Young and Loebsack yes, Blum and King no on keeping the government running

A federal government shutdown before October appears unlikely now that the U.S. House has approved a $1.1 trillion deal to fund the government through the current fiscal year. The roll call for the May 3 vote shows that Iowa’s Representatives David Young (IA-03) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 131 Republicans and 178 Democrats to support the funding measure. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and Steve King (IA-04) voted against it. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

Democrats claimed victory over what the spending bill lacked: funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall promised by President Trump, restrictions on federal grants for so-called “sanctuary cities” that shield immigrants from deportation and steep cuts to domestic programs proposed by the White House. […]

The legislation also includes an extension of health benefits for retired coal miners and $1.1 billion in disaster assistance. Funding for Planned Parenthood remains untouched.

Republicans, unable to otherwise advance many conservative policy priorities in the bill, touted the $15 billion increase for defense spending. That’s approximately half of the $30 billion in supplemental military spending requested by the Trump administration earlier this year.

It’s still a break from the Obama era, when Democrats insisted that any hike in defense spending had to be matched by an increase in non-defense programs.

Assuming the U.S. Senate passes the spending bill tomorrow, President Donald Trump can sign it before current funding expires on May 5. Trump seems to be itching for a government shutdown, but not just yet.

The other big news from the House is that Republican leaders now believe they have the votes to pass a health care reform bill on May 4. Young is among the high-profile flip-floppers on the American Health Care Act. In March, he opposed the bill, saying health care fixes must be “done in the right way, for the right reasons, and in the right amount of time it takes to ensure we avoid the mistakes of the past. We need to be thoughtful and deliberate and get this right to achieve accessible, affordable quality healthcare.” Over the past week, his staff have told hundreds of constituent callers (some as recently as today) that he opposed the bill.

But this afternoon, Young agreed to co-sponsor an amendment providing a pitiful extra $8 billion over five years–spread across an unknown number of states–to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Get this: the $8 billion would go to states that “apply for waivers allowing insurers to charge higher rates based on a person’s ‘health status’”–that is, states that let insurance companies gouge people with pre-existing conditions. Young has previously stated, “no one should be denied access to affordable healthcare because of a pre-existing condition.” He repeated that commitment in a recent meeting with Indivisible activists.

Aviva Aron-Dine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained that “the $8 billion would restore less than 1 percent of the nearly $1 trillion the House bill cuts from programs that help people afford coverage.” Furthermore, “the House bill creates major problems for people with pre-existing conditions that the new funding doesn’t even purport to solve.”

Bleeding Heartland will have more to say on health care reform in a forthcoming post. For now, read Sarah Kliff on the absurdity of House Republicans voting for a bill that will affect millions of people and a huge portion of the U.S. economy, “without knowing how many people it covers or how much it would cost.” Nothing supports Young’s press release asserting that the new GOP proposal “will help make healthcare coverage less expensive than under current law […] and accessible for patients who need it most.”

Blum has not commented publicly on his plans, but Congress-watchers expect him to follow Young’s path, voting for a bill he claimed to oppose on principle six weeks ago.

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Michael Bousselot for Congress in IA-02? I really don't think so.

Pat Rynard speculated yesterday about four possible GOP challengers to Representative Dave Loebsack in Iowa’s second Congressional district. Republicans spent very little money trying to unseat Loebsack last year but have signaled they plan to contest this race in 2018. House Democrats added Loebsack to their program for vulnerable incumbents.

Rynard didn’t mention Dr. Christopher Peters, who lost in IA-02 last year by less than 8 points despite getting in the race late and being outspent by a considerable margin. I expect Peters to run for Congress again in 2018.

For today, I want to focus on Governor Terry Branstad’s chief of staff Michael Bousselot, whom Rynard dubbed the “most interesting name to surface so far” as a possible challenger to Loebsack. “Were Branstad to put his political machine in to action for Bousselot […] the young staffer could quickly become the front-runner in a primary race where access to big donors is key,” he noted.

No doubt a lot of Republican money would get behind Bousselot if Branstad gave the word. But I can’t see this guy making a lot of headway against Loebsack.

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Iowa Democratic Party chair defends vote for Tom Perez

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Derek Eadon wrote to members of the party’s State Central Committee on Monday to explain why he supported Tom Perez to lead the Democratic National Committee. Among the roughly half of SCC members who supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, many are unhappy that 1) the Iowa delegation unanimously backed Perez instead of casting some of their votes for Keith Ellison, the preferred candidate of most on the Sanders wing, 2) SCC members were not consulted about the decision, and 3) SCC members received no advance warning before Perez’s campaign tweeted out the news on the day before the DNC election.

Over the weekend, a number of SCC members were among the Iowa activists vehemently expressing their disappointment in public and private forums on Facebook. Several asserted that Eadon and First Vice Chair Andrea Phillips had previously committed to supporting Ellison. Some drafted a joint letter to Iowa’s five voting members of the DNC (Eadon, Phillips, Scott Brennan, Sandy Opstvedt, and Jan Bauer) criticizing the bloc support for Perez and the lack of transparency surrounding the choice.

Multiple sources involved in those discussions told Bleeding Heartland today that SCC members decided to raise those concerns at an upcoming retreat on March 4, rather than sending a joint letter to the DNC delegation in advance. But former Sanders campaign staffer Evan Burger, one of the fourth Congressional district’s representatives on the SCC, did go public with his views. In a commentary for Iowa Informer, Burger argued the “block vote for the establishment candidate was a tone deaf move” symbolizing “a continuation of business as usual” in the Democratic Party.

After the jump I’ve posted the full text of Eadon’s message to the SCC, excerpts from Burger’s post, and part of an e-mail blast by Ed Fallon, an influential voice among Iowa progressives.

UPDATE: Added an excerpt from the speech Phillips gave at the January 21 State Central Committee meeting, where she was elected first vice chair.

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Democrats set to target Blum in IA-01; GOP will go after Loebsack in IA-02

Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting system has given our state an unusual number of competitive Congressional districts. Major-party candidates and outside groups spent millions of dollars last year in Iowa’s first district race pitting GOP Representative Rod Blum against Democratic challenger Monica Vernon, as well as in the third district, where Republican Representative David Young faced Democrat Jim Mowrer.

Not only are Democrats determined to go after IA-01 and IA-03 again in 2018, Iowa Republicans have signaled that they will try to defeat six-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who mostly got a pass in the second district during 2016.

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