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Grassley, Harkin support failed bill on military sexual assault cases (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 12:24:55 PM CST

Yet another good idea has fallen victim to the U.S. Senate's rules requiring a super-majority to advance legislation. Although 44 Democratic senators and eleven Republicans supported a bill that would have taken sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command, backers fell five votes short of the 60 needed to pass a cloture motion yesterday. Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley both voted for cloture (roll call) on the bill sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Pentagon leaders and Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Claire McCaskill lobbied against the measure. A weaker sexual assault prevention bill proposed by McCaskill advanced after senators rejected cloture on Gillibrand's bill.

After the jump I've posted the key arguments for both sides in the debate, as well as comments from Grassley and Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01). In the floor statement I've enclosed below, Grassley urged colleagues, "We need a clean break from the system where sexual assault isn't reported because of a perception that justice won't be done." Braley has long supported reforms along the lines of Gillibrand's bill, and yesterday he promised to keep pushing on the issue, saying opponents are "on the wrong side of history." Braley is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat Harkin will vacate at the end of this year.

P.S. - Of the Republican senators considered most likely to run for president in 2016, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted for cloture on Gillibrand's bill. Marco Rubio voted against it.  

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Grassley, Harkin back pension fix, split on debt ceiling hike (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 18:26:00 PM CST

This afternoon the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to reverse a planned change in cost of living adjustments for some military pensions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to bring up the bill that passed the U.S. House yesterday, rather than a Democratic alternative that fixed the military pension policy without any spending cuts to offset the $6 billion cost over ten years. Senators approved the House bill by 95 votes to 3, with Iowa's Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley both supporting the measure.

Also today, senators approved a bill "to temporarily extend the public debt limit" with no strings attached. That bill also cleared the House yesterday. A dozen Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell crossed party lines to approve the cloture motion on the debt ceiling hike, but the procedural vote was a nail-biter that took more than an hour. Grassley was one of the 31 Republicans who opposed cloture. The debt ceiling increase then passed on a a straight party-line vote of 55 to 43, with Harkin voting yes and Grassley voting no.

Possible 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio all voted against cloture on the debt ceiling increase as well as against the bill on final passage.

UPDATE: Erik Wasson, Ramsey Cox and Peter Schroeder wrote a fascinating piece on the battle to advance the debt ceiling bill: "McConnell and top lieutenant Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) reluctantly backed ending debate after it became clear that no one in their conference wanted to cast the deciding 60th vote."

This post covers reaction to the debt ceiling vote from Republican candidates for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat.

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Iowans support House bill to reverse military pension cuts (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 16:44:00 PM CST

One of the most shameful provisions in last year's federal budget deal between Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan was a change in the cost of living adjustment for military pensions. The pension cut could never have passed in a stand-alone vote but got through as one small piece of what was perceived as a must-pass deal. At the time, an old friend and 20-year Navy veteran commented on Facebook, "This is a great bookend for why we are tired of being thanked for serving. Actions speak louder than mere words for the sacrifices made by people in uniform and their families."

House and Senate members are eager to reverse this pension cut, but so far can't agree on how or whether to offset the $6 billion that would have been saved during a ten-year period of screwing over veterans on full pensions.

Today House leaders attached military pension language to an unrelated bill and quickly passed it under a suspension of normal House rules. The roll call shows that Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republican Steve King (IA-04) were all part of the 326 to 90 majority who voted yes. Tom Latham (IA-03) was not present for the vote. The 19 Republicans and 71 Democrats who voted no had different reasons, Pete Kasperowicz reported.

Some Democrats said they opposed not only the speed with which the bill was rushed to the floor, but the way Republicans are offsetting the $6 billion cost of the bill. The legislation pays for the restoration of benefits by extending sequester cuts to mandatory spending under Medicare for one year, through 2024 instead of 2023. [...]

Republicans had their own reasons for opposing the measure - many GOP members have said they disapprove of the idea of paying for current spending by promising cuts 10 years out.

When Congress approved the Murray-Ryan budget deal in December, three of Iowa's four House members voted yes, with King the odd man out. Senator Tom Harkin supported the deal, while Senator Chuck Grassley voted against it.

UPDATE: Added a statement from Braley below.

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Harkin, Grassley split as Senate approves budget deal

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 19, 2013 at 15:04:00 PM CST

In a departure from the usual brinksmanship over funding the federal government, the U.S. Senate approved yesterday the recent bipartisan budget deal. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan worked out a compromise on overall budget targets for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, replacing some of the "sequester" cuts that went into effect earlier this year. The deal passed the House last week with strong bipartisan support, including three of Iowa's four representatives.

Senate Republicans were less supportive of the budget agreement than House GOP members, but nine Republicans crossed over to vote with the entire Democratic caucus, approving the deal by 64 votes to 36 (roll call). Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley was one of the 36 Republicans who voted no, along with possible future presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. I have not seen any statement from Grassley's office explaining that vote but will update this post as needed. UPDATE: Added a few comments from Grassley.

President Barack Obama will sign off on this agreement, but Congress still needs to pass an omnibus budget bill before January 15 to avoid another government shutdown. After the jump I've posted a statement from Senator Tom Harkin supporting the deal, as well as details on why some conservatives oppose this deal.

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More Senate confirmation news: how Grassley and Harkin voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 02, 2013 at 06:40:00 AM CDT

Bipartisan consensus allowed a group of President Barack Obama's nominees to be confirmed easily this week, but a Republican filibuster nearly blocked the confirmation of one federal agency head. In addition, Senator Chuck Grassley again pushed back against claims that Republicans have dragged their feet on confirming federal judges during Obama's presidency.

Details are after the jump.

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House approves Paul Ryan's budget: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 11:56:00 AM CDT

Yesterday the U.S. House approved a fiscal year 2014 budget prepared by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The bill also sets budget levels for fiscal years 2015 through 2023. Bleeding Heartland covered Iowa reaction to the latest Ryan budget here. After the jump I have details on yesterday's vote and statements released by members of the Iowa delegation.

Despite the spin from some Congressional Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad, it's important to remember that Ryan's budget is not balanced and will not be balanced even 10 years from now. Both the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have noted that Ryan does not say how he would offset trillions in lost revenue from income tax cuts he proposes. In addition, the Ryan budget "understates defense spending by $100 billion over the next ten years" and assumes that the 2010 health care reform law will be repealed, which obviously won't happen. The Ryan plan isn't about eliminating the federal deficit, it's a plan to end Medicare as a single-payer program and change the role of the federal government in the lives of low-income Americans.

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Senate, House avert government shutdown: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 09:45:00 AM CDT

This week Congress approved a continuing spending resolution to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. Iowa's delegation split on this compromise, but not strictly along party lines. Details on the budget compromise and how the Iowans voted are after the jump.
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Iraq War 10th anniversary links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 16:32:00 PM CDT

Ten years ago, President George W. Bush made the disastrous mistake of taking this country to war against Iraq. I've posted some links about the costs and casualties of war after the jump.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread. I appreciate the work and commitment of those who tried to derail the speeding train toward invasion, and of those who protested the war after it began. I did nothing to stop the war in Iraq--just sat in a rocking chair cradling a new baby, feeling horrified while watching the news on television.

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Iowa reaction to Paul Ryan's new budget

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 17:45:00 PM CDT

U.S. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan presented his new federal budget blueprint today. As before, he would end Medicare as a single-payer system for all Americans under age 55, slash spending on programs for the poor such as food stamps and Medicaid, and cut taxes for some, though the details there are fuzzy. He would not cut the defense budget or Social Security. Ryan says his budget would be balanced in 10 years, but he relies on some assumptions that won't happen, such as repeal of the 2010 health care reform law.

I've enclosed Iowa political reaction to the Ryan budget below and will update this post as needed.

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Loebsack votes with House Republicans on government funding resolution

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 08:20:00 AM CST

Yesterday the U.S. House approved a bill to fund the federal government through the remainder of the current fiscal year. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was one of 53 House Democrats to vote for the spending bill, along with most of the Republican caucus. Follow me after the jump for details and the latest sleight of hand by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
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Rand Paul filibuster discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 07:13:00 AM CST

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky delayed Senate business yesterday by launching a filibuster that lasted nearly 13 hours. The ninth-longest filibuster in Senate history and the longest since 1992 focused on the president's power to order an American citizen killed on U.S. soil. Paul managed to delay a planned confirmation vote on President Barack Obama's nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. Senators are likely to confirm Brennan today, but Paul's tactic served two longtime historical purposes of the filibuster: slow down Senate business and call attention to an issue of national importance. To my knowledge, the last lengthy filibuster of this kind happened when Bernie Sanders talked for more than eight hours against the December 2010 deal to extend most Bush tax cuts.

Eight other senators joined Paul's filibuster yesterday: seven Republicans and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon. Iowa's GOP Senator Chuck Grassley did not take part.

In related news, some Senate Democrats are warning that the majority may revisit filibuster reform because Republicans continue to demand a 60-vote majority for almost any kind of Senate business. That was entirely foreseeable. But Democrats missed their best chance to change the rules at the beginning of this year's Congress. They should have listened to Senator Tom Harkin, who has been trying for years to curtail the abuse of the filibuster.

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Harkin, Grassley split as Senate approves Chuck Hagel

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 16:50:00 PM CST

The U.S. Senate voted today to confirm Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense by 58 votes to 41. Although Hagel is a Republican, all of the votes against his confirmation came from GOP senators, including Iowa's Chuck Grassley. The entire Senate Democratic caucus, including Tom Harkin, voted to confirm Hagel, joined by four Republicans.

Earlier today, a cloture motion on Hagel's nomination easily passed by 71 votes to 27 (roll call). Just 60 votes were needed to pass the motion. Grassley was one of the 27 Republicans who tried to filibuster Hagel's nomination. Their effort failed because 18 Senate Republicans voted for cloture; most of them later voted against confirmation.

The 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, led by Nick Ryan of Iowa, was one of the big spenders in the effort to defeat Hagel's nomination. After the jump I've posted excerpts from a good piece explaining why the campaign against Hagel was a "win-win" for "dark money groups," even though they failed to prevent his confirmation. I'll update this post as needed if I see comments from Grassley and Harkin.  

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More details on how the sequester could affect Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 09:50:00 AM CST

Following up on Saturday's post about the possible closure of three Iowa airports air traffic control towers, the White House has released more details on how automatic federal spending cuts could affect Iowa, beginning on March 1, if Congress and President Barack Obama don't agree on a deal to replace the "sequester."  
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Braley, Loebsack join House Republicans on federal worker pay freeze

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 07:10:00 AM CST

Catching up on news from last week, all four Iowans in the U.S. House supported a bill seeking to "freeze the pay of federal workers for the third year in a row" as well as the salaries for members of Congress.
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Grassley, Senate Republicans block Hagel confirmation

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 16:55:00 PM CST

A cloture motion on the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for U.S. Secretary of Defense failed by a single vote today.  
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State of the Union and Rubio response discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 18:43:08 PM CST

President Barack Obama delivers another State of the Union address tonight, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is set to give the Republican response. I will miss most of the president's speech but plan to watch the replay later and will update this post with highlights. Meanwhile, feel free to comment on any topics raised during the speeches in this thread.

UPDATE: Highlights from the speeches and reaction from the Iowans in Congress are after the jump.

I find it depressing that when I came home to catch up on the news, the blogosphere and twitterverse were obsessing over Rubio taking a drink of water during his remarks. So sue him, he's not the most camera-savvy politician in Washington (yet). Who cares?

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Worst Obama nominee ever?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 08:10:00 AM CST

The U.S. Senate is about to get bogged down in a debate over whether Chuck Hagel is pro-Israel enough to be President Barack Obama's secretary of defense. An amusing sideshow will feature Republicans appalled by Hagel's anti-gay remark about a 1998 nominee of President Bill Clinton. After much time is wasted, senators will confirm Hagel to run the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, there is likely to be little debate over Obama's most appalling nominee yet: John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. I don't have much to add to concerns the American Civil Liberties Union and Glenn Greenwald raised yesterday. It's bad enough that the Obama administration is still doing renditions, spying on Americans without a warrant, and escalating its use of drone strikes that kill many civilians. The president is promoting his top terrorism adviser, who's deeply associated with those policies, and it's not even a controversial appointment. The Senate should have a real debate about this policy but won't. Greenwald noted, "the reason Obama needs a new CIA chief is because David Petraeus was forced to resign. Here we see the ethos and morality of imperial Washington: past support for torture and rendition does not disqualify one for a top national security position; only an extramarital affair can do that."

Any comments about Obama's cabinet appointments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley commented on Hagel's nomination today but did not say whether he plans to vote for or against confirming him.

Apparently Brennan denies having supported torture as U.S. policy, but he is on record backing "coercive methods" of interrogation.

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Obama cabinet changes discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 19:25:00 PM CST

Change is coming to President Barack Obama's cabinet, as is typical for a second term. After the jump I've posted some links and recent news on possible appointees.

Any comments about the cabinet are welcome in this thread.

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Harkin, Grassley vote no as Senate passes defense authorization bill

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 23:40:00 PM CST

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin both voted for the Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013. But on Friday the Iowans were among just 14 senators to oppose passage of the final conference agreement on the defense authorization bill.  
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Iowa Congressional voting roundup: Defense bill and budget cuts

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 20:23:19 PM CST

Iowa's five representatives all voted no intended to vote no as the U.S. House approved the conference committee report on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act today. UPDATE: Steve King meant to vote no but mistakenly voted yes. Details below.

The Iowans split on party lines over a bill designed to replace the "sequester" scheduled for early next year with deep spending cuts in non-defense domestic programs.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders retreated from a planned vote on House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" at the end of the calendar year.

Follow me after the jump for details on all of the above.

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