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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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Still not convinced Martin O'Malley is running for president

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 12, 2015 at 22:49:00 PM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign for quite a while. These past few days, he continued to walk and talk just like a presidential candidate would in Iowa. On Thursday, he spoke at Simpson College and headlined a fundraiser for State Representative Scott Ourth before speaking to a good crowd in a heavily Democratic Des Moines neighborhood. The next day, he taped an episode of "Iowa Press" on Iowa Public Television (video and full transcript here; excerpts after the jump). O'Malley wrapped up Friday with a well-received speech at the Polk County Democrats' spring event (click through for video or audio). The stump speech blended a summary of his accomplishments as Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor with a vision for the future. For laughs and applause, he threw in some good jabs at tea party Republicans. Before and after the speech, O'Malley worked the room of activists. His staff had put down placemats and postcards for people to take home.

Yet I still can't shake the feeling that O'Malley will not follow through with running for president.  

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Martin O'Malley walks like a candidate and talks like a candidate, but...

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 25, 2015 at 07:10:00 AM CDT

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley continues to do everything a politician would do to set up a strong Iowa caucus campaign.

So why am I still having trouble believing he will offer himself to Democrats as a alternative to Hillary Clinton?  

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Rand Paul's Iowa visit highlights, plus: should Rod Blum endorse?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 09, 2015 at 11:46:47 AM CST

U.S. Senator Rand Paul came to central Iowa this weekend. He drew more than 200 people to an event in Des Moines on Friday night, packed a restaurant in Marshalltown on Saturday morning, and took in the Iowa State men's basketball game that afternoon. It was Paul's first visit to our state since October, when he campaigned in eastern Iowa with Congressional candidate Rod Blum and Senate candidate Joni Ernst. Clips with more news from Paul's appearances are after the jump, along with excerpts from Shane Goldmacher's recent article for the National Journal, which depicted former Iowa GOP chair A.J. Spiker as an "albatross" for Paul's caucus campaign.

Before I get to the Rand Paul news, some quick thoughts about Representative Blum, who joined Paul for his Marshalltown event. Blum didn't endorse a candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses and told The Iowa Republican's Kevin Hall that he doesn't "plan to endorse anyone" before the upcoming caucuses, adding,

"I might at the very end. We need a strong leader. We need genuine, authentic leadership and I may rise or fall in my election in two years based on who this presidential candidate is."

I will be surprised if Blum doesn't officially back Paul sometime before the caucuses. The "Liberty" movement got behind him early in the GOP primary to represent IA-01. At that time, many Iowa politics watchers expected the nomination to go to a candidate with better establishment connections, such as Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or State Representative Walt Rogers. Paulsen eventually chickened out of the race, and Rogers bailed out a few months before the primary after overspending on campaign staff. Arguably, Blum owes Liberty activists for helping him scare off the strongest Republican competition. Without them, he might be a two-time failed GOP primary candidate, rather than a first-term member of Congress.

The case against Blum endorsing Paul before the caucuses is that doing so might anger GOP supporters of other presidential candidates. Even if Paul remains in the top tier by this time next year, 70 percent to 80 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers will likely prefer someone else. Blum will need all hands on deck to be re-elected in Iowa's first district, which is now one of the most Democratic-leaning U.S. House seats held by a Republican (partisan voting index D+5). It will be a top target for House Democrats in 2016.

Still, I think Blum would be better off endorsing than staying neutral. Most Republicans in the IA-01 counties will vote for him in the general election either way. By getting behind Paul when it counts, Blum would give Liberty activists more reasons to go the extra mile supporting his campaign later in the year, regardless of whether Paul becomes the presidential nominee or (as I suspect) seeks another term as U.S. senator from Kentucky. Besides, if Blum really believes that Paul's outreach to youth and minorities has the potential to grow the GOP, he should invest some of his political capital in that project.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?  

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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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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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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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Weekend open thread: Cost of doing nothing edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 12:31:00 PM CDT

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

Sunday's Des Moines Register includes a good feature by Lauren Mills of IowaWatch.org and the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. She lays out how payday lenders are "burying Iowans" in debt. Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Joe Bolkcom pointed out that the payday lending business model depends on "locking people into this cycle of debt." Previous research has indicated that payday lenders cost Iowa consumers about $36 million per year. Mills reports that this industry spends heavily on campaign contributions and lobbying the Iowa legislature. Lobbyists talk a good game about jobs and helping people who need cash for emergency expenses. But think how many more jobs could be created if Iowans living paycheck to paycheck had $36 million more to spend on goods and services, rather than on outlandish "loan shark rates."

Mills reports that legislation to regulate interest rates charged by payday lenders has been stalled. Bolkcom said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal won't bring up the bill unless it can pass the Republican-controlled Iowa House. House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer called that a "convenient excuse" for the Senate not to act. I haven't noticed her or any other House Republicans acknowledging this problem, though.

The best chance for Iowa lawmakers to address payday lending was during the period when Democrats controlled "the trifecta." In 2007, the Iowa House and Senate approved, and Governor Chet Culver signed, a bill capping interest rates on car title loans. (Such legislation had been stalled for years when Republicans controlled the Iowa House, although it attracted bipartisan support in both chambers in 2007.) Three years later, Bolkcom and then Iowa House Democrat Janet Petersen made a major push to pass a similar interest rate cap on payday lenders. However, industry lobbyists warned that such a law would put payday lenders out of business, as had happened with car title lenders. A wide range of organizations supported the payday lending reform, including the Iowa Attorney General's office, the Iowa Catholic Conference, the Child and Family Policy Center, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. But ultimately, the House version of that bill died when conservadem State Representative Mike Reasoner sided with two Republicans to kill it in subcommittee.

Some Iowa local governments, most recently in Waterloo, have passed zoning rules to try to prevent payday lenders from targeting low-income neighborhoods. But state regulations are the only realistic way to stop the cycle of debt perpetuated by lenders who keep borrowers coming back for more high-interest loans and cash advances. Iowans on the edge are paying the price for the legislature's failure to act years ago.

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IA-Sen: Braley learns painful lesson in 21st century campaigning (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 17:59:19 PM CDT

Every candidate for public office has to learn basic rules of campaigning, such as, "Every mic is a live mic." In other words, always assume you may be overheard when you stand next to a microphone, even if you think it's not turned on.

In the age of camera phones and YouTube, candidates may be speaking into a live mic even when there's no microphone to be seen. Representative Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, learned that lesson the hard way today.  

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Report highlights growing land access problem for Iowa farmers

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 13:20:00 PM CDT

Since at least 2007, roughly half of Iowa's land in agricultural production has been rented or leased rather than farmed by its owner. Farmland values at historically high levels are making it even more difficult for Iowans to pursue a secure career in farming. Almost no one can afford a large parcel of farmland at more than $8,000 per acre (or $10,000 per acre of high-grade land). Banks are rarely willing to lend aspiring farmers the kind of money needed to buy a farm, or to buy out siblings or cousins who inherited parts of the family farm.

Some experts believe Iowa farmland values have peaked, but via Tom Philpott I came across evidence that pressure from large buyers may continue to drive up prices. The Oakland Institute analyzed the trend of Wall Street investors buying farmland in the U.S. As institutional investors pile into this market, Iowa farmland may become increasingly unaffordable.

After the jump I've posted a few excerpts from the Oakland Institute's report, but I recommend downloading the whole piece to see supporting charts and references.

The trend toward absentee landlords owning Iowa farms is one among many reasons we can't rely on purely voluntary efforts to protect soil and water quality. Tenant farmers have no incentive to spend money on conservation practices to improve land for the long-term. Landowners (whether they be Wall Street firms or individual investors) are often looking for the highest rent this year, not farming practices that preserve soil fertility and keep excess nutrients out of waterways.  

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Harkin yes, Grassley no as Senate confirms Yellen to chair the Fed

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 17:51:00 PM CST

Today the U.S. Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to be the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve. All of the Democrats present, including Iowa's Tom Harkin, voted for the cloture motion on Yellen's nomination in December. All of the Democrats present on January 6 voted to confirm her, joined by eleven Republicans. Incidentally, only 59 senators voted for cloture, which would have sunk Yellen under old Senate rules. Senate Democrats removed the 60-vote requirement for motions on presidential nominations in November.

Although a sizable group of Republicans voted to confirm Yellen, most of the Senate GOP caucus opposed her nomination, including Iowa's Chuck Grassley. In a floor statement I've posted after the jump, Grassley said he could not support her nomination because he is concerned the Federal Reserve's "easy money" policies are "misguided" and will lead to high inflation. Yellen is widely considered an "inflation dove" who is willing to balance the Fed's longstanding concern for keeping inflation down with a focus on reducing unemployment.

UPDATE: Corrected to clarify that the cloture vote on Yellen happened before the holiday recess. Grassley was among the 26 Republicans who voted no on Yellen's confirmation. Harkin was absent for the final vote on Yellen on January 6, as were many other senators because of the extreme winter weather.

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

by: desmoinesdem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iowans split as House votes to reduce limits on derivatives trading

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 13:45:00 PM CST

Catching up on news from last week, the U.S. House voted 292 to 122 to undermine part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Cheyenne Hopkins reported for Bloomberg that H.R. 922

would upend the 2010 law's pushout provision by allowing trades of almost all types of derivatives by lenders with access to deposit insurance and discount borrowing. [...]

Lawmakers included the original measure as a way to limit risk-taking by banks that got federal bailouts during the 2008 credit crisis. The pushout provision was faulted by banks and also by regulators including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who expressed concern that it could drive swaps trading to less-regulated entities.

All but three Republicans present voted for this bill, joined by 70 Democrats. Iowa's Tom Latham (IA-03) was a yes, while Steve King (IA-04) did not vote. Meanwhile, Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) voted against the bill, as did most of the Democratic caucus. I did not see any public comment on this bill from any of Iowa's four representatives. During the floor debate on October 30, Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota warned,

"This bill would effectively gut important financial reforms and put taxpayers potentially on the hook for big banks' risky behavior," Peterson said. "The provision is a modest measure designed to prevent the federal government for bailing out or subsidizing bank activity that is not related to the business of banking."

Peterson also noted that under current law, banks can still perform about 90 percent of the swaps hedges they were able to perform before Dodd-Frank.

Sounds like Braley and Loebsack made the right call. A White House statement argued against the bill as "premature" and possibly "disruptive," but did not threaten a presidential veto.

LATE UPDATE: Iowa's representatives also split on party lines when the House approved the so-called Retail Investor Protection Act on October 29.

The bill prevents the Department of Labor from issuing rules under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that describes when financial advisors are considered a fiduciary, which means they must must work in their clients' best interest. Under the bill, Labor would have to wait until the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) acts first in this area.

Alicia Munnell explained here why that Republican-backed bill was "fundamentally misconceived."

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Obama nominates Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 11:10:00 AM CDT

President Barack Obama finally settled on Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. No woman has previously held that position, nor has any previous nominee for the job been as qualified as Yellen. Binyamin Appelbaum's profile of Yellen for the New York Times is excellent. Some other good links about her views are here. She is commonly described as an "inflation dove," meaning that in her opinion, reducing unemployment should be a higher priority than keeping inflation low (the traditional obsession of Fed chairs). A few years ago, Bleeding Heartland user PrairieBreezeCheeze discussed why it's time for a Fed chair willing to prioritize employment. Even now, long-term unemployment is still near historically high levels.

Nobody's perfect, and Zach Carter offers a more negative take on Yellen, focusing on her support for NAFTA, a chained Consumer Price Index, and repealing the Glass-Steagall Act during the 1990s. Nevertheless, Yellen is a much better person to run the Fed than Obama's first choice for the job, Larry Summers. Credit goes to the coalition that came out early against Summers, convincing five Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee to oppose him.

Despite today's news, President Obama's record on appointing women to cabinet-level positions remains worse than Bill Clinton's--and not for lack of qualified women to choose from.

UPDATE: After the jump I've added some remarks from President Obama and Yellen at today's press conference. SECOND UPDATE: Added Senator Tom Harkin's official comment.

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Larry Summers out of the running for Federal Reserve chair

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 09:59:04 AM CDT

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke's term ends early next year, and President Barack Obama's rumored top choice to replace him has been economic adviser Larry Summers. Why Obama would want to elevate someone who's failed at several important jobs is beyond me, particularly when a much more qualified candidate is available in Janet Yellen. She has more experience in the Fed, as well as more support in the U.S. Senate and from economists. Yellen also lacks the huge conflict of interest problems that would have dogged Summers because of his involvement with Citigroup.

Yesterday Summers saved Obama from making a big mistake by formally withdrawing from consideration for the top job at the Fed. I disagree with Jonathan Chait's claim that Summers "paid" for Obama's poor record on appointing women to high positions in his administrations. There were plenty of reasons to favor Yellen over Summers for this job. The fact that she would be the first woman to chair the Fed is just a bonus. Kudos to the three Democrats on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee who came out early against Summers, helping to avert what would have been a very bad choice by the president. UPDATE: Apparently five Senate Democrats were ready to vote against Summers in committee: Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

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Harkin and Grassley on the latest Senate confirmations and filibuster deal

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 17, 2013 at 07:38:54 AM CDT

Democrats in the U.S. Senate came closer than ever this week to stopping Republicans from forcing a supermajority vote on executive branch nominees. An informal deal deterred Democrats from changing Senate rules by simple majority vote and cleared the path for a handful of President Barack Obama's nominees to go forward. However, more struggles over confirmations seem likely in the future.

Iowa's Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley could hardly be further apart on the process by which the Senate gives its "advice and consent."  

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IA-Sen: David Young and Matt Whitaker formally announce (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 16:54:00 PM CDT

Senator Chuck Grassley's former chief of staff David Young and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker have both officially entered the U.S. Senate race. Highlights from the candidates' announcements and recent interviews are after the jump.

Any comments about the IA-Sen campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Obama sends a message with Pritzker for Commerce secretary

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 03, 2013 at 08:16:00 AM CDT

Yesterday President Barack Obama nominated Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce and Mike Froman as U.S. trade representative. You can read the president's spin on Pritzker's "distinguished" business leadership here.

Although this nomination has been expected for months, it still sends an unfortunate message. Pritzker was one of the largest bundlers for Obama's re-election campaign and one of the largest donors to his inaugural festivities, so the president has overlooked union-busting by her family's Hyatt Hotel chain, as well as her union-busting as a member of the Chicago Board of Education, her aggressive use of legal means to avoid taxes on her massive wealth, and her role in managing a subprime lender (hat tip to Susie Madrak). Organized labor groups will be furious.

Pritzker will probably sail through the Senate confirmation process. Too bad the president didn't hold back this nomination until Senate votes on his other cabinet appointees. I would hate to see corporate interest groups tank Gina McCarthy, Obama's excellent choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Any comments about the administration are welcome in this thread.

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Harkin, Grassley split as Senate confirms Jack Lew at Treasury

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 19:30:00 PM CST

The U.S. Senate confirmed Jack Lew as secretary of the Treasury today by 71 votes to 26 (roll call). Senator Chuck Grassley was one of the 25 Republicans who opposed Lew's nomination, joined by independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats. Twenty Republicans joined the rest of the Democrats present, including Iowa's Tom Harkin, in voting to confirm Lew. Grassley announced his opposition to the Treasury nominee earlier this week. After the jump I've posted the floor statement he read today. While Grassley raised some troubling points, I think Sanders made a stronger case for opposing Lew, so I've enclosed his statement below as well. I will update this post if I see any further comment from Harkin.

Four years ago, both Grassley and Harkin voted against confirming Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary.  

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IA-03: Least inspiring campaign ever?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 08:15:00 AM CST

I planned to write several posts this fall about the third Congressional district race between Representatives Tom Latham and Leonard Boswell. Instead, every time I sat down to write about the campaign, I found myself turning to other topics. Central Iowa radio and television stations have been so over-saturated with cookie-cutter attack ads against both candidates. If a political junkie like me finds it off-putting, I can't imagine how disengaged other people feel when they hear the beginning of yet another negative commercial.

Neither Latham nor Boswell has offered a compelling case for re-election, but after the jump I review the main messages from both campaigns and from various outside groups that have been advertising in Des Moines and Omaha.

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