Yes, Maybe, We Still Can

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For the past several months, both online and out in the real world, I have advocated for the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders. I believed then as I believe now that he is an honest, principled advocate for the concerns of working people who are seeing their livelihoods imperiled on a daily basis by political process that is rigged against them and an economic system that favors massive, inherited wealth and fosters inequality. I believed then as I believe now that the vast and growing gap between the wealthy elite and the struggling masses threatens the very foundation of our collective society and that the only way to prevent a new-fangled aristocracy from permanently seizing the reins of power would be for immediate and drastic actions to not only stop but reverse this devastating growth of inequality. I believed then as I believe now that, even though Secretary Hillary Clinton is an eminently qualified candidate to lead our nation, it was necessary for someone like Senator Sanders to challenge her to confront these issues and speak to and up for the losers of our economic system.

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Why I encourage Iowans to caucus for Bernie Sanders

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on topics of statewide, local, or national importance. -promoted by desmoinesdem

My name is Aaron Camp. I’m not an Iowan, in fact, I’m a lifelong resident of Vermilion County, Illinois who has never been to Iowa. I’m a staunch supporter of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, although I am not officially affiliated with the Sanders campaign in any way. With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses just days away, I’ll take this opportunity to encourage Iowans to participate in the Democratic caucus and caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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High points for Clinton and Sanders in the South Carolina Democratic debate

Expanded from a short take for CNN

Hillary Clinton was solid and Bernie Sanders turned in his best debate performance yet in Charleston last night. Can anyone deny that Democratic National Committee leaders should have allowed more debates and scheduled them on nights when more voters would watch? The sometimes sharp exchanges between the front-runners probably didn’t change many Democratic minds, but Clinton and Sanders both delivered plenty of lines that should reinforce the inclinations of voters who are supporting them or leaning in that direction.

I suspect the following moments will particularly resonate with Iowa caucus-goers, based on my conversations with hundreds of Iowa Democrats and on how I’ve seen multiple crowds react to the candidates.

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the "omnibus" budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the "tax extenders" and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named "On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566"), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders "opposed the tax package" but "did not whip their members against it." Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He "has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October," Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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Where are they now? Swati Dandekar edition

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President Barack Obama has named former State Senator Swati Dandekar "to be United States director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of ambassador," the White House announced yesterday. Created in 1966 and representing dozens of member countries, the bank had nearly $23 billion in operations last year. It "finances development in the Asia and Pacific region with the aim of reducing poverty" through "loans, technical assistance and grants for a broad range of development activities."

After growing up and getting her education in India, Dandekar moved to Marion, Iowa with her husband during the 1970s. She became active in local schools while raising her children and served for six years on the Linn-Mar School Board before winning three elections to the Iowa House and eventually a 2008 election to the Iowa Senate. That last victory prompted the Asian-American newspaper AsianWeek to name Dandekar the Asian Pacific American of the year. During her years as a state lawmaker, Dandekar focused on many education and economic development issues; she was also involved in efforts to promote trade between Iowa and India. A past leader of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, Dandekar did not serve out her term in the Iowa Senate, accepting an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board in 2011. She left that position in order to run for Congress in Iowa’s first district. Dandekar finished third in the 2014 Democratic primary behind Pat Murphy and Monica Vernon.

Dandekar disclosed earlier this year that she was considering running for Congress again. She confirmed by phone today that because of her new position, she has ruled out any election campaign. I doubt she will endorse a candidate in the three-way primary between Murphy, Vernon, and Gary Kroeger to take on IA-01’s Republican incumbent Rod Blum.

Drake Democratic debate highlights and discussion thread

The second Democratic presidential debate kicks off in a few minutes at Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium. Why Democratic National Committee leaders scheduled this event on a Saturday night is beyond me; but then, their whole approach to debates this year has been idiotic. I wonder how many politically-engaged Iowans who would normally tune in for a debate will watch the Iowa Hawkeyes football game against Minnesota tonight.

I’m not a fan of curtain-raisers such as lists of "things to watch for" or mistakes candidates might make. I will update this post later with thoughts on each contender’s performance.

Any comments about tonight’s debate or the Democratic presidential race generally are welcome in this thread. I enclose below the latest commercials Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been running in Iowa. The new 30-second Sanders spot mostly uses images and phrases pulled from his strong introductory commercial. Clinton’s ad-maker this year is putting out much better material than I remember from her 2007 Iowa caucus campaign. To my knowledge, Martin O’Malley has not aired any television commercials in Iowa yet, but the Generation Forward super-PAC has run at least one spot promoting his candidacy, which Bleeding Heartland posted here.

UPDATE: My first take on the debate is after the jump.

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