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House passes huge government funding bill: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Dec 12, 2014 at 17:19:58 PM CST

Last night the U.S. House approved a $1.1 trillion "cromnibus," a massive continuing resolution to fund most of the federal government through September 2015. The 219 to 206 roll call showed an unusual bipartisan split, with 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats supporting the bill, while 67 Republicans and 139 Democrats voted against it. Many of the most outspoken House progressives and conservatives were against the cromnibus, for different reasons. Only one of Iowa's four U.S. House members voted yes: retiring Republican Tom Latham (IA-03). I have not seen any official statement explaining his reasons.

Republican Steve King (IA-04) opposed the bill primarily because in his view, it did not do enough to block funding for President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. I've posted some of King's recent statements on the issue after the jump. King's office has not responded to my request for comment on assertions by House Appropriations Committee staff that it would be "impossible" to defend the immigration order. King offered an amendment (full text here) which would have funded "all of the government until January 30 of next year but [would] prohibit any and all funds from being used to carry out the president's lawless, unconstitutional executive amnesty in all its forms." But an analysis by Scott Wong for The Hill suggests that the Obama administration would be able to carry out the executive order even if Congress shut down the federal government.

Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) both voted against the funding bill. I have not seen any official statement explaining those votes but will update this post as needed.

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House continues assault on EPA: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 11:50:47 AM CST

Before adjourning for the Thanksgiving recess, the U.S. House approved three bills last week designed to limit the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to function. Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for all three bills, while Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against them all. On November 18, representatives passed the "EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act" by 229 votes to 191 (roll call). Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill, "Among other provisions, the measure would require the Scientific Advisory Board, which consults the EPA on its regulations, to have at least ten percent of members from state, local or tribal governments. [...] Democrats said the measure would hinder the board's effectiveness and compromise its members' scientific expertise." Scientists are alarmed about the prospect of more industry experts on an EPA board.

On November 19, House Republicans and a handful of Democrats approved the "Secret Science Reform Act of 2014" by 237 votes to 190 (roll call). This bill would block the EPA from adopting new regulations based on scientific research unless all raw data were publicly available. Its backers claim they are only trying to improve transparency at the federal agency. But peer-reviewed studies, particularly in the field of public health, often rely on confidential patient information that cannot be made public.

Andrew Rosenberg, who heads the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, discussed both of these "attacks on independent science" by House Republicans. I've enclosed excerpts from his commentary after the jump.

Finally, on November 20 every House Republican and sixteen Democrats approved the "Promoting New Manufacturing Act" by 238 votes to 172 (roll call). Cristina Marcos reported that this bill would " enhance the Environmental Protection Agency's reporting requirements for the number of pre-construction permits it issues under the Clean Air Act."

In addition, the bill would direct the EPA to report to Congress each year on how it can expedite the permitting process. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the measure's sponsor, argued it would promote manufacturing and increase transparency. [...]

But Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the measure would weaken environmental protections by allowing permit applicants to avoid updated EPA air quality standards if the facilities are new or expanding, calling it "pollution amnesty."

"This bill does not do anything to improve the permitting process for new and expanding facilities, but it does weaken air quality protection," Waxman said.

Marcos' reporting indicates that the White House has issued veto threats against all three of these bills. Once Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate in the new year, Obama may get several opportunities to reject bad bills affecting the EPA.  

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House sues Obama administration over health care reform law

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 24, 2014 at 07:35:00 AM CST

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives filed a federal lawsuit challenging several aspects of how the Obama administration has implemented the 2010 Affordable Care Act. You can read the plaintiffs' full case here (pdf) against two cabinet secretaries and the agencies they lead. The main arguments are that the Obama administration broke the law by delaying the employer mandate to provide health insurance, and also by providing certain payments to health insurance companies without having Congress appropriate those funds. The first point was expected, but the second argument surprised even those who have closely followed the political battle over Obamacare. Sarah Kliff explained the challenged payments and how they fit into the law. Ashley Parker reported for the New York Times, "If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage - but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere."

In contrast, the legal challenge to delaying the employer mandate is more "symbolic," as that provision of the Affordable Care Act will have gone into effect by the time this lawsuit works its way through federal courts.

House Republicans voted to authorize this lawsuit shortly before going on a long summer recess. Iowa's four representatives split on party lines, with Republicans Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) supporting the measure and Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed, along with every other House Democrat present. At the time, the lawsuit was perceived as House Speaker John Boehner's way of deflecting conservative sentiment toward drafting articles of impeachment. At times this fall, Congress-watchers wondered whether the lawsuit would go forward, as two major law firms worked on the case for a while before declining to participate in litigation. A conservative legal scholar eventually took the case.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's executive action on immigration

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 11:09:40 AM CST

President Barack Obama delivered a prime-time televised address last night to explain his new executive order on immigration. The order would remove the threat of deportation for an estimated 5 million of the 11 million immigrants who came to this country illegally. After the jump I've posted the full text of the president's speech, as well as reaction from some members of Iowa's Congressional delegation and several advocacy groups. I will update this post as needed.

Last year, Iowa's U.S. senators split when the Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which has never come up for a vote in the U.S. House. Just before Congress adjourned for five weeks this summer, Iowa's representatives in the House split on party lines over a border security funding bill bill designed to speed up deportations of unaccompanied children entering this country. Likewise, Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted for and Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) against a separate bill that would have reversed the president's policy (announced two years ago) to suspend deportations of some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Click here for background on those bills.

Note: King has been all over the national media the last couple of weeks, as journalists and pundits have discussed the president's expected action on immigration. Over the summer, King raised the prospect that Obama could be impeached over unilateral action on immigration. But as you can see from statements posted below, more recently he has not advocated impeachment. Instead, King has called on Congress to defund the federal agencies that would carry out Obama's executive order. Unfortunately for him, that approach is "impossible."

Both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton have expressed support for Obama's executive order in the absence of Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Several Republican governors who may run for president in 2016 are considering legal action aimed at blocking the president's executive order. Such a lawsuit could raise the standing of Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or Indiana Governor Mike Pence with Iowa conservatives who are likely to participate in the next GOP caucuses. I am seeking comment on whether Iowa Governor Terry Branstad might join this legal action.

The Obama administration is already preparing a legal defense that would include precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling on an Arizona law relating to illegal immigration. Federal officials "have always exercised discretion" in prioritizing cases for deportation.

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Loebsack joins House Republicans to back Keystone XL pipeline

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 12:26:11 PM CST

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline by 252 votes to 161. The roll call shows that all 221 Republicans present supported the bill, including Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among 31 Democrats who joined them. Bruce Braley (IA-01) voted no, along with the majority of the Democratic caucus.

Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times that Loebsack's support was "a change from his vote on a similar measure last year." But Loebsack has repeatedly voted for language backing construction of the Keystone pipeline, even if he has not backed every Republican bill on that subject.

Braley also supported Keystone XL at one time, but changed his mind after realizing that the project was not going to live up to promises made about jobs or the ultimate destination of the oil. Loebsack must know those facts too, but he chooses to hide behind talking points: "I was skeptical of side stepping the normal processes, but the jobs attached to building the Keystone Pipeline are too important and can no longer be tied to DC gridlock." No doubt organized labor's support for the pipeline influenced Loebsack's vote.

The U.S. Senate will take up a similar bill on Keystone this week.  Democrat Mary Landrieu is pushing the legislation in a desperate attempt to save her Senate seat. Reality: she is going to lose next month's Louisiana runoff election regardless of what happens with the pipeline.

The White House has "hinted" but not explicitly stated that President Barack Obama would veto legislation designed to force approval of Keystone XL. Obama commented last week,

"Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices. If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what we are doing to produce more homegrown energy."

Even if the president blocks this attempt, Congressional Republicans will likely include Keystone language in various must-pass bills until Obama goes along sometime next year.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Blad Plumer's backgrounder on the key arguments for and against the pipeline is a good read.

P.S. I disagree with Paul Deaton's claim that Keystone XL is merely a distraction ("bright shiny object"). He argues that the environmental movement failed by targeting this pipeline instead of making a broader case against tar sands oil. Blocking this pipeline may not be sufficient to keep the tar sands oil in the ground, but it is certainly a necessary condition.

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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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