term Representative Rod Blum: State Representative Abby Finkenauer, Thomas Heckroth, George Ramsey III, and Courtney Rowe. I’m not aware of any others exploring this race. So far Finkenauer and Heckroth have more endorsements than the others in the field.

After the jump I’ve enclosed audio clips from recent stump speeches by Heckroth, Ramsey, Rowe, and a surrogate for Finkenauer. Bleeding Heartland previously posted the audio and transcript of Finkenauer’s remarks to a Democratic audience in Des Moines.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 159,852 active registered Democrats, 142,665 Republicans, and 188,949 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office. The district will be a top target for Democrats in Iowa and nationally. Last November, Blum ran about 5 points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried IA-01 with 48.7 percent of the vote, compared to 45.2 percent for Hillary Clinton.

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All four Iowans approve Harvey aid, debt ceiling deal in House

The U.S. House easily approved legislation on Friday to keep the Federal Emergency Management Agency from running out of Hurricane Harvey disaster relief money over the weekend. The same bill included a short-term debt ceiling hike and language to fund the federal government through December 8.

I was surprised to see all four of Iowa’s House members in the yes column (roll call). Both of our senators had voted against the Harvey aid package in the upper chamber. I expected Representative Steve King (IA-04) and possibly Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) to follow suit.

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Grassley, Ernst vote against Harvey aid/debt ceiling package

With only a few days left before the Federal Emergency Management Agency runs out of disaster relief funds, the U.S. Senate approved $15.25 billion in funding for those affected by Hurricane Harvey today. Eighty senators voted for the legislation, even though GOP lawmakers were said to be “furious” when President Donald Trump agreed yesterday to a Democratic proposal linking Harvey aid to a short-term debt ceiling hike and language to fund the federal government through December 8.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the seventeen Republican senators who voted against today’s bill (roll call). In a statement enclosed in full below, Ernst said she supported a “clean” Hurricane Harvey relief bill, like the one U.S. House members approved on September 6 by 419 votes to 3. All four Iowans supported that bill: Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02).

Carefully avoiding direct criticism of Trump, Ernst added in her statement, “Unfortunately a final deal was cut and while it includes initial relief funding, it also raises the debt limit and kicks the can down the road once again on our overall government spending levels. This is not the right way to legislate, and quite frankly, it is exactly what the American people are sick and tired of.”

I assume Grassley opposed the Harvey aid bill for similar reasons. At this writing, his office has not released a statement; I will update this post as needed with any public comment.

The Senate bill goes back to the House, where Democratic support is assured but a large number of Republicans will bolt over the debt ceiling hike and short-term spending resolution. I’ll be surprised if King or Blum votes for the bill; Young could go either way. UPDATE: All four Iowans voted for the revised bill in the U.S. House. I posted statements from King and Blum here.

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