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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Pete D'Alessandro joins the Democratic field in IA-03

Promising to “fight for a bold agenda” that can “win the future,” Pete D’Alessandro became the sixth Democratic candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district today. A veteran of many campaigns who is putting his name on the ballot for the first time, D’Alessandro is best known to Iowa activists as state coordinator for Bernie Sanders before the 2016 caucuses. His core issues echo some of the Sanders campaign’s central themes:

» Fight for a $15/hour livable wage
» Expand Medicare-for-all to ensure universal healthcare access
» Support tuition-free college
» Lead on addressing the global climate crisis

D’Alessandro is also promising to “do more than just stand against Donald Trump.” He developed his thoughts further on Democratic principles and tactics in a recent interview with Bleeding Heartland.

His campaign is on the web at PeteforIowa.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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If Pete D'Alessandro runs in IA-03, it won't be just to win an election

Pete D’Alessandro would be a first-time candidate if he joins the large group of Democrats challenging Representative David Young in Iowa’s third Congressional district. But no one in the field has more Iowa campaign experience than this longtime political operative.

D’Alessandro has been thinking seriously about this race for months. In a recent telephone interview, he told me he has set Saturday, August 26–the date of the Iowa Democratic Party’s third district workshop in Atlantic–as “the day to fish or cut bait.”

He also discussed the points he would raise as a candidate and how Democrats can accomplish “real change,” capitalizing on the activism that fueled Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

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Austin Frerick launches Democratic campaign in IA-03

Declaring that “economic concentration is the fundamental issue of our time,” Austin Frerick launched his candidacy for Congress in Iowa’s third Congressional district today.

In a news release, he said, “For too long, agricultural monopolies like Monsanto have been milking Iowa’s farmers with high seed costs. I’m tired of watching career politicians stand aside while huge corporations push around average Iowans.”

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