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U.S. begins bombing ISIS targets in Syria

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 22, 2014 at 22:08:30 PM CDT

This evening a U.S. military official confirmed to news media that airstrikes have begun in a part of Syria largely controlled by the terrorist group ISIS. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are partnering with the U.S. on the airstrikes, though the extent of their cooperation is not yet clear. The Obama administration had previously announced plans for "targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria -- including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure," according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. I don't understand the endgame, since the Obama administration has vowed not to cooperate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last week, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate authorized the Obama administration to train and arm "moderates" in Syria and Iraq. But in a pathetic act of cowardice, Congress approved the president's request as part of a huge must-pass spending bill, rather than as a stand-alone measure. Why should anyone respect the separation of powers if most members of Congress would rather punt than have a serious debate over whether to get the country more directly involved in a civil war? Especially since no one seems to know who these moderate Syrian rebels are. For all we know, we will be inadvertently training the next group of terrorists in the region, or supplying weapons that will fall into the wrong hands.

The funding bill containing the military authorization language passed the U.S. House by 273 votes to 156, with bipartisan support and opposition. Iowans Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 114 House Democrats who voted yes. Representatives Tom Lataham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) were among the 159 Republicans who voted yes.

When the same bill passed the U.S. Senate by 78 votes to 22, Senators Chuck Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D) both voted yes. Rebecca Shabad and Ramsey Cox reported for The Hill, "The 'no' votes included several senators seen as prospective presidential candidates in both parties, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)." Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is considering a presidential campaign, voted no. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, considered a possible presidential candidate if Hillary Clinton does not run, voted yes.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I will update this post as needed with Iowa political reaction to the airstrikes in Syria. But don't hold your breath: last week I did not see any official statement from anyone in Iowa's Congressional delegation about having voted to authorize weapons and training for rebel groups in Syria and Iraq.

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IA-03: Latham and Grassley endorse David Young in NRCC's latest ad

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 09:46:27 AM CDT

Here's something you don't see every day: an independent expenditure for a positive commercial. Yesterday the National Republican Congressional Committee started running a tv ad in Iowa's third district featuring retiring Representative Tom Latham and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley endorsing David Young.

I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial from the NRCC or its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that didn't attempt to tear down the other candidate. Unfortunately for Democrats, this spot is probably way more effective than the NRCC's previous effort to undermine Staci Appel. Latham won the newly configured IA-03 by a comfortable margin in 2012, carrying every county but Polk, and losing Polk by a much smaller margin than Mitt Romney did. Grassley has carried all of the sixteen counties in IA-03 in every U.S. Senate election that I can remember.

After the jump I've posted the video and annotated transcript of the new commercial. Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa reaction to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 13:23:00 PM CDT

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today in favor of Hobby Lobby's right not to provide contraception coverage in its health insurance package for employees. The Obama administration had already exempted some religious organizations and non-profits from the contraception mandate in the 2010 health care reform law. Today's ruling allows a closely-held (that is, not publicly traded) for-profit corporation to claim religious rights that override the rights of their employees, not to mention the need to comply with federal law.

You can read the full text of the Supreme Court's decision and dissents here (pdf). Justice Samuel Alito wrote the "opinion of the court," joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy. Strangely, Kennedy wrote a separate concurring opinion "in an attempt to show how narrow the Court's decision was." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer dissented. The majority ruling appears to apply only to contraception health care services, as opposed to other medical procedures to which some groups have religious objections (such as vaccinations or blood transfusions). Still, Ginsburg seems on track when she warns that the court "has ventured into a minefield" by "approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation." Analyzing today's decision, Lyle Denniston predicted more litigation will be needed to clarify the limits of the new religious exemption for closely-held companies.

For background on the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case (formerly Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius) and the implications of the ruling, check the Alliance for Justice and SCOTUSblog websites.

After the jump I've posted comments from various Iowa elected officials and candidates. So far Iowa Democrats have been quicker to respond to the Hobby Lobby ruling than Republicans. I will update this post as needed.

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IA-03: First-quarter fundraising news roundup (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 17:24:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission. Because so many candidates are running for Congress this year in Iowa, I'm breaking up these posts by district rather than doing a statewide roundup.

After the jump I've enclosed highlights from the first-quarter fundraising and spending reports of Democratic candidate Staci Appel and the six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the third district. Spoiler alert: one of the GOP candidates is still carrying debt from a previous campaign.

I also added details below on what retiring ten-term Representative Tom Latham is doing with his substantial war chest.

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Iowans split as House approves clean debt ceiling hike

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 06:58:53 AM CST

I didn't see this coming: House Republican leaders brought a bill to the floor that raised the debt ceiling without attaching strings such as domestic discretionary spending cuts or entitlement reforms. Speaker John Boehner broke the news to fellow House Republicans yesterday morning; later he explained to reporters that whip counts showed leaders could not get 218 GOP votes behind plans to tie a debt ceiling hike to a bill on reversing a military pension cut by extending the "sequester" to certain Medicare payments.

Republicans wrangled big concessions out of the 2011 showdown over raising the debt ceiling. That deal led to the "sequester" spending cuts that went into effect in early 2013; some of them will stay in place for years. However, the foot-dragging over raising the debt ceiling during last October's partial shutdown of the federal government didn't advance the GOP policy agenda and hurt the party in Congressional polling, at least temporarily. President Barack Obama had vowed not to negotiate over future debt ceiling increases.

Yesterday afternoon, House leaders attached language raising the country's debt ceiling to an unrelated bill, which passed by 221 votes to 201. Iowans Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 193 Democrats who joined just 28 Republicans to pass the bill. Steve King (IA-04) was among the 199 GOP House members who opposed it. His official comment is after the jump.

The roll call shows that Iowa Republican Tom Latham (IA-03) was not present for the debt ceiling vote. He also missed earlier votes yesterday. I have not seen any explanation for his absence but will update this post with details, as available. UPDATE: Latham's Congressional office sent out a press release on February 11 about a Medicare bill he supports. I've posted it after the jump. The statement was datelined "Des Moines," but it's not clear whether Latham himself was in Iowa rather than Washington.

Conservative groups are already calling for Boehner to be replaced. It will be interesting to see whether he can remain speaker throughout this election year.  

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Iowans support House bill to reverse military pension cuts (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 16:44:00 PM CST

One of the most shameful provisions in last year's federal budget deal between Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan was a change in the cost of living adjustment for military pensions. The pension cut could never have passed in a stand-alone vote but got through as one small piece of what was perceived as a must-pass deal. At the time, an old friend and 20-year Navy veteran commented on Facebook, "This is a great bookend for why we are tired of being thanked for serving. Actions speak louder than mere words for the sacrifices made by people in uniform and their families."

House and Senate members are eager to reverse this pension cut, but so far can't agree on how or whether to offset the $6 billion that would have been saved during a ten-year period of screwing over veterans on full pensions.

Today House leaders attached military pension language to an unrelated bill and quickly passed it under a suspension of normal House rules. The roll call shows that Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republican Steve King (IA-04) were all part of the 326 to 90 majority who voted yes. Tom Latham (IA-03) was not present for the vote. The 19 Republicans and 71 Democrats who voted no had different reasons, Pete Kasperowicz reported.

Some Democrats said they opposed not only the speed with which the bill was rushed to the floor, but the way Republicans are offsetting the $6 billion cost of the bill. The legislation pays for the restoration of benefits by extending sequester cuts to mandatory spending under Medicare for one year, through 2024 instead of 2023. [...]

Republicans had their own reasons for opposing the measure - many GOP members have said they disapprove of the idea of paying for current spending by promising cuts 10 years out.

When Congress approved the Murray-Ryan budget deal in December, three of Iowa's four House members voted yes, with King the odd man out. Senator Tom Harkin supported the deal, while Senator Chuck Grassley voted against it.

UPDATE: Added a statement from Braley below.

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IA-02: Loebsack supports another Republican anti-regulation bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 09:13:54 AM CST

Catching up on news from last week, Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) continued his pattern of voting for certain Republican bills aimed at undercutting federal regulations, especially in the environmental area (see also here). The latest example came when the U.S. House approved a bill "aimed at reducing the federal government's restrictions on hunting, fishing and sport shooting on federal land."  
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IA-03: Staci Appel has fundraising head start on GOP field

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 06:47:30 AM CST

What a difference a retirement makes. If Staci Appel were still running against ten-term incumbent Representative Tom Latham, she would have ended the year at a big disadvantage in campaign cash. Now she is poised to come out of the Democratic primary with a money lead over the eventual Republican nominee in IA-03.

Details from the candidates' year-end Federal Election Commission reports are after the jump.

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New Farm Bill links, plus Iowa political reaction

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 21:24:52 PM CST

President Barack Obama will finally have an opportunity to sign a five-year Farm Bill into law. The U.S. House approved the conference committee report today by 251 votes to 166, and the U.S. Senate is expected to approve the deal this week. The House roll call shows an unusual partisan split. Iowa's four representatives were all among the 162 Republicans and 89 Democrats who voted for the final deal. But 63 House Republicans and 103 Democrats voted no, a mixture of conservatives who objected to spending in the $956 billion bill and liberals who opposed cuts to nutrition programs.

Although 41 representatives and senators served on the conference committee (including Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Steve King), the four top-ranking members of House and Senate Agriculture Committees hashed out the final details. King's controversial amendment aimed at California's egg regulations was left on the cutting room floor.

After the jump I've posted several takes on the farm bill's key provisions and comments from the Iowa delegation.  

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Anti-abortion bill splits Iowans on party lines

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 11:12:00 AM CST

The U.S. House approved a bill yesterday that would make the "Hyde amendment" banning federal taxpayer funds for abortions a permanent law rather than a restriction requiring annual approval. Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill,

Republicans noted that Democrats just a few weeks ago approved the Hyde Amendment as part of the omnibus spending bill. They said that approval shows how noncontroversial the permanent measure should be. But Democrats countered that the bill is unnecessary precisely because Congress continues to approve the rider annually.

"This bill is a hoax," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). "Federal taxpayer [money] is not spent on abortion." [...]

During the floor debate, Slaughter said the bill is really an attack on ObamaCare, because it would end the payment of federal subsidies to people who use the healthcare law to buy health insurance that covers abortion. Slaughter said that change would chip away at women's rights by imposing a financial hurdle to getting an abortion and accused Republican men of coming up with a policy that no woman wants. [...]

Republicans said ObamaCare needs to be tweaked because it requires taxpayers to subsidize the purchase of health plans that cover abortion, which frustrates the intent of the Hyde Amendment.

The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" passed by 227 votes to 188, with very few representatives crossing party lines. As expected, Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) supported the bill, while pro-choice Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted no. So far, I've only seen public comment on this vote from King; his news release is after the jump.  

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2014 State of the Union discussion thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 19:48:27 PM CST

President Barack Obama addresses both houses of Congress tonight. The big policy news will be a new executive order requiring federal contractors to pay workers hourly wages of at least $10.10. The move could affect hundreds of thousands of workers. Last year the president proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, but Senator Tom Harkin and other liberal Democrats argued for raising the wage to $10.10. Obama indicated his support for that wage level in November.

I will update this post later with highlights from tonight's speech and reaction from Iowa's Congressional delegation. Meanwhile, this thread is for any comments about the substance or the politics of the State of the Union address.

On a related note, I hope Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is right about the president refusing to negotiate with Congressional Republicans over raising the debt ceiling.

UPDATE: Click here for the full transcript of the president's speech, as prepared. I've added some Iowa reaction after the jump.

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IA-Sen, IA-02: Braley and Loebsack vote for another GOP bill on Obamacare

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 07:20:00 AM CST

For the second time in a week, Iowa's Democratic representatives in the U.S. House Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted for a bill calling attention to problems with the federal government's implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Depending on whom you believe, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act is either an effort to improve oversight and transparency through weekly updates or what Representative Henry Waxman called an attempt to impede the new law by "drowning the Department of Health and Human Services in red tape." Nevertheless, 33 Democrats including Braley and Loebsack joined all of the Republicans present to approve the bill yesterday (roll call). I haven't seen any comment on this bill from them or from Representatives Steve King (IA-04) and Tom Latham (IA-03), who both supported it.

No matter how many anti-Obamacare bills Braley and Loebsack vote for, their opponents and outside conservative groups will run campaign ads attacking them for having helped pass the 2010 health care reform law. In fact, Americans for Prosperity (a right-wing group funded by the Koch brothers) is running television commercials in Iowa right now targeting Braley, the Democratic candidate to replace Tom Harkin in the U.S. Senate. The commercials focus on the so-called "lie of the year," President Barack Obama's claim that "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan." Scroll to the end of this post to read the Braley's campaign's response, which includes the ad script. In November, Braley and Loebsack voted for a bill that would let some consumers stay on insurance plans that don't comply with all Affordable Care Act requirements.

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House approves omnibus budget bill: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 13:50:00 PM CST

In recent years, Congress has funded the federal government mostly through a series of continuing spending resolutions. But yesterday, the U.S. House approved an omnibus budget bill that would fund most federal agencies through September 30 (the end of the 2014 fiscal year). The massive bill passed by an overwhelming margin of 359 votes to 67. All but three Democrats present voted yes, including Iowa's Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-03). Republican Tom Latham also supported the bill, but Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among the 64 conservatives who voted no.

I've enclosed statements from Loebsack and King below. (I have not seen any public comment from Braley or Latham) Loebsack called attention to provisions he fought to include in the omnibus budget bill. King's statement on yesterday's vote is just one sentence long--the shortest comment I can ever remember receiving from his office.

Because the bill is so massive, it's hard to get a handle on the good news and bad news. Here's a summary of spending levels for various agencies. It looks like many domestic areas will be funded above "sequester" levels, including nutrition for Women, Infants and Children and some transportation programs. Some anti-environmental riders sought by Congressional Republicans were removed before the bill came up for a vote. Others made the cut, such as language supporting incandescent light bulbs and investments in overseas coal projects.  

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Braley, Loebsack back latest Republican anti-Obamacare bill

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 09:40:00 AM CST

As Republicans prepare to make "Obamacare" a central argument against any incumbents who voted for the 2010 health care reform law, many House Democrats are looking for political cover. So it was on Friday, when a third of the Democratic caucus voted for the latest Republican bill in the U.S. House targeting the law. Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill,

The one-sentence bill says that no later than two business days after any security breach on an ObamaCare site is discovered, "the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall provide notice of such breach to each individual." [...] The White House said it opposed the bill, arguing the government already has plans to tell people if their information has been compromised. [...]

Democrats said the GOP was trying to stir up fears about HealthCare.gov and the other enrollment sites by raising the idea that people's personal information could be stolen.

"There have been no successful security attacks on HealthCare.gov, and no one has maliciously accessed personal information," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). "This is just another one of those scare tactics, and I just hope that my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, are not fooled by this."

The roll call on the "Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act" shows that Iowa Representatives Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 67 House Democrats who joined all the Republicans present to approve this bill by a large margin. Neither called attention to the vote with a press release. After the jump I've posted the statement from Representative Steve King (IA-04), who has long been one of the most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act. I didn't see any statement from Tom Latham (IA-03), who also voted for this bill.

Like the last anti-Obamacare measure Braley and Loebsack supported, this bill will neither become law nor insulate the Democrats from attacks during this year's campaigns for U.S. Senate or Iowa's second Congressional district.  

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Iowans split on party lines over bill to weaken hazardous waste laws

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 07:34:00 AM CST

Talk about lousy timing: just before a chemical spill made tap water unusable for 300,000 West Virginians, the U.S. House approved a bill that would "weaken the nation's hazardous waste laws and place American communities at increased risk of toxic exposure." The Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 2279) includes three bills House Republicans drafted last year. In a letter signed by 129 public interest groups, Earth Justice listed the key points of each bill and explained why the package would "threaten human health and the environment while protecting polluters from liability for the costs of toxic cleanups." I've posted an excerpt from that open letter after the jump. In a post for the Earth Justice blog last week, Lisa Evans called this bill "Kryptonite for Superfund" and "a con job of the highest order, allowing polluters to walk away without losing a penny, while taxpayers are left footing the bill."

Under its current leadership, the House has been called "the most anti-environmental House in our nation's history" because of the many bills passed that would curtail federal regulations and take power away from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Occasionally Iowa's two House Democrats have gone along with those efforts, but I was pleased to see that on January 9, Representatives Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the latest effort to hamstring the EPA and for the Democratic motion to recommit this bill with instructions (often a last-ditch effort to kill legislation in the House). Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) lived up to their abysmal voting records on the environment by voting for the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act and against the motion to recommit.

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New IA-03 Republican candidate speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 11:45:00 AM CST

Representative Tom Latham's surprise retirement announcement last Tuesday was an early Christmas present to some ambitious Republicans (who now have an opportunity to move up) as well as to Democrats (who now have a prayer of winning IA-03).

Here's a new thread on potential GOP contenders for the vacant seat next year. My thoughts on many possible candidates are after the jump. Appearing on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program, Latham said he does not expect to endorse a candidate in the GOP primary to represent IA-03. He added that he might become a lobbyist or work for a charity after leaving Congress.

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Bombshell in IA-03: Tom Latham not seeking re-election

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Dec 17, 2013 at 16:49:00 PM CST

From the day I first saw Iowa's new map of political boundaries in 2011, I had a bad feeling that Republican Tom Latham would be representing me in Congress for most of this decade. I did not see today's news coming: in an e-mail to supporters this afternoon (full text here), the ten-term incumbent announced that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2014. Latham plans to spend more time with his family.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was already targeting Iowa's third Congressional district, and Latham was in the National Republican Congressional Committee's incumbent protection program. As an open seat, the race will be far more competitive than if longtime incumbent Latham were on the ballot. I am curious to see which Republicans jump in this race. I doubt Des Moines-based teacher and business owner Joe Grandanette, who had already announced a primary challenge to Latham, will be the GOP nominee. I assume several state legislators or former legislators will go for it, but probably not State Senator Brad Zaun, who couldn't beat Leonard Boswell in the biggest Republican landslide in decades.

Former State Senator Staci Appel has a head start in the race for the Democratic nomination, with nearly $200,000 cash on hand as of September 30 and the support of several Democratic-aligned interest groups, including EMILY's List. Gabriel De La Cerda is the other declared Democratic candidate in IA-03. With Latham retiring, I wonder if other Democrats will jump in the race. For instance, State Senator Matt McCoy was planning to run for Congress in the third district in 2002 before Representative Boswell decided to move to Des Moines so as not to face Steve King in what was then IA-05.

As of December 1, IA-03 contained 157,456 active registered Democrats, 164,311 Republicans, and 160,205 no-party voters, according to the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

UPDATE: Shortly after news broke of Latham's retirement, Appel sent out a fundraising appeal and tweeted that her team was "thrilled to see our work holding Latham accountable has paid off."

SECOND UPDATE: State Senator Janet Petersen comes to mind as a potential Democratic candidate as well. On the Republican side, I wonder whether some mayors or Waukee City Council Member Isaiah McGee will go for it.

THIRD UPDATE: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds already ruled out running for Congress, but Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is seriously considering it.

I've added Appel's statement on today's news after the jump.

FOURTH UPDATE: Added Schultz's statement after the jump. He served as a Council Bluffs City Council member before running for Iowa secretary of state.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal lives in IA-03 and could run for Congress without risking his state Senate seat, since he's not up for re-election until 2016.

Also added statements from Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack, and the Iowa Democratic Party below. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action released a statement calling on Latham to help move immigration reform forward, now that he "has nothing to lose."

Have to agree with John Deeth: "On the GOP side I expect a clown car and maybe even another convention." State Senators Brad Zaun and Jack Whitver are both thinking about it.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added statement from Gabriel De La Cerda, who was the first Democrat to declare in IA-03 earlier this year.

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House wraps up work for the year: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 07:40:00 AM CST

The U.S. House adjourned for the rest of 2013 yesterday after approving several major bills. By a surprisingly large 332 to 94 majority (roll call), representatives approved The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, a federal budget compromise worked out by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. Most of the House GOP caucus supported the budget deal, including Tom Latham (IA-03). Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 163 Democrats who voted for the budget deal. Steve King (IA-04) was one of the 62 Republicans who voted no because the agreement increased domestic discretionary spending. The 32 House Democrats who opposed the deal objected to the fact that it did not include an extension of unemployment benefits, did not reverse more of the "sequester" federal spending cuts, and increased federal worker contributions to their pensions.

Also yesterday, House members passed by voice vote a one-month extension to most federal agricultural programs, giving a conference committee more time to work out a deal on a long-term Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the upper chamber won't pass any more short-term farm bill extensions, but he'll probably have to backtrack now to prevent farm programs from expiring on January 1.

Finally, the House approved by 350 votes to 69 a compromise on the defense authorization bill. All four Iowans voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, negotiated informally by House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders after the Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the defense authorization bill before Thanksgiving. I need more time to read up on what's in the final compromise, so will cover the details of the defense authorization bill in a future post.

After the jump I've enclosed comments on yesterday's votes from the Iowans in Congress and some of the candidates for U.S. House and Senate, where available. UPDATE: Added more comments below. However, Steve King has uncharacteristically not released a statement explaining his vote on the budget compromise. His office did not respond to my request for comment or to the Sioux City Journal's Bret Hayworth.

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Iowa split as House votes to undo another Dodd-Frank provision

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 10:40:00 AM CST

For the third time since October, Iowa's representatives have split along party lines as the U.S. House approved a bill that would undermine the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill that the "Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act" would remove a requirement for private equity firms to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It passed the House yesterday by 254 votes to 159, as 36 Democrats joined almost the entire Republican caucus. Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for the bill, while Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted no, along with most of the House Democrats. Braley and Loebsack also opposed the two other recent Republican efforts to undermine Dodd-Frank.

I have not seen any public comment on this vote from the Iowans in Congress. The Obama administration opposes the bill.

The legislation effectively provides a blanket registration and reporting exemption for private equity funds, undermining advances in investor protection and regulatory oversight implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Title IV of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Wall Street Reform).

The Administration is committed to building a safer, more stable financial system. H.R. 1105 represents a step backwards from the progress made to date, given that private equity fund advisers have been filing reports with the SEC for over a year. The bill's passage would deny investors access to important information intended to increase transparency and accountability and to minimize conflicts of interest. Moreover, H.R. 1105 would exempt private equity funds from the disclosure requirements that the Congress laid out in Wall Street Reform to allow regulators to assess potential systemic risks.

According to Kasperowicz, the Senate is unlikely to take up this bill because of the White House veto threat.

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IA-03: Primary challenger for Latham, more endorsements for Appel

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 14:59:01 PM CST

For the first time, ten-term incumbent Tom Latham will face a GOP primary challenger when he seeks re-election to Congress. Des Moines-based teacher and business owner Joe Grandanette announced late last month that he is running for Congress because "The citizens of Iowa's Third Congressional District need someone who will represent them and not Washington, D.C. Republicans." Grandanette's on Facebook here, and I've posted more of his case against Latham after the jump. In 2004, Grandanette unsuccessfully challenged State Representative Jo Oldson in a Democratic-leaning Iowa House district on the west side of Des Moines.

I can't see Grandanette posing a serious threat to Latham, who has huge financial resources and the full backing of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Despite casting the occasional "establishment" vote, House Speaker John Boehner's close friend has mostly escaped criticism from strident Iowa conservatives such as radio host Steve Deace. But the challenge from the right could prompt Latham to spend some of his war chest before next June's primary.

Meanwhile, Democratic-aligned interest groups continue to line up behind former State Senator Staci Appel, the likely nominee to face Latham next year. On Monday, the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign gave Appel its formal support. Today the Appel campaign announced an endorsement from the Iowa Electrical Workers State Conference, representing sixteen International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers locals statewide and six locals in IA-03. Seven other labor unions had previously endorsed Appel: AFSCME Council 61, the Iowa State Council of the UFCW Communications Workers of America, the Great Plains Laborers District Council, the Mailhandlers Local 333, the Teamsters Local 91, and the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council. Appel's rival in the Democratic primary to represent IA-03, first-time candidate Gabriel De La Cerda, has a strong labor background but less political experience.

After Grandanette's comments below, I've posted more details on the IBEW and Human Rights Campaign endorsements. Incidentally, while Appel served in the Iowa Senate, her husband Brent Appel was one of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices who struck down the state's Defense of Marriage Act in 2009.

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