Tax bill backed by Blum, Young, King skewed toward wealthiest Iowans

Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) joined most of their Republican colleagues in the U.S. House today to pass a tax bill that would greatly increase the federal deficit, conferring most of the benefits on corporations and people far wealthier than most Iowans. Tens of millions of low to moderate-income Americans would pay more in federal taxes if its provisions became law, because a number of tax credits and deductions would be scrapped or scaled back.

To cite just one example: ending a tax break for out-of-pocket medical expenses would have a “catastrophic effect on disabled people” as well as anyone who spends a substantial amount on chronic health conditions or fertility treatments.

Meanwhile, an estimated 203,000 Iowa children would be either fully or partially left out of the expanded Child Tax Credit included in the House bill. Repealing the estate tax, which applies “only to the value of an estate that exceeds $5.5 million per person ($11 million per couple),” would benefit about 70 Iowa families in 2018, some 0.2 percent of all estates.

House Republicans know their tax plan will cost many Americans more. For that reason, before bringing the bill to the floor–with no hearings–they waived a rule that “had been put in place to make it difficult to increase taxes.”

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Weekend open thread: Veterans Day do's and don'ts

Thanking a veteran is easy. Tackling problems that face veterans is hard.

At no time is that political reality more apparent than on the 11th day of the 11th month.

The usual expressions of respect and gratitude can be found in the latest batch of Veterans Day tweets by Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Representatives Rod Blum (R, IA-01), Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02), David Young (R, IA-03), and Steve King (R, IA-04).

After the jump I’ve posted some concrete ways members of Congress could show they care about veterans. This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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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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