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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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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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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Now we can see which Iowans will suffer most from Planned Parenthood and victims assistance cuts

It’s not abstract anymore.

We knew eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood’s family planning services would cause thousands to lose access to basic health care.

We knew deep cuts to state funding for victims assistance would affect thousands of sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors.

Now we are starting to see which Iowans will be the first to suffer from Republican choices on how to spend the public’s money.

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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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