Oh Oh, She's At It Again

Well, it looks like our own (your own?) Senator Joni Ernst has been spotlighted by Glen Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and writer Jordan Smith at The Intercept: “Senator Joni Ernst Puts Planned Parenthood–and Access to Birth Control–on the Chopping Block.”

Looks like she’s set to be the face of the ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ contingent. I may be mistaken but I think she’s going to be facing a firestorm over this and Vander Plaats et.al. won’t be able to save her. Between this and Terry Branstad’s local destabilization of Medicaid, I seriously wonder how her rural constituents are going to take this.

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Postcards & Pale Ale

Wondering how to put your activist energy to good use? Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese has ideas. -promoted by desmoinesdem

So here’s what happened. Like so many people, I was all jazzed up off the energy of the #WomensMarch last week, thrilled with my wife and many other friends who were in DC, other friends around the world standing up, and just being here in Iowa City with around 2,000 people, all of us being a part of what is undoubtedly the largest protest in human history. The next day I was looking for how to act up next. Knowing that writing to congress, especially to my own rep’s and sen’s, can be effective, I decided to get a couple friends together over a couple of pints at Iowa City Brewlab and write some postcards.

Now as you probably know I am a serial overposter on Facebook, so I created an event page there and shared it to a couple of activist sites last Sunday (Jan 22). Within a day or two over 100 people said they were coming. By Friday, the day of the event, 170 had clicked “going” and over 700 had clicked “interested.”

About 350 showed up.

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Weekend open thread: Bad signs for education

The next few years won’t be a good time to be a public school student in the U.S. generally or in Iowa specifically. Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as secretary of education, despite bombing in her confirmation hearing, where she dodged some important questions and revealed shocking ignorance about basic education policy matters. Only two GOP senators say they will vote against the billionaire, who has given generously to Republican candidates and causes and worked to undermine public schools for decades.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have yet not published statements about DeVos, but I enclose below comments confirming they will support her nomination.

Meanwhile, in a party-line vote on February 2, Iowa Senate Republicans approved a bill to increase state funding for K-12 school districts by just 1.11 percent for the year beginning on July 1. Under state law, the Iowa House and Senate should have set school funding for fiscal year 2018 more than a year ago. However, statehouse Republicans have refused to follow that law for the past several years. Last year was no exception: despite action by Iowa Senate Democrats, House Republicans did not vote on fiscal year 2018 “allowable growth” (now officially known as “supplemental state aid”) during the 2016 legislative session.

If Senate File 166 is approved by the Iowa House and signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad, next year’s 1.11 percent growth in K-12 funding would be the third-smallest increase in more than 40 years. I enclose below a chart showing allowable growth levels approved by the state legislature since 1973. Branstad requested 2 percent more funding for K-12 schools in his draft budget. To my knowledge, the governor has not said whether he would sign Senate File 166 in its current form.

Recruiting and retaining educators to work in Iowa may become a lot more difficult after Republicans destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees, including thousands of teachers. House and Senate leaders have indicated that they will make the first significant changes in Iowa Code Chapter 20 since 1974. Details about the plan have been hidden from public view up to now, but a bill on collective bargaining is expected to appear on the state legislature’s website on February 6.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Trump delivers stolen Supreme Court seat to Neil Gorsuch

President Donald Trump announced this evening that he is nominating 10th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court seat that should have gone to President Barack Obama’s nominee. A few good backgrounders on the man who will benefit from last year’s unprecedented Republican obstruction: Eric Citron for SCOTUS blog, Robert Barnes for the Washington Post, and Adam Liptak for the New York Times. Liptak dug up a 2002 article by Gorsuch, in which he lamented the Senate’s treatment of two appeals court nominees “widely considered to be among the finest lawyers of their generation”: John Roberts (the current Chief Justice) and Merrick Garland (who should have been confirmed to fill this vacancy).

USA Today’s justice reporter Brad Heath observed, “It would be hard for Trump to have picked a federal appellate judge more like Scalia than Gorsuch.” Heath posted excerpts from a number of Gorsuch’s opinions in this thread, noting the judge believes in “applying the Constitution’s ‘original public meaning.’” Some of the rulings are counter-intuitive, such as this case in which Gorsuch found “extortion doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause if [the] corrupt official solicited bribes from everyone.”

Senator Chuck Grassley praised Gorsuch for being well qualified and having been confirmed unanimously to the appeals court. Speaking to the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble, the Judiciary Committee chair said he hoped Democrats would not filibuster Gorsuch, just as Republicans didn’t filibuster Supreme Court nominees during the first terms of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. What’s missing from this narrative? Grassley never even gave Garland a hearing.

After the jump I’ve posted prepared statements from Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst welcoming the nomination. I also enclose below the Alliance for Justice fact sheet on Gorsuch, which references many of his legal writings. That non-profit’s president Nan Aron described Gorsuch as a “disastrous choice,” because his “record shows no sign that he would offer an independent check on the dangerous impulses of this administration. What it does show is that he would put the agenda of powerful special interests ahead of the rights of everyday people […].”

Gorsuch is only 49 years old, so he will probably serve on the high court for decades. Several analysts believe picking him was an effort to “reassure” Justice Anthony Kennedy “that it would be safe to retire.” Once Kennedy goes and Trump appoints another justice, we can say goodbye to reproductive rights, voting rights, any kind of environmental and labor regulations, consumer protections, and equal rights for women and LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court will for all practical purposes be unavailable as a check on Republican governance.

While conservatives across the country celebrate tonight, a few locals may be disappointed Trump passed over 8th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Steven Colloton of Iowa. Colloton and Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield were both on the long list of possible Supreme Court nominees Trump released during the campaign. By some recent accounts, Colloton was on the president’s short list after the election too. Maybe next time.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

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