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House approves anti-abortion bill: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 23, 2015 at 11:20:00 AM CST

On the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v Wade, the U.S. House approved a bill that could make abortion an unaffordable choice for many women. Emily Crockett reported for RH Reality Check,

The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act" would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

The bill, HR 7, would also go much further than Hyde by prohibiting women or small businesses from using tax credits or subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to pay for any health insurance plan that covers abortion care.

The bill has no exceptions for a patient whose health is endangered by her pregnancy. [...]

The effect of the bill could be to cause the entire insurance market to drop abortion coverage, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Traditionally, health insurance policies have covered abortion services, because doing so is much less costly than covering prenatal care and labor/delivery.  

The bill passed by 242 votes to 179 (roll call), with only one Republican opposed and three Democrats in favor. Iowa's U.S. representatives split on party lines: Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04) voted yes, while Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted no. I enclosed King's statement below and will update if I see any other official comment from the Iowans in Congress.

House leaders had originally planned to pass a 20-week abortion ban on the Roe v Wade anniversary, to coincide with an annual March for Life in Washington, but that bill was pulled at the last minute "following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape." The bill would have allowed abortion in the case of rape only if the victim had reported the alleged crime to police. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise says the bill will come back to the floor at a later date. On Wednesday, fifteen of the sixteen Republicans who spoke in favor of the 20-week abortion ban were men.

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IA-01, IA-03: Chet Culver is thinking about it

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 14:05:00 PM CST

Kathie Obradovich reported in today's Des Moines Register that former Governor Chet Culver is considering a run for Congress in either Iowa's first or third district:

"Well, you know, we do have family roots in Cedar Rapids and McGregor, and I spent a lot of time as a kid in northeast Iowa," Culver said in an interview. His father, former U.S. Sen. John Culver, grew up in Cedar Rapids and was elected to Congress from there in 1964.

In addition to family history, Culver also pointed to a more recent connection he has with the 1st District: His work as governor toward recovering from the 2008 floods. His jobs and infrastructure program, I-JOBS, put nearly $500 million into flood recovery, he said.

"I feel really good about helping communities like Cedar Rapids get back on their feet, and I think if you talk to most people over there, they will acknowledge the fact that without our administration stepping up, recovery would have been even more difficult," Culver said.

Culver says he hasn't made any "final decision" on running in 2016 or potentially even waiting until 2018. If he decides to move forward, he said, he expects the next step would be an exploratory committee.

The Des Moines rumor mill has long considered Culver a possible candidate for the U.S. House or Senate someday. Although it never occurred to me that he might run in IA-01, the idea has some logic. The I-JOBS infrastructure bonding program was great for Iowa generally but especially for the Cedar Rapids area. Democrats have a voter registration advantage in the first district but are slightly outnumbered by Republicans in the third district. Of the two newly-elected Iowans in the U.S. House, Rod Blum looks like a weaker incumbent. David Young has more experience in Congress and close ties to Senator Chuck Grassley, who will be at the top of the ballot in 2016.

More than a dozen prominent Iowa Democrats have already endorsed Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon for Congress in 2016. Gary Kroeger may enter the IA-01 Democratic primary as well.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Is there an opening for Culver in either Congressional district?

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House approves gas pipeline bill: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 22, 2015 at 08:05:00 AM CST

Continuing the Republican push to make fossil fuels projects a priority for this Congress, yesterday the U.S. House approved the "Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act" by by 253 votes to 169 (roll call). Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

Under the measure, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would be ordered to approve or deny a [natural gas] pipeline application within 12 months.  Agencies responsible for issuing licenses or permits must act within 90 days after FERC issues a final environmental review, though the deadline could be extended by 30 days if the agency demonstrates it can't finish in time.

But if the agency doesn't make a decision by then, a pipeline would automatically be approved.

Republicans said the legislation would put pressure on agencies to avoid unnecessary delays for natural gas pipelines. [...]

The White House issued a veto threat against the measure, saying it would "create conflicts" with current requirements and force agencies to make rushed decisions or deny applications entirely because they don't have enough information by the established deadlines.

All the Republicans present supported this bill, including Iowans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). They were joined by fourteen House Democrats, but Dave Loebsack (IA-02) stuck with the majority of his caucus in opposing this bill. Loebsack also voted against a similar bill that the House approved in 2013. I haven't seen any public comment on yesterday's vote, but I will update this post as needed.

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State of the Union and Joni Ernst response discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 20, 2015 at 19:30:00 PM CST

President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address later this evening to a joint session of Congress. Newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa will deliver the Republican response afterwards. It's her chance to make a first impression on many politically-minded Americans who live outside Iowa, and lots of people were reportedly searching for information about her today. This thread is for any comments related to either Obama's or Ernst's speech. I'll update this post later with highlights and Iowa reaction.

Representative Steve King got bent out of shape by the news that a "DREAMer" (undocumented immigrant who was brought to this country as a child) will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama tonight.

#Obama perverts "prosecutorial discretion" by inviting a deportable to sit in place of honor at #SOTU w/1st Lady. I should sit with Alito.

It's bad enough that King frequently refers to undocumented immigrants as "illegals." A person should not be labeled a "deportable." Anyway, under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Ana Zamora is not "deportable."

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland has a longstanding policy of not commenting on women politicians' attire, but Ernst's camouflage pumps compel me to break that rule. Ernst knows her audience, and whoever designed those shoes is going to make a fortune.

SECOND UPDATE: Iowa reaction to the president's speech is after the jump. Ernst's comments were a barely-revised version of her stump speech from last year's Senate campaign. Radio Iowa mentioned some highlights, including Ernst advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline. Cristina Marcos of The Hill focused on the "folksy" aspects of Ernst's performance, including her anecdotes about working at Hardee's as a teenager and wearing bread bags over her only pair of shoes. On social media I've seen lots of Iowans debating how common it used to be for children to wear bread bags over their shoes to prevent water damage. I don't remember seeing it when I was growing up, but I was a "city girl."

Pat Rynard sees Ernst as a likely GOP vice presidential nominee in 2016. I think that's out of the question, because she is way too inexperienced, and the Sarah Palin experiment didn't work out well for Republicans. Ernst can't be the VP nominee in 2020 either, because she would have to choose between that and running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Maybe in 2024 if Iowans re-elect her in 2020. Anyway, at the end of this post I enclosed excerpts from Rynard's case for Ernst as a VP candidate.

The most memorable line from the president's speech was reportedly ad-libbed.

THIRD UPDATE: Des Moines-based RAYGUN shirts is already out with a new design that reads, "IOWA! YOU SAY BREAD AISLE, WE SAY SHOE STORE." I think mocking the anecdote is a mistake for Democrats; doing so only plays into Republican narratives about liberal elitism. Iowa Rabbi David Kaufman is right: "Anyone who cares for the poor" and "wouldn't walk up to a homeless person and insult their clothing" should not be making fun of Ernst over her bread bag anecdote. That said, it's fair game to point out that Ernst opposes many policies (such as Medicaid expansion or a minimum wage increase) which would help the working poor and their children.

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Democrat Gary Kroeger may run for Congress in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 20, 2015 at 08:53:07 AM CST

What better way to launch a new blog than with a scoop? Pat Rynard delivered that when his Iowa Starting Line website came online yesterday, with this post about Gary Kroeger considering the Democratic primary in Iowa's first Congressional district. On his own blog, Gary Has Issues, Kroeger describes himself as follows:

First and foremost, I am the father of two wonderful boys.  I am also a son, a brother, and the creative director at an advertising agency in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I write an Op-Ed column for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, and in my past, present and future, I have been an actor, a writer, television host, announcer, voice over artist, producer, restaurateur, emcee, activist, and fundraiser.

Judging by his comments to Rynard, Kroeger would position himself as the progressive candidate in a Democratic primary:

Born in Cedar Falls, he moved back to his hometown in 2003 to give his two young sons a more stable life. At 57, he says he's kept himself involved in local politics by hosting coffees for candidates, lobbying a bit on some statehouse legislation, and writing the left-leaning column for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. That got him thinking about taking his passion for politics to a bigger stage.

"I have a strong voice and a capability to persuade people to listen better than most in the political arena," Kroeger says of what advantages he thinks he'd bring to a campaign. "I believe I have something that may be missing. I've been watching politics my whole life. It's a whole lot of dull. Legislators are not persuading, not convincing people, not getting people to think."

As for the issues he would run on, civil rights would anchor his platform. "Civil rights and justice for all, for gay marriage, for women, for minorities. It's what defines progressivism. And then you go out from there. It touches on the right to breathe clean air, it lends itself to environmental justice, to economic justice." On where Kroeger thinks his party goes wrong, he says, "Democrats tend to get soft to win. No one draws a line in the sand. The Constitution guarantees civil rights to all. A woman should have domain over her body. I'm not going to go away from these ideas. It defines being a progressive."

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon rolled out her campaign in IA-01 last week with endorsements from some liberal Democrats in the Iowa legislature, but others have expressed doubt over whether she is committed to progressive values. For the most part, I believe competitive primaries make parties stronger, so I welcome a good, clean debate between Vernon, Kroeger, and anyone else who wants to make Representative Rod Blum a one-termer. May the best Democrat win.

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Iowa Congressional round-up: Dodd-Frank rollback, immigration, and taxes

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 16, 2015 at 10:18:53 AM CST

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to delay or roll back various portions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Almost the entire Republican caucus, including Iowans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), supported the bill, which passed by 271 votes to 154 (roll call). Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) missed the votes in order to attend President Barack Obama's visit to Cedar Falls. Last week he voted for the Dodd-Frank measure when it was brought to the House floor under a suspension of the rules, so we can assume he would have joined the 29 House Democrats who backed it this week.

Also on January 14, the House approved by 236 votes to 191 a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the 2015 fiscal year, which ends on September 30. During the floor debate, Republicans passed "a series of contentious amendments that take aim at facets of Obama's immigration policy," Rebecca Shabad and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. Seven Republicans defected on an amendment that would "choke off funding for Obama's executive action announced in November. Then 26 Republicans voted against an amendment to withhold funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which some undocumented immigrants are temporarily shielded from deportation. Blum, Young, and King voted with the GOP majority in support of both controversial amendments before supporting the final DHS funding bill. (Based on his past voting record, Loebsack surely would have stood with most House Democrats, who opposed the immigration language in the DHS funding bill.)

I have not seen any lengthy comment from Rod Blum, just this tweet: "Proud to vote to fully fund the DHS today while stopping the President's unconstitutional executive actions on immigration." Press releases from Young and King are after the jump. In a video statement, King hailed the DHS funding bill and said it included provisions he has proposed.

Speaking of King, he introduced two constitutional bills this week. His "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015" would repeal automatic citizenship for babies born in the United States to parents who are not legal residents. That's been a longtime goal of King's, but to date Republican Congressional leaders have not shown any interest in moving forward. In fact, King's previous comments on repealing birthright citizenship are one reason he wasn't picked to chair the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on immigration after Republicans took control of the lower chamber in the 2010 elections.

King's other proposal would repeal the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which authorizes the federal income tax. He has long been a vocal supporter of the so-called "Fair Tax," which would replace federal income taxes with a value-added tax on most goods and services. It's a monumentally bad idea.

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IA-01: More than a dozen Democratic legislators endorse Monica Vernon

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 16, 2015 at 08:58:50 AM CST

Some of the most prominent Democratic legislators living in Iowa's first Congressional district have endorsed Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, a day after she announced she will run for Congress again in 2016. The group includes lawmakers from the three largest metro areas in IA-01:

Cedar Rapids (State Senators Liz Mathis and Rob Hogg, State Representatives Art Staed, Kirsten Running-Marquardt and Liz Bennett)

Waterloo/Cedar Falls (State Senator Bill Dotzler and State Representative Timi Brown-Powers)

Dubuque (Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum)

Support from Mathis is particularly noteworthy, because many Iowa Democrats encouraged her to run for Congress in 2014. Mathis endorsed Vernon shortly before last year's five-way primary.

Former State Senator Jack Hatch and several current lawmakers who live outside IA-01 also endorsed Vernon today: State Senators Joe Bolkcom, Bob Dvorsky, and Rich Taylor, and State Representatives Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher, and Sally Stutsman. All besides Taylor represent parts of Johnson County, which is part of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor.

The full press release from Vernon's campaign is after the jump. It sends a strong signal to any other Democrats who may be considering this race, including former State Senator Swati Dandekar and Ravi Patel, the president of Hawkeye Hotels.

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Monica Vernon running for Congress again in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 15, 2015 at 09:55:34 AM CST

Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon announced this morning that she will run for Congress again in Iowa's first district. I enclosed her campaign's press release after the jump. Her official website is here, and Vernon for Congress is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Vernon finished second to Pat Murphy in the 2014 five-way Democratic primary to represent IA-01. She then became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, while Murphy narrowly lost the general election to Republican Rod Blum.  

IA-01 is a top target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for 2016. Among Iowa's four districts, it is the most Democratic-leaning with a partisan voting index of D+5. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the 20 counties in IA-01 contain 158,190 active registered Democrats, 135,957 Republicans, and 192,679 no-party voters. Turnout is typically about 30 percent larger in a presidential year than in a midterm and includes more voters from demographic groups expected to favor Democratic candidates.

I expect a competitive primary in IA-01 again, as Blum is considered vulnerable. Although Joni Ernst already broke Iowa's political glass ceiling, many Democrats will want to elect their own woman to Congress, which could work in Vernon's favor.

Among the other Democrats who ran in this district last year, only former State Senator Swati Dandekar is rumored to be seriously considering another Congressional bid. Both she and Vernon have a base in Linn County, which could create an opening for a candidate with strong appeal in either the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area or Dubuque.

During last year's primary, some activists criticized Vernon for having been a registered Republican until 2009. Her work as Jack Hatch's running mate should put to rest any questions about her commitment to the Democratic Party. It's unfortunate that Governor Terry Branstad's campaign didn't agree to let Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds debate Vernon, though.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Scroll down for the National Republican Congressional Committee's comment on Vernon's announcement.

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All Iowans in favor as House passes Keystone XL bill

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 09, 2015 at 14:58:43 PM CST

Today the U.S. House of Representatives approved by 266 votes to 153 (roll call) a bill to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. As expected, Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted for the bill. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was one of 28 Democrats who also supported the bill. Laura Barron-Lopez and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The vote marked the 10th time the House has voted to authorize the Keystone pipeline in the last four years, and the third time in sixth months.

Loebsack has not supported all of those bills, but he voted for several of the Keystone XL measures, most recently in November. In a statement I've posted after the jump, Loebsack explained that "environmental concerns are important," but he came down in favor of the pipeline because of "the infrastructure jobs that will be created."

In the comments to yesterday's post on Loebsack joining a Republican effort to roll back financial regulations, Bleeding Heartland user ontheright asked whether the five-term Democrat might face a primary challenge from the left. I don't expect that to happen, because for reasons I don't entirely understand, Johnson County liberals never hold Loebsack accountable for his bad votes on Republican bills, no matter how disappointed they may be. In this case, people will forgive the vote because several Iowa labor unions want the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, or because the White House has said President Barack Obama will veto the bill. Next week or next month, it will be another disappointing vote by Loebsack, and another excuse.

The veto threat is important because for now, Keystone XL backers lack the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride a presidential veto in the U.S. House. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to pass the Keystone bill next week. While there are enough Democrats in favor to cross the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster, there are not enough to provide 67 Senate votes to over-ride a veto on this issue.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. King released a video statement on today's vote.

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Loebsack votes with House Republicans on rolling back Dodd-Frank rules

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 08, 2015 at 12:13:33 PM CST

House Republicans tried yesterday to pass a package of eleven bills that would roll back one or more parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The measure - one of the first to be considered in the new Congress - was brought up under a fast-track procedure typically considered for noncontroversial legislation that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. But Democratic opposition led to its defeat, by a vote of 276-146.

After the jump I've posted the floor speech by Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who laid out the Democratic case against passing this bill. He pointed out its substantive flaws and argued against a process that allowed such a complex bill to be brought to the floor in 24 hours, outside "regular order."

The roll call shows that not only did all three Iowa Republicans vote for this bill, Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 35 Democrats who supported it too. On social media I've seen some confused or angry Iowa Democrats ask why Loebsack would vote for such a bad bill. Although he may agree with its content, I would guess that he mostly wanted to protect himself against future campaign attacks. (Political considerations have pushed Loebsack to vote for many bad Republican bills.) Even if he agrees with rolling back Dodd-Frank reforms, though, Loebsack should not have gone along with rushing it through on the second day of the new Congressional session. Legislation this complicated and far-reaching should be debated and marked up in committee first.

Democrats who aren't happy with Loebsack's vote should be sure to let him know. Unfortunately, I anticipate many votes like this one to follow.

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Dynamic Scoring Ends 40 Years of CBO Independence

by: JonMuller

Wed Jan 07, 2015 at 18:10:47 PM CST

(Thanks for this diary on an important issue that stays mostly below the radar. This resolution passed on Tuesday on a mostly party-line vote. Iowa Republicans Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King all voted for it; Democrat Dave Loebsack voted against it. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The House of Representatives approved a resolution changing the House Rules to require dynamic scoring for large tax and spending bills.  The resolution contains a disturbing provision that may well transform the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), long the last bastion of independent public policy analysis for the federal government, into a hapless tool of the House Leadership and a few committee chairpersons.

The resolution requires dynamic scoring for all tax and spending bills greater than 0.25% of US GDP.  US GDP stands just south of $17 trillion.  Thus, the CBO will be required to estimate the economic feedbacks for all bills with a direct impact greater than $42.5 billion.  While I remain unconvinced this is the proper way to analyze the fiscal impact of federal legislation, this provision alone would not be that onerous.  In fact, the principal advocates of dynamic scoring should be careful what they wish for.

Problems will arise due to a provision in the resolution that will inherently yield fraudulent scoring in the aggregate.  The provision requires dynamic scoring on smaller bills with fiscal impact if they are deemed important by the Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and the House Budget Committee, both of which are now controlled by a single party.

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John Boehner re-elected House Speaker: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 06, 2015 at 13:07:37 PM CST

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives re-elected John Boehner as speaker a few minutes ago, as Republican insurgents fell short of forcing a second ballot. Before the vote, fifteen House Republicans including Iowa's own Steve King (IA-04) had publicly said they would not support Boehner. In the end, 25 Republicans voted either "present" or for other speaker candidates. If all 435 House members had been at the Capitol, Boehner could have afforded to lose up to 28 Republican votes and still be elected on the first ballot. But the speaker only needs a majority of those present in the chamber, and according to Pete Kasperowicz of The Blaze, "a dozen or more" Democrats were expected to be absent while attending former New York Governor Mario Cuomo's funeral.

The more Democrats who don't show up, the harder it will be to stop Boehner from getting a majority, and GOP defections will likely have to get to the mid-30s to force a second vote.
 
I was surprised to when King nominated Florida Republican Dan Webster for speaker this morning. I had assumed he would support his longtime ally Louis Gohmert of Texas. I was also surprised when newly-elected Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) voted for Webster. Freshmen have more to lose if they get on leadership's bad side, and Blum has incentive to act like a moderate, since he represents a Democratic-leaning district.

I give King and Blum credit for standing up to be counted. Various reports estimated that as many as 50 House Republicans might have voted against Boehner if House rules had allowed a secret ballot instead of a roll call in alphabetical order. If you don't have the courage to say you're unhappy with your party's leader, you don't belong in Congress.

As expected, newly-elected Iowa Republican David Young (IA-03) voted for Boehner. He got tons of help from the National Republican Congressional Committee in last year's general election campaign, and he landed a seat on the House Appropriations Committee (not common for a freshman). Young has repeatedly promised to be a "voice at the table" for Iowa, not an uncompromising conservative. I'm already seeing some right-wingers complain on social media about today's vote. Pottawattamie County GOP leaders had urged Young not to support Boehner for speaker. This is just the first of several high-profile votes that will likely fuel a 2016 primary challenge from the right in IA-03.

The lone Iowa Democrat in Congress, Dave Loebsack (IA-02), voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, as did most of the House Democratic caucus.

I will update this post as needed with comments from the Iowans in Congress. Excerpts from King's case against Boehner are after the jump. The two men have long clashed over the way King talks about undocumented immigrants, but immigration policy wasn't King's only beef with Boehner.

UPDATE: Added comments from Blum, Loebsack, and the Iowa Democratic Party below.

SECOND UPDATE: Chris Moody of CNN quoted Blum as saying, "I didn't sleep much last night. Did a lot of soul searching. I'm at peace with myself." I hope so, because Boehner is already punishing Republicans who voted against him as speaker. Today's vote probably will not help Blum deliver for his district.

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15 Iowa politics predictions for 2015

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 02, 2015 at 09:41:49 AM CST

Happy new year to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community! Undeterred by my failure (yet again) to win, place, or show in my own blog's election contest, I offer fifteen Iowa politics predictions for this calendar year.

Your own predictions or any other relevant comments are welcome in this thread. At the end of this year I'll look back to see what we got right or wrong.

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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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House Democratic leaders blew it on proxy vote for Tammy Duckworth

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 09:45:00 AM CST

The Democratic Party has long championed issues of importance to working women, such as equal pay and ending discrimination in the workplace. Yet party leaders in the U.S. House just denied Representative Tammy Duckworth a proxy vote for this week's elections on committee members. The official story is that granting a proxy vote to Duckworth (who is eight months pregnant and has received medical advice against traveling) would "set a precedent." Another House Democrat had requested a proxy vote to allow her to attend a funeral.

What an absurd excuse. Going to a funeral instead of to your job is a personal choice unrelated to health or medical concerns.

Many people in the House Democratic caucus are unhappy about the decision and suspect the "slippery slope" argument was just a cover story.

Members and aides are privately seething over what they see as Pelosi's latest attempt to stack the deck against Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., who is running for ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee against Pelosi's closest friend and fellow Californian, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo.

And many members are concerned about the optics of not allowing Duckworth a proxy vote when Democrats are supposed to be the party that fights for women. Democrats have tried to make electoral gains by touting the "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds" economic agenda.

"Our party should be the party that stands up for women," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said in a caucus meeting Tuesday morning, according to a source in the room.

A source also said that civil-rights icon and longtime Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis was fighting Pelosi's refusal: "We will pay a price for not doing this," he reportedly said.

KJ Dell-Antonia pointed out at her New York Times blog, "Pregnant women are protected by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but protection against discrimination does not require accommodation." That's one reason why President Barack Obama "has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, (PWFA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed federal lawsuits recently against companies" that allegedly fired pregnant workers.

If Nancy Pelosi can't see the simple logic here, House Democrats should elect a minority leader who does.

UPDATE: On Wednesday the House Democratic caucus chose Pallone as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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Five political realities that should worry Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 12:19:45 PM CST

Two weeks after election day, political junkies like me are still processing what happened. Losing control of the U.S. Senate was the most obvious bad outcome for Democrats, but maybe not the most concerning one. The Senate map for 2016 gives Democrats a lot of opportunities to make up ground.

Five other political realities have been bothering me more.  

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Twitter was used in "cutting edge" scheme to evade campaign finance laws

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 23:00:00 PM CST

The Federal Election Commission rarely enforces laws against coordination between political campaigns and groups making independent expenditures for and against candidates. Meanwhile, outside spending is exploding to the point that in some races, independent expenditures dwarf money spent by the candidates.

As a result, each election cycle brings more actions that raise suspicions of campaigns and outside groups coordinating their work. In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Joni Ernst's campaign magically knew exactly when to launch a very small ad buy to maximal effect--on the same day an outside group released a months-old unflattering video of Bruce Braley. Later on, a super PAC came into existence solely to run a $1 million television commercial targeting Braley, and that super PAC just happened to be headquartered in the same office as a senior consultant for Ernst's campaign.

CNN's Chris Moody reported today on a newly uncovered, brazen scheme to share information between campaigns and political advocacy groups. Click through to read his whole piece about Twitter accounts that communicated polling data from competitive U.S. House races.

At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP. [...]

The accounts that CNN reviewed were active in the months ahead of this month's election, which gave Republicans their largest majority in the House since World War II and control of the Senate. They were live until Nov. 3 but deleted minutes after CNN contacted the NRCC with questions. [...]

The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.

Deleting online content minutes after a journalist starts asking questions sends a strong signal that these operatives knew they were doing something shady. Moreover, Philip Bump noticed that the American Action Network was one of the biggest outside spenders in the Congressional race in Florida's 26th district. That race was the apparent focus of at least one now-deleted tweet containing polling data, which showed a very close race in FL-26.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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