Rod Blum votes against hurricane, wildfire relief funding

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) was among 69 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted against a disaster relief bill today. Every Democrat present including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) supported the legislation, as did most of the GOP caucus, including Representatives David Young (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). Niv Elis and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,

The package includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund — including $4.9 billion for a disaster relief loan account — $16 billion to address national flood insurance program debt and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts. It also provided $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.

Congress will likely vote on more disaster relief funds later this fall, as costs pile up due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires in California and Oregon. According to Congressional reporter Jamie Dupree, “Florida lawmakers have already requested $27 billion in specific funding for the state; officials from Texas have asked for almost $19 billion.”

Blum’s district includes Cedar Rapids, which received substantial federal assistance after being devastated by flooding in 2008. At this writing, he has not explained his reasons for opposing today’s bill. Some Republicans were upset about the process, which did not allow for any votes on budget cuts to offset the new spending. Others wanted additional funding for the National Flood Insurance Program to come with strings attached. I will update this post as needed with comments from Blum, if any appear on his official website or his social media feeds.

All four Iowans in the U.S. House voted for a Hurricane Harvey aid package last month.

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Blum, Young, King back 20-week abortion ban with few exceptions

Republican U.S. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted today for a bill to make it a federal crime “for any person to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus is 20 weeks or more.” The so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act contains only two exceptions: for termination “(1) that is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, or (2) when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.” Women or girls must have reported the crime to law enforcement in order to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks.

All but two House Republicans supported the bill (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed it, as did all but three of his fellow House Democrats. Loebsack has never backed any version of this legislation. King tries to ban abortion at every opportunity and has co-sponsored more extreme “heartbeat” or “personhood” bills. He spoke on the House floor in support of the current legislation last night.

Iowa’s new 20-week abortion ban has fewer exceptions than the bill House Republicans just approved. Women pregnant due to rape or incest have no recourse. The only allowable terminations after 20 weeks may occur if “the pregnant woman has a condition which the physician deems a medical emergency,” or if “the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of an unborn child.”

Neither the proposed federal ban nor Iowa’s law permit abortions after 20 weeks due to severe fetal anomalies, including those incompatible with life outside the womb. Iowa women are now required to continue pregnancies, potentially risking their own health or fertility, even if a 20-week ultrasound reveals a non-survivable medical problem. The same path would be forced on women nationwide if the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act became law. However, that won’t happen anytime soon, as the bill lacks enough support to clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.

I enclose below a statement from King and will update as needed, if Iowa’s other U.S. House members comment on today’s vote.

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All four Iowans approve Harvey aid, debt ceiling deal in House

The U.S. House easily approved legislation on Friday to keep the Federal Emergency Management Agency from running out of Hurricane Harvey disaster relief money over the weekend. The same bill included a short-term debt ceiling hike and language to fund the federal government through December 8.

I was surprised to see all four of Iowa’s House members in the yes column (roll call). Both of our senators had voted against the Harvey aid package in the upper chamber. I expected Representative Steve King (IA-04) and possibly Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) to follow suit.

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Grassley, Ernst vote against Harvey aid/debt ceiling package

With only a few days left before the Federal Emergency Management Agency runs out of disaster relief funds, the U.S. Senate approved $15.25 billion in funding for those affected by Hurricane Harvey today. Eighty senators voted for the legislation, even though GOP lawmakers were said to be “furious” when President Donald Trump agreed yesterday to a Democratic proposal linking Harvey aid to a short-term debt ceiling hike and language to fund the federal government through December 8.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the seventeen Republican senators who voted against today’s bill (roll call). In a statement enclosed in full below, Ernst said she supported a “clean” Hurricane Harvey relief bill, like the one U.S. House members approved on September 6 by 419 votes to 3. All four Iowans supported that bill: Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02).

Carefully avoiding direct criticism of Trump, Ernst added in her statement, “Unfortunately a final deal was cut and while it includes initial relief funding, it also raises the debt limit and kicks the can down the road once again on our overall government spending levels. This is not the right way to legislate, and quite frankly, it is exactly what the American people are sick and tired of.”

I assume Grassley opposed the Harvey aid bill for similar reasons. At this writing, his office has not released a statement; I will update this post as needed with any public comment.

The Senate bill goes back to the House, where Democratic support is assured but a large number of Republicans will bolt over the debt ceiling hike and short-term spending resolution. I’ll be surprised if King or Blum votes for the bill; Young could go either way. UPDATE: All four Iowans voted for the revised bill in the U.S. House. I posted statements from King and Blum here.

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Trump won't call out neo-Nazis. Republicans must hold him accountable

What a discouraging weekend for the country. Hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, carrying torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The next day, police mostly stood by while racists (some displaying swastika flags or calling out the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”) clashed with counter-protesters during “the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades.” One of those anti-fascist protesters, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car struck her while driving into a crowd, allegedly intentionally. Virginia state troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while assisting in the law enforcement response to the “Unite the Right” rally.

Many Republican officials, including Iowa’s top GOP leaders, condemned this weekend’s acts of domestic terrorism and racist hatred. But President Donald Trump–long an inspiration to white nationalists and neo-Nazis–deliberately avoided calling out the instigators in Charlottesville.

Politicians who enthusiastically campaigned for Trump and continue to support him must demand much more.

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IA-02: Christopher Peters set to run against Dave Loebsack again

Dr. Christopher Peters announced today that he will visit all 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district next week “to speak with Iowans about his plans for the 2018 election.” Since I’ve never heard of someone holding more than two dozen events to publicize a decision not to run for office, it’s a safe bet the Coralville surgeon will be launching his second attempt to defeat Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack.

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