Loebsack, King cross party lines on bill halting refugees from Syria, Iraq


Today the U.S. House approved a bill that "would prevent any refugees from Syria or Iraq from entering the United States until the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence certify that none of them are dangerous," Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill. Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among 47 Democrats who joined 242 Republicans to pass the bill (roll call). Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) also voted yes, but Representative Steve King (IA-04) was one of only two House Republicans to vote no. His office has not yet responded to my request for comment or issued a statement explaining that vote.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which according to White House would "’provide no meaningful additional security for the American people’ and impose new certification requirements that effectively end the refugee program" to assist those fleeing Syria or Iraq. Marcos reported, "GOP aides noted that because of absences, the vote would have met the two-thirds requirement to override a presidential veto if that vote had been held Thursday. Still, there’s no guarantee that Democrats would vote to override the president if the bill comes back to the floor." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sounds confident the bill will not clear the upper chamber.

I will update this post as needed with comments from Iowa’s Congressional delegation or other reaction to today’s vote. The epic fail of the day goes to the Republican Party of Iowa for sending out the press release enclosed below. In that statement, Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann "applauds King, Blum, Young on Refugee Vote." Check the roll call first, guys.

Note: most of the perpetrators of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris were French citizens.

UPDATE: King’s office provided the following statement: "I voted against the American SAFE Act because it fails to restore Congress’ Article 1 authority over admissions of migrants to the United States. How can we trust this Obama Administration who will not utter the words ‘radical Islamic jihad’ to accurately screen Syrian and Iraqi refugees as required in this bill? For that reason, I submitted an amendment to rules, which was ultimately not adopted, that would create international safe zones for refugees in their homeland. The safety and security of the American people is paramount. I respect the House trying to find a solution but I do not believe this was the right or strong enough one."

The Iowa GOP issued a corrected press release, blaming "incorrect press reports of a unanimous Republican vote" for their error. Always wait for the official roll call. I’ve added the new statement below, along with a screen shot of a tweet (since deleted) from state party co-chair Cody Hoefert thanking all three Iowa Republicans "for voting to strengthen our national security."

SECOND UPDATE: Blum’s statement is below as well.

THIRD UPDATE: Added Loebsack’s official comment on the vote. When I asked whether Loebsack would vote to override a presidential veto of this bill, his communications director Joe Hand responded, "Will have to see what happens in the Senate before we talk overriding any possible veto."

FOURTH UPDATE: I’ve seen lots of progressives criticize Loebsack’s vote on social media, and some of that feedback must be getting through. On Friday afternoon, Loebsack for Congress sent out an e-mail blast with the subject line "my vote." Scroll to the end of this post to read the full text. Most of the commenters on Loebsack’s Facebook status update about this vote criticized his stance. As of November 21, neither Loebsack nor his staff had responded publicly to the comments.

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Thoughts on the Iowa Democratic Party's final Jefferson-Jackson dinner

The Iowa Democratic Party held its final Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday night, drawing some 6,000 activists to hear three presidential candidates speak in Des Moines. Last night’s spectacle won’t loom as large over the Iowa caucus campaign as the JJ did in 2007, when it took place in November and the caucuses were scheduled for early January, rather than February. But some new tactics emerged during the speeches by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton. My thoughts on the evening’s highlights are after the jump.

I am a sucker for hand-made political signs, so I also enclose below my favorite pictures from the crowds in the bleachers. I put "Feel the Bern" in lights up top because I’ve never seen electrified signs at the JJ before.

While I see the value in supporters waving signs (or glow sticks, as many did last night) at a big rally, the "sign wars" some campaigns stage before multi-candidate events have always struck me as pointless. How does it demonstrate "organizational strength" to send a few staffers to put up printed materials in windows or along a road? Why would anyone want their volunteers to stand around yelling for hours before the dinner, rather than saving their energy and voices to show that enthusiasm inside the hall? For those who disagree with me and love the show, Pat Rynard chronicled the morning and afternoon activities by all three campaigns at Iowa Starting Line.

As for why I called it the "final" JJ, the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser will continue under a to-be-determined name honoring icons considered more inclusive. You can send your suggestion to the state party using this form through February 15, 2016.

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Iowa Congressional 3Q fundraising roundup

U.S. Capitol photo Fotolia_45139367_XS_zpsfdhhn9cd.jpg

October 15 was the deadline for Congressional candidates to report details on their donations and expenditures between July 1 and September 30 to the Federal Election Commission. Highlights from the FEC filings are after the jump.

I didn’t see any big surprises in this quarter’s fundraising numbers from Iowa, though one challenger raised more money than any of the four U.S. House incumbents, which I don’t ever remember happening before longtime GOP Representative Tom Latham retired in 2014.

None of the incumbents spent lavishly on their campaigns between July and September, but Representative Rod Blum was remarkably thrifty.

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IA-02: State Senator Mark Chelgren makes campaign against Dave Loebsack official

After dropping some unsubtle hints in recent days, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren confirmed today that he will run for Congress in Iowa’s second district, William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register. He will launch the campaign in Iowa City this afternoon on October 6 before appearing at the Scott County Republican Party Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf. Scott County has the largest population and Johnson County (containing Iowa City) the second-largest among the 24 counties in IA-02.

Speaking to the Register, Chelgren said he doesn’t dislike five-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack, but “This is a question of who is better suited to change Washington, D.C. […] you are not going to do it by following party lines and doing what you are told.” In reality, Loebsack has not blindly followed the lead of his fellow House Democrats. The Progressive Punch database of Congressional voting indicates that Loebsack is only the 157th most progressive current member of the House. He has also voted with Republicans rather than with most of his own caucus on more than 30 percent of the “crucial votes” tallied by Progressive Punch since 2007.

A business owner in Ottumwa, Chelgren told the Register he is running to represent the people of southeast Iowa and hopes to bring to Washington his experience creating jobs at the local level. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in July, Chelgren outlined other key themes of his potential Congressional campaign: changing our trade policy, upgrading our infrastructure, fixing a “massively broken” education system, and bringing more long-range planning to the federal government.

Chelgren’s ten-vote victory in a 2010 Iowa Senate race neither party had its eye on still evokes unprintable words from many Democrats. Despite being the most vulnerable GOP Iowa Senate incumbent going into the 2014 election cycle, Chelgren managed to win re-election by 374 votes after calling attention to some unforced errors by the Democratic candidate. So no one should count him out.

That said, IA-02 would be a long-shot prospect for any Republican candidate in 2016. The district leans Democratic with a partisan voter index of D+4. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, the 24 counties in the district contain 160,325 active registered Democrats, 136,237 Republicans, and 183,235 no-party voters. The last time Loebsack was on the ballot in a presidential election year, he defeated John Archer by a comfortable margin of 55.6 percent to 42.5 percent.

UPDATE: Added below Chelgren’s press release announcing his candidacy.

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Iowans split as House votes on Iran nuclear deal (updated)

Today the four Iowans in the U.S. House split along party lines on several measures related to the multi-lateral agreement negotiated this summer to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

A resolution to approve the deal failed by 162 votes to 269 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 162 members (all Democrats) supporting the Iran agreement. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted no, as did all but one House Republican and 25 Democrats. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that “despite the defections, enough Democrats voted to support the deal to deprive the GOP of a veto-proof majority.” Keeping the no votes below a two-thirds majority was mostly a symbolic victory; President Barack Obama appears unlikely to need to exercise his veto power, now that Democrats have blocked a disapproval resolution in the U.S. Senate.

A few minutes after the first Iran-related vote today, House members approved by 247 votes to 186 a resolution “To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran.” Only two House Democrats joined Republicans to support that measure. Again, the Iowans split along party lines.

Yesterday, on a straight party-line vote of 245 to 186, House members approved a resolution “Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.” Marcos explained that the measure asserts “Obama didn’t provide Congress with all documents pertaining to the Iran deal in violation of the congressional review law passed earlier this year.” In May, Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King all supported the bill that cleared the way for this week’s Congressional votes on Iran. Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa political reaction to the deal’s announcement in July here.

UPDATE: Added comments on the Iran deal from the Iowa Congressional delegation and the Republican Party of Iowa, which promised to make this vote a campaign issue against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

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Where are they now? Mariannette Miller-Meeks edition

GOP county leaders in the second Congressional district elected Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee on August 1, the Iowa GOP announced in a press release. An Army veteran and ophthalmologist, Miller-Meeks was the Republican challenger to Representative Dave Loebsack in IA-02 three times: in 2008, 2010, and 2014. She also served as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health in Governor Terry Branstad’s administration from January 2011 to January 2014, when she stepped down in preparation for her third Congressional campaign. She currently lives in Ottumwa.

Although Miller-Meeks was not able to unseat Loebsack, she left a lasting mark on Iowa politics in at least one way. I am convinced that her coattails in the Ottumwa area pulled Mark Chelgren over the line in his 2010 Iowa Senate race against Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman. Chelgren won that election by ten votes in a district considered so heavily Democratic that neither party spent any serious money there. Don’t get me started on how Chelgren managed to win re-election last November. Democrats should have been able to get Iowa Senate district 41 back. Chelgren may be the GOP nominee against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

The Iowa GOP just opened a field office in Ottumwa, signaling that Republicans view that part of southeast Iowa as fertile ground. Thanks in part to a strong history of organized labor at area factories, Ottumwa has traditionally supported Democratic candidates. In fact, Wapello County was one of just five Iowa counties to vote for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election as well as one of just four counties to vote for Bonnie Campbell in her 1994 gubernatorial race against Terry Branstad.

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