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IA-01: Ravi Patel to benefit from Iowa's first candidate-specific super-PAC?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 28, 2015 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

Pat Rynard broke an interesting story today at Iowa Starting Line: a super-PAC is being created to support Ravi Patel's campaign in Iowa's first Congressional district. Patel is one of three declared Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Representative Rod Blum. He has already raised a shocking amount of money for a first-time candidate--more than half a million dollars by the end of March. That haul included funds from some 80 people who maxed out to Patel's campaign for the general election as well as for the primary. Congressional campaigns can't spend more than $2,700 from any individual donor before the 2016 primary, but a super-PAC could collect and spend as much as anyone wants to donate, anytime.

Rynard quotes Patel adviser Norm Sterzenbach (a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party) as saying, "There is already one Super PAC operating in this race. EMILY's List came out early with their support of Monica Vernon and we fully expect them to run a considerable independent campaign on her behalf." Yes and no.

EMILY's List did endorse Vernon early. Technically, that group is a regular political action committee, not a super-PAC. The Women Vote! super-PAC is associated with EMILY's List, and it spent quite a bit of money during the last election cycle, but mostly not on expenditures for women in competitive Democratic primaries for U.S. House seats. It remains to be seen how much money EMILY's List will put behind Vernon; I would guess not nearly as much as a super-PAC would spend for Patel or against his rivals. EMILY's List gave $10,000 directly to Staci Appel's 2014 campaign in IA-03 and bundled another $233,283 in contributions to Appel, who had no competition in her primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. P.S.- If Rynard's sources are correct, Jeff Link will lead the super-PAC for Patel.  

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A Steve King triumph over DREAMers and how the Iowans voted on Defense Authorization bill

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 19, 2015 at 13:23:44 PM CDT

Catching up on Iowa Congressional news, on May 15 the U.S. House approved a $612 billion Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2016 by 269 votes to 151 (roll call). Not surprisingly, all four Iowans supported the bill on final passage. Votes on several amendments were the most interesting part of the process, as was the case during House debate of the first two spending bills to clear the lower chamber this year.

Follow me after the jump for details on last week's defense-related votes by Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02). Notably, King and his allies removed language that would have allowed military service by some undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. The House approved some other amendments by voice vote; click here for brief descriptions.

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The disconnect in the Des Moines Register's coverage of Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 15, 2015 at 11:54:36 AM CDT

An important Congressional vote went unreported in the Des Moines Register this week, despite two lead editorials in the paper within the past month urging Congress to act on that very issue.

The disconnect provides a good example of a problem I flagged in this post about the Des Moines Register's political coverage. Ever since the Register closed its Washington bureau, Iowans are less likely to know what our representatives in Congress are doing on our behalf.  

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Steve King, Rod Blum vote against Patriot Act revision for opposite reasons

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 16:03:03 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved the USA Freedom Act, which revises some provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act and extends them until December 2019. The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1 without Congressional action. The main changes in the bill concern bulk data collection and domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Groups advocating for civil liberties are seeking more changes to the USA Freedom Act following a recent federal appeals court ruling, which "determined that the NSA's telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001."

Proponents argue that the USA Freedom Act strikes a reasonable compromise between security and privacy. The overwhelming majority of House members agreed, as the bill passed by 338 votes to 88 (roll call). Representative David Young (IA-03) was among the 196 Republicans who voted yes, while Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 142 Democratic supporters.

Forty-one Democrats and 47 Republicans, including Iowa's Steve King (IA-04) and Rod Blum (IA-01), opposed the USA Freedom Act. In a statement I've enclosed in full below, King warned that the bill amounted to "data disarmament," with too little weight given to "the investigative value" of information gathered through bulk collection techniques, or how to protect "the vital data we need for national security."

In a Twitter post yesterday, Blum said he voted against the bill "because it continues the violation of the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens." In a Facebook post, Blum added, " Protecting your constitutional right to privacy is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to stand strong for the Fourth Amendment in Congress. I think America can be secure WITHOUT sacrificing our civil liberties." I am seeking a more extensive comment and will update this post if I receive one. Blum has long aligned himself with the Iowa GOP's "Liberty" wing.

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Iowans split on party lines over 20-week abortion ban

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 14, 2015 at 13:50:00 PM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House passed by 242 votes to 184 (roll call) a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. House GOP leaders originally planned to pass this legislation around the anniversary of the Roe v Wade ruling in January, but pulled the bill from the floor "following a revolt from female members who objected to language regarding exceptions for rape." Sarah Ferris and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill yesterday that the bill "requires a 48-hour waiting period, informed consent forms and mandatory counseling for victims of rape and sexual assault before abortions." The latest version "eliminates a requirement for rape victims to go to the police, though it did not change a controversial provision that allows victims of incest to receive an abortion only if they are under 18 years old."

Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the 20-week abortion ban, while Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against it. Iowa's House members split along the same party lines regarding another anti-abortion bill that passed earlier this year, as well as a resolution that would "overturn the District of Columbia's law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on reproductive health choices."

I haven't seen any comments from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King on yesterday's votes, but I'll update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added a statement from Blum.After the jump I've enclosed comments from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire, an e-mail blast Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign sent regarding the vote, and a statement from the pro-choice PAC EMILY's List, which has endorsed Monica Vernon in the Democratic primary to challenge Blum.

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House seeks to block EPA water rule: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 12, 2015 at 22:59:22 PM CDT

The U.S. House voted today by 261 votes to 155 to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the "waters of the United States" rule. The EPA released the final version of that rule last month. The American Farm Bureau Federation and other agribusiness groups have long bashed the proposed regulation as a threat to farmers. Last summer, Kyle Rabin wrote a clear and concise "debunking" of the Farm Bureau's deceptive hyperbole.

Today's votes to pass the "Regulatory Integrity Protection Act" came from 24 Democrats and all the Republicans present, including Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Meanwhile, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted with most of the House Democrats against the bill--a pleasant surprise, since he voted for last year's version of the same legislation.

I've been accused of being hostile to Loebsack, in part because Bleeding Heartland has called attention to a few bad votes for Republican bills seeking to rein in the EPA. Some of those bills were merely silly, while others posed a real threat to public health if enacted. I appreciate that since last November's election, Loebsack has voted against several House GOP efforts to target the EPA. More like that, please.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I haven't seen any official statement from the Iowans in Congress about today's vote, but I'll update this post as needed.

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Iowa Congressional voting catch-up thread: Banking, taxes, and cybersecurity

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 21:51:24 PM CDT

It's been a while since Bleeding Heartland checked in on how Iowa's four U.S. House members have been voting. After no House roll calls for more than two weeks, the second half of April has been unusually busy.

Follow me after the jump to see how Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted on more than a dozen bills that reached the House floor this month, covering a range of economic, fiscal, and security issues.

Incidentally, I'm always intrigued by how rarely members of Congress comment on bills they vote for or against on the House floor. For instance, I didn't see any press release from Blum, Loebsack, Young, or King about any of the legislation discussed below. Instead, members of Congress often play up bills they've introduced which have zero chance of becoming law. This month Blum has repeatedly publicized work on lost causes such as co-founding a caucus backing term limits for members of Congress, and introducing a lifetime ban on lobbying by members of Congress. Like Steve King's attempted end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality, Blum's posturing has more to do with image-making than legislating.  

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Weekend open thread: Latest Steve King publicity stunt edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 09:48:19 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Iowa's own Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) grabbed national attention this week by introducing a bill to "prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases," thereby stopping the U.S. Supreme Court from "destroying traditional marriage." After the jump I've posted King's official statement about the "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act" as well as the full text.

President Barack Obama would surely veto this bill, even if it quickly passed the U.S. House (unlikely) and Senate (less likely). So King's effort looks like a publicity stunt to bolster his image as one of the leading culture warriors on the right.

Out of curiosity, I asked Drake Law School Professor Mark Kende, an expert on constitutional law, whether it would theoretically be possible for Congress to limit the Supreme Court's authority to consider any case on marriage. According to Kende, the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to "make exceptions to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction." Most Congressional efforts along these lines have failed to become law. However, a 19th-century precedent exists; in that case, Congress blocked the Supreme Court from ruling on an appeal in which justices had already heard oral arguments.

Whether King's proposal would be constitutional is a more complicated question, Kende said. The Reconstruction-era law blocked a specific kind of appeal based on habeas corpus but did not bar the Supreme Court from ruling on all cases in that area of the law. The Constitution allows some leeway for "jurisdiction stripping" as a Congressional check on the judiciary, but that doesn't necessarily mean citizens could be prevented from taking any case about their fundamental marriage rights to the Supreme Court.

In an alternate universe where Congress passed and the president signed King's bill, the twelve federal appellate court rulings would be binding in their regions. Most federal court rulings on same-sex marriage bans have supported the principle of marriage equality. Only a divided 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld states' ability to limit marriage rights to opposite-sex couples.

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The Phony Estate Tax Farm Confiscation Ploy

by: daveswen

Thu Apr 16, 2015 at 18:24:11 PM CDT

(Thanks for this post on an important and timely issue. Iowa's three Republicans in the U.S. House all voted for the estate tax repeal that passed today; Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack voted against it. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Dave Swenson

Senator John Thune, from my home state of South Dakota, has a degree in business and an MBA.  He knows little of tax math, incidence, or outcomes from what I can tell. Like many mouthpieces on many topics, he doesn't let facts get in the way of a heartfelt story, though.  And the best story the GOP has spun over the last decade or so is the tale of woe and intrigue associated with the dreaded federal estate tax, which they've disingenuously rebranded as the "death tax."

Thune co-sponsored the just-passed House bill to eliminate the federal estate tax and at that time said:

For too long the federal government has forced grieving families to pay a tax on their loved one's life savings that has been built from income already taxed when originally earned. Currently more than 70 percent of family businesses do not survive to the second generation, and 90 percent of family businesses do not survive to the third generation.

Without citing one example, Thune intimated that the federal estate tax was destroying or would destroy businesses and was terrorizing grieving survivors.

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Rod Blum and Steve King voted against Medicare reimbursement deal

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 30, 2015 at 09:44:53 AM CDT

A rare event happened on Thursday, as the U.S. House approved by a large bipartisan majority a bill changing a major entitlement program. Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) were among those who opposed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
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IA-01: EMILY's List backing Monica Vernon

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 09:40:30 AM CDT

A leading political action committee for pro-choice Democratic women has endorsed Monica Vernon in Iowa's first Congressional district. EMILY's List announced their support today in a statement I've posted after the jump. The PAC didn't endorse any of the three women who sought the IA-01 nomination in 2014, but donated $10,000 and bundled another $233,283 to Staci Appel's campaign in IA-03.

Vernon finished second in the 2014 primary and is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination this cycle. However, she may not be the only pro-choice woman in this race. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third in last year's primary, is considering another Congressional bid.

Please share any comments about the IA-01 campaign in this thread.

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Iowa voting and reaction to the House Republican budget

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 26, 2015 at 13:32:15 PM CDT

The U.S. House approved a draft budget yesterday with some drama along the way. Details on the important budget provisions and how the Iowans voted are after the jump.
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House still going after EPA's science advisors: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 17, 2015 at 19:20:00 PM CDT

Today the U.S. House passed a new version of a bill to change who can serve on the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific advisory board. As happened last year, the Iowans split along party lines.
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Steve King discusses "retribution" from House leaders over immigration stance

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 07:26:03 AM CDT

According to Representative Steve King (R, IA-04), he and other House conservatives are facing "retribution" from House Speaker John Boehner after they insisted that any Homeland Security funding bill must include language against President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.
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IA-03: Matt McCoy confirms he's thinking about it

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 20:30:00 PM CST

State Senator Matt McCoy has confirmed that he may seek the Democratic nomination in Iowa's third Congressional district next year. At least two other Democrats are thinking about challenging first-term Representative David Young as well.
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Iowa Republicans vote against Amtrak funding

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 07:00:02 AM CST

The U.S. House approved $8 billion in funding for Amtrak passenger rail on Wednesday. Keith Lang and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

Since its inception in 1971, Amtrak has historically received about $1 billion per year from the government for operations and construction projects.

The measure would authorize about $982 million per year for the company's national network and another $470 million annually for its popular Northeast U.S. routes.

The bill, which would expire in 2019, sets another $300 million per year for construction on Amtrak routes in the rest of country and about $24 million per year for the company's inspector general.

All 184 Democrats present voted yes, including Iowa's Dave Loebsack (IA-02). But as the 316 to 101 roll call shows, more than 100 House conservatives voted against the Amtrak bill, including Iowa's Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

Young should know better. Currently, the only Amtrak routes across Iowa travel through the southern part of the state, calling at stations in the third and second Congressional districts. (King used to represent some of those southwest Iowa counties, but he hasn't since the last redistricting.) Anyway, Young has lived on the east coast long enough to understand how important passenger rail is for the U.S. transportation system.  

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Homeland Security funded through fiscal year: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 03, 2015 at 19:52:53 PM CST

A bill funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through September 30 is headed to the White House, stripped of language intended to undermine President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. Details on the voting and procedural maneuvers are after the jump, along with reaction from some of the Iowans in Congress.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) has repeatedly posted this image of a fish trap to convey his view that House Republicans played into a scheme to legalize what he calls Obama's "amnesty." In his press release, he asserted that "The White House is having a fish fry."

Steve King fish trap photo B_M6IkVW0AAfupp.jpg-large_zpsgg05jdou.jpeg

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How the Iowans voted on the Homeland Security funding bills (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 14:22:09 PM CST

Funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been bogged down in a dispute over how far Congressional Republicans should go to overturn President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. The rest of the federal government is funded through the end of this fiscal year (September 30), under a deal the previous House and Senate members approved in December. But conservatives held up funding for Homeland Security to preserve leverage for the new Congress.

Last night, a partial shutdown of the department was averted when senators approved a one-week funding measure and House members followed suit. Whether a majority can be found next week for a longer-term bill remains unclear.

Iowa's own Steve King (R, IA-04) has been beating the drum for weeks urging conservatives not to give in and pass a "clean" Homeland Security funding bill. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have been less vocal about the matter, but they opposed the clean bill approved by a majority of senators yesterday (which didn't come to a House vote).

Follow me after the jump for details on where the Iowans stood on all the recent Congressional votes related to this standoff.

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IA-01: Monica Vernon campaigning against ... Steve King

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 09:53:04 AM CST

An e-mail appearing to come from the sender "Stop Steve King" popped up in my in-box this week. I opened it, wondering whether a Democratic candidate was ready to announce already in Iowa's fourth Congressional district. King's last challenger, Jim Mowrer, raised a huge amount of money in 2013 and last year, partly through mass e-mails coming from "Stop Steve King" or "Stop Steve King 2014." Getting voters to read messages from political campaigns is increasingly challenging, and "clickbait" subject headings don't always do the trick. Of all Iowa Republicans, King is probably the most hated by Democrats.    

As it turned out, the February 24 "Stop Steve King" message wasn't from a potential challenger in IA-04. New Blue Interactive sent it on behalf of Monica Vernon's Congressional campaign in Iowa's first district. The e-mail urged recipients to sign a petition demanding that Congress fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a "clean" bill, not including "anti-immigration amendments." Clicking through the embedded link takes you to a petition page titled, "Tell the Tea Party to stop playing games with our national security!" Vernon's opponent, Representative Rod Blum, is mentioned as standing in lock-step with King, House Speaker John Boehner, and "tea party" Republicans. I've enclosed screenshots of the mass e-mail and the petition after the jump.

Within the House GOP caucus, King has been one of the loudest voices demanding that Congress use the Homeland Security funding measure to make a point on immigration policy. Blum has indicated that he also supports using the Homeland Security budget bill to withhold funding from programs related to the President Barack Obama's executive orders granting temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants. In Blum's view, holding the line on this matter "will not impact national security" because even after current funding expires at the end of February, "85 percent of the federal employees funded through Homeland Security are deemed essential and will continue work without pay until the funding issue is resolved."

So it seems fair for Vernon's campaign to lump Blum in with King and other Republicans engaging in brinksmanship over Homeland Security funding. Clearly "Stop Steve King" will catch the eye of many more Democrats than "Stop Rod Blum" or "Vernon for Congress." Whether this exercise in list-building will eventually translate into lots of new donors or volunteers for Vernon is anyone's guess.

Any comments about the race in IA-01 are welcome in this thread.

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Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill, with Iowa reaction

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 19:20:00 PM CST

As expected, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have forced approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. In his message to Congress, Obama said the bill "conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest -- including our security, safety, and environment."  

Republican leaders will attempt to override the veto, but those efforts will almost certainly fail, since the bill didn't muster a two-thirds majority in either the House or the Senate. The next likely step is for Congressional Republicans to attach language on Keystone XL to some other "must-pass" bill. I am concerned that under those conditions, language on the pipeline would not be a deal-breaker for Obama.

All four Iowans in the U.S. House supported the Keystone XL bill, as did Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. I haven't seen any official comment on the veto from Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), David Young (IA-03), or Steve King (IA-04). After the jump I've posted the full text of the president's veto message, along with reaction from Grassley and Ernst. I will update as needed.

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