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How the Iowans voted on the Homeland Security funding bills

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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Ravi Patel seeking Democratic nomination in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 17, 2015 at 15:59:40 PM CST

Entrepreneur Ravi Patel made his Congressional bid official yesterday in Iowa's first district. His campaign is on the web at PatelforIowa.com, on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Pat Rynard profiled Patel at the Iowa Starting Line blog; excerpts are at the end of this post. Patel has indicated that his campaign will "be data-driven and heavy on social media." His biggest challenges will be convincing voters that he's not too young at age 29 to do this job, and connecting with voters in northeast Iowa, since he grew up and spent much of his adult life in cities that are part of Iowa's second district.

At least three Democrats are likely to compete for the chance to face first-term Representative Rod Blum. The front-runner will be Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who finished second in last year's IA-01 Democratic primary. She was the first to announce in this race and has been endorsed by some prominent Iowa politicians. UPDATE: Former State Senator Jack Hatch, who picked Vernon as his running mate in last year's gubernatorial race, officially endorsed her for Congress in a February 17 e-mail. I've added that to the end of this post.

Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Gary Kroeger seems ready to enter the race too. I had to laugh when the Des Moines Register's Michael Morain reported this past weekend that Kroeger may run for Congress. The Register's article did not mention that Iowa Starting Line broke that news way back on January 19.

Former Governor Chet Culver has said he is thinking about running for Congress in the northeast Iowa district as well.

Any comments about this race are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Online ads for Patel's campaign are already running on various websites. At the end of this post, I've enclosed an ad that appeared on a page with Iowa weather information.  

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House extends some tax credits: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 17, 2015 at 08:55:00 AM CST

Before adjourning for a weeklong recess for Presidents' Day, the U.S. House of Representatives approved two bills extending some tax credits that had expired at the end of 2014. Follow me after the jump for key points of the legislation and how the Iowans voted.
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Mid-week open thread: Combat veterans edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 11, 2015 at 21:23:21 PM CST

Iowa's new U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is often described as the first female combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, but Andrew Reinbach took issue with that label in a recent commentary for the Huffington Post. I've posted excerpts after the jump, along with Ernst's response. Reinbach's main point is that while Ernst technically qualifies as a combat veteran, she should not use that label, never having come under enemy fire during her service in Iraq and Kuwait.

No one will ever mistake me for a big fan of Ernst, but I disagreed with those who grumbled about the "combat veteran" label last year, and I disagree with Reinbach now. Ernst served in a war zone during wartime. Lots of Americans were severely wounded or killed while performing supply or supporting roles during the Iraq War. Fortunately, the Iowa National Guard's 1168th Transportation Company was not ambushed and never drove over a bomb. That fact doesn't diminish the real risks facing everyone who served in the company.

Reinbach did make one valid argument, in my opinion: Ernst should correct those who say she "led troops into combat," because that phrase gives a misleading impression of her role. Speaking to Radio Iowa about the criticism, Ernst did not directly acknowledge the point but said in her defense, "I have never once claimed that I have a combat action badge. I have never claimed that I have had a purple heart. What I have claimed is that I have served in a combat zone."

Far too many combat veterans take their own lives after completing their wartime service. Congress recently addressed this national disgrace by approving the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act unanimously in the U.S. House and Senate. This bill should have become law last year, but a jackass who has since left the Senate blocked the bill from passing by unanimous consent during the lame-duck session.

Meanwhile, new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald put his foot in his mouth in a huge way during a House committee hearing today. Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Blaze,

At the end of a few minutes of sniping, McDonald ended by barking at [GOP Representative Mike] Coffman, "I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?"

As it turns out, Coffman is a combat veteran who started his own company, and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq wars.

The comments from McDonald, who once ran Procter & Gamble, were later described by Coffman's office as "obnoxious."

Hey, corporate genius: next time you go up to the Hill, have your staff brief you ahead of time on who will be asking the questions.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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House votes for more business input on federal regulations: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 06, 2015 at 17:28:53 PM CST

The U.S. House approved two more anti-regulation bills this week. On February 4, all the Republicans present and nine Democrats passed the "Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015" by 250 votes to 173 (roll call). The following day, nineteen Democrats joined the whole GOP caucus to approve the "Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015" by 260 votes to 163 (roll call).

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted for both bills. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed them both; he also voted against last year's version of the unfunded mandates bill.

The bill claiming to deal with unfunded mandates "would further require agencies to consult with private sector entities impacted by the proposed rules," Cristina Marcos reported. The bill approved on Thursday "would require federal agencies to calculate the direct, as well as indirect, costs of proposed rules."

I haven't seen any public comment on these votes from the Iowans in Congress, but after the jump I enclose open letters from leaders of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, an alliance of more than 150 "consumer, small business, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups." They urged House members to reject the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, because it "neither improves nor streamlines the regulatory process" and "would rob the American people of many critical upgrades to public health and safety standards, especially those that ensure clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, safe workplaces, and a stable, prosperous economy." The same coalition opposed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, because it "would increase unnecessary and lengthy regulatory delays, increase undue influence by regulated industries and encourage convoluted court challenges."

Votes like this fly under the radar as media pursue more news stories that interest the "core demographic." That's unfortunate, because this kind of non-glamorous policy-making could affect millions of people. Few Iowans will learn that under the guise of "cutting red tape," our state's Republicans in Congress would jeopardize rules that are meant to protect the public interest. Loebsack deserves credit for standing up against these bad bills. Major corporations and industries already have too much influence over government rules.  

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House repeals Obamacare again: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 04, 2015 at 06:35:00 AM CST

Yesterday the U.S. House approved a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act by 239 votes to 186 (roll call). No Democrats supported the bill, and only three Republicans broke ranks with their party to oppose it. By some counts, it was the 56th time the Republican-led House has voted to repeal all or part of the 2010 health care reform law. Still, many newly-elected GOP lawmakers wanted a chance to weigh in after campaigning against Obamacare.

Iowa's four representatives split along the usual party lines, with Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voting yes and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed. Loebsack has occasionally voted for Republican bills that reverse specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but he has never supported any of the broad repeal bills.

I enclose below statements released by King and Young on yesterday's vote.  During last year's campaign, Young suggested that Obamacare was "here to stay" and said he would be "at the table trying to fix" the law if elected to Congress. In yesterday's press release, Young advocated several GOP proposals on health insurance but added that Republicans "must continue to ensure coverage is provided to individuals even if they have preexisting conditions and that young people still struggling in the job market are able to continue to receive coverage under a parent's plan." King's official comments said nothing about preserving any aspects of the current law. He emphasized that he filed the very first Obamacare repeal measure on the day after House members approved the bill in March 2010.

I highly recommend Dana Milbank's entertaining account of the House debate on the latest bill. Excerpts are after the jump, but you should click through to read the whole Washington Post column.

UPDATE: According to Sahil Kapur,

The [Republican] party is divided on whether it should even attempt to craft a contingency health care plan of its own. Illustrating the dispute, Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Jeff Duncan (R-SC) tried to propose an amendment that strips out the language calling for "replacement legislation."
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IA-01 Democratic candidate news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 29, 2015 at 09:52:40 AM CST

Another Democrat is moving closer to a Congressional bid in Iowa's first district. The Daily Iowan reported several days ago that Ravi Patel "is assembling campaign operatives and meeting with influential donors in Eastern Iowa in preparation for the run." He is best known as principal and president of Hawkeye Hotels, a fast-growing company his parents established. Pat Rynard wrote on the Iowa Starting Line blog that Patel "has built connections from holding many fundraisers for Democratic candidates" and is "an entrepreneur involved in many startup businesses."

If he runs for Congress, Patel told the Daily Iowan that his campaign "would be data-driven and heavy on social media." His biggest potential weakness would probably be his youth (current age: 29). Iowans have nominated some young candidates who faced competitive primaries against more experienced rivals, most recently Ben Lange, the GOP's 2012 nominee in IA-01. But despite a lot of excitement on social media, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic didn't make much headway with IA-01 Democratic voters, finishing fourth in the 2014 primary. Anecdotally, many Democrats liked Kajtazovic but questioned whether she had enough experience for the job she was seeking. Patel would also be competing against others who have more longstanding ties to the district. Although he owns a home in Cedar Rapids now, he has spent most of his life in either Burlington or Iowa City, which are located in the second Congressional district.

The front-runner in the Democratic primary remains Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who last week added her first labor union endorsement to the long list of sate legislators backing her second bid for Congress. After the jump I've posted the press release announcing the Teamsters Local 238 endorsement of Vernon. That local did not endorse in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, but two other Teamsters locals backed the eventual winner Pat Murphy. Note: the press release mentions that Teamsters Local 238 has approximately 6,000 members. A representative for the union told me that between 2,000 and 2,500 of those members live in the IA-01 counties.

Other Democrats considering a bid in IA-01 include former Governor Chet Culver, former State Senator Swati Dandekar (who placed third in the 2014 primary), and former Saturday Night Live actor Gary Kroeger. His most recent blog post, which I've excerpted below, takes a quick look at the history of America's major political parties with a view to reducing the "vitriol in our disagreements." Kroeger posted today on Facebook that if elected to Congress, he would push for creating a national jobs program inspired by a non-profit foundation he profiled at his blog a couple of years ago.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread. Republican blogger Craig Robinson pointed out recently that GOP incumbent Rod Blum will benefit tremendously from having U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the ballot in 2016.

It's also worth noting that at least three and perhaps as many as six battleground Iowa Senate races will be located within IA-01 next year. State Senator Jeff Danielson will seek a fourth term in Senate district 30, covering parts of Waterloo and Cedar Falls; he faced well-funded challengers in his last two re-election campaigns. State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm won by just 126 votes in Senate district 26 in 2012. I expect the GOP to target that district, half of which is in IA-01 and half in IA-04. Republicans are less likely to mount a serious challenge against either State Senator Liz Mathis in Senate district 34 or State Senator Brian Schoenjahn in Senate district 32, but a surprise retirement would instantly make either of those races competitive. Meanwhile, Democrats are likely to target Senate district 28, where GOP State Senator Mike Breitbach won by only 17 votes in 2012. First-term Senator Dan Zumbach could also face a serious challenger in Senate district 48. After the jump I've posted a map showing all the Iowa Senate district lines. UPDATE: Perhaps I should also have mentioned Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders (SD-36) and Republican Tim Kapucian (SD-38), who will be up for re-election in 2016 as well in counties that are part of IA-01. I haven't heard of potentially strong challengers in either Iowa Senate district, but that could change before next spring.

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Iowans split as House approves bill on gas exports

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jan 28, 2015 at 13:22:31 PM CST

The new Republican-controlled Congress continues to prioritize legislation desired by the oil and gas sector. Today the U.S. House approved by 277 votes to 133 a bill to "expedite the federal approval process for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports," Timothy Cama and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill.

Under the bill, the Energy Department would have 30 days to review an application, starting from when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission completes its environmental review for a project. [...]

"There is no backlog or delay at the [Department of Energy] to speak of," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "So legislation to impose an arbitrary 30-day deadline on DOE as suggested by the underlying bill is simply unnecessary."

The issue has taken on a new urgency in recent years as Republicans and some Democrats have started to see natural gas exports as a way to help eastern European countries avoid having to buy gas from Russia, thus weakening the power that Russia holds through its near monopoly on gas in the region. [...]

The Obama administration said Johnson's bill isn't necessary after a series of steps the Energy Department took last year in an attempt to streamline the review process.

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all supported today's legislation. Although 41 Democrats joined the GOP caucus in voting yes, Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed the bill. He also voted against a similar bill House members approved last year. Loebsack recently was assigned a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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House passes package of bills on human trafficking

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 21:18:14 PM CST

Yesterday and today the U.S. House passed two batches of bills aimed at curbing human trafficking. All four Iowans were present as representatives approved some bills by voice vote and others by unanimous roll-call votes. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill on January 26,

One of the bills passed by voice vote, H.R. 515, would require the Department of Homeland Security to notify foreign countries when a registered sex offender travels abroad. It would further formally request notification from foreign governments when a known child sex offender is trying to enter the U.S. [...]

Another measure passed by voice vote, H.R. 468, would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to use grants for training staff on the effects of human trafficking among runaway and homeless children. [...]

In addition to HHS, State Department employees would receive training on human trafficking under a separate bill passed by voice vote, H.R. 357.  

Marcos followed up with this story on today's Congressional action:

One of the measures passed by voice vote on Tuesday, H.R. 285, would establish penalties for people who knowingly sell advertisements to exploit human trafficking victims. [...]

Meanwhile, H.R. 159, passed by voice vote, would encourage states to adopt "safe harbor" laws for trafficked children to seek welfare services by giving them preference in applications for Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) grants.

Three of the 12 measures would require training for employees at the State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services departments. One bill passed by voice vote on Tuesday, H.R. 460, would require the Department of Homeland Security to implement a human trafficking awareness program for agency employees. Agencies eligible for the training program would include the Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection. [...]

Another bill, H.R. 350, passed by voice vote, would direct the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking to issue a report on the best strategies to prevent children from becoming human trafficking victims. And H.R. 181, passed by voice vote, would authorize the attorney general to create grants for improving deterrence programs for human trafficking of children.

Members debated two bills Monday afternoon but waited to conduct roll call votes until Tuesday due to inclement weather canceling the previous day's votes. One measure, H.R. 469, passed 410-0, would create additional reporting requirements for state child welfare systems for human trafficking. The other, H.R. 246, passed 411-0, would amend existing law to replace the term "child prostitution" with "child sex trafficking, including child prostitution," in reporting categories for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

According to Marcos, versions of some of these bills passed the House during the last Congress but did not clear the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. New Republican Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn indicated that he will push for scheduled votes on the trafficking bills.  

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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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