Steve Sodders rules out running for Congress in IA-01

Former State Senator Steve Sodders will not run for Congress in Iowa’s first district next year, he told Bleeding Heartland this morning.

I’m taking my hat out of the congressional race, after long consideration and discussions with family and friends, it would be very difficult for me to run for higher office at this time due to my work schedule at the Marshall County Sheriff office. I do plan on staying in politics and will likely run for another office in the future. I can retire in January of 2019 from law enforcement after 29 years.

Sodders, a longtime deputy sheriff, represented Marshall and Tama counties in the Iowa Senate for two terms before losing his re-election bid to Jeff Edler last year. Republicans spent heavily in that race, as did some conservative interest groups. Many Democrats would support Sodders in a 2020 rematch with Edler. Another possibility would be a campaign for Marshall County supervisor. Two of the three current supervisors (Bill Patten and Dave Thompson) are up for re-election in 2018.

To my knowledge, Courtney Rowe is the only declared Democratic challenger to two-term Representative Rod Blum in IA-01. Bleeding Heartland posted more information about the Cedar Rapids-based engineer here. Her campaign has a Facebook page.

State Representative Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque is likely to join the Congressional field soon, having filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and spoken recently at several Democratic events around the district. Click here for background on Finkenauer and to hear what her stump speech might sound like if she runs against Blum. Her campaign website is here.

State Senator Jeff Danielson of Waterloo and Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson have previously said they are thinking about running for Congress next year.

Blum is a top 2018 target for Iowa and U.S. House Democrats. The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 164,113 active registered Democrats, 144,584 Republicans, and 190,664 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, which is Blum’s home base.

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Listen to Abby Finkenauer, who's one step closer to running in IA-01

State Representative Abby Finkenauer has revamped her website and is accepting donations for a possible campaign in Iowa’s first Congressional district. In a statement released today, the two-term House Democrat said,

“Hard-working Iowans deserve to be able to make a decent living that allows them to provide their families with opportunity and a good quality of life. But, too often, wealthy corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us, and the politicians allow it to happen.

“I am considering running for Congress because we need to change that.

“I will spend the next few weeks talking with my family in Dubuque and Iowans throughout the First District. Should I decide to run and have the honor of being elected, I will take the values I learned from my family and my experiences growing up in a blue-collar community to Washington. I will strive to be the fighter Iowa’s working families deserve.”

Finkenauer has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. For now, her website contains little beyond a short bio, a “contribute” button, and a sign-up for supporters or volunteers. Her Facebook page and Instagram and Twitter accounts are still oriented toward an Iowa House campaign. Her YouTube channel doesn’t have any videos talking about a Congressional race.

For those who wonder what a Finkenauer stump speech might sound like, I enclose below the audio and transcript of her remarks at a Democratic event in Des Moines on March 23. For further background, I added a video of one of her floor speeches during the Iowa House debate on the collective bargaining bill in February, and the bio that currently appears on her campaign website.

Finkenauer is only in her late 20s and her third year of service as a state lawmaker, but she has worked in the legislature off and on since becoming a page at age 16. Some might wonder, why the rush to run for higher office? She provided a clue in the interview she gave Elle magazine in 2015:

“People will say that it’s not your turn. But it’s never going to be your turn—ever. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60. It will never be your turn. There will always be somebody else with more experience or more of something. But you just have to decide to do it,” she commands. “Just do it. Just jump. Put your name out there and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be for state house. It doesn’t have to be in the state legislature. It could be city council. It could be school board. It could be a local commission. Just do something. If you really care about something, get involved. We need you.”

IA-01 is in the top tier of U.S. House seats Democrats are targeting this cycle. Its 20 counties contain 164,113 active registered Democrats, 144,584 Republicans, and 190,664 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. The largest-population counties are Linn (the Cedar Rapids metro area), Black Hawk (Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro), and Dubuque, where Republican incumbent Rod Blum lives. Several other Democrats are considering the race. Last year, Blum ran about five points ahead of Donald Trump, who carried the district by 48.7 percent to 45.2 percent.

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Seven years of false promises finally caught up with Republicans

Among the U.S. political developments I never would have predicted: the Republican-controlled Congress was unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act under a president ready to sign the bill into law. After canceling a planned floor vote today on the American Health Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged, “Obamacare is the law of the land. … We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

In the depths of my despair after the November election, I felt sure that the Affordable Care Act would be history by now, and Congress would be well on the way to privatizing Medicare.

Among the many reasons Republicans failed to draft a coherent health care alternative and could not coalesce around the half-baked American Health Care Act, the most important is this:

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Rod Blum comes out against Republican health care plan Updated: So does David Young

A little more than two weeks after House Republicans released their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) announced on Twitter that he will not support the American Health Care Act. According to Blum, the bill “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans. I’m a ‘no’ on current version – need to drive down actual costs!” Speaking to The Hill the same day, he added, “We need real competition driving prices down. We don’t need the government telling us what should be in an insurance policy. The government has a role to play. We need to help people who need the help.” Blum had previously said directly and through staff that he was studying the bill.

Like all other House Republicans, Blum has voted multiple times for “Obamacare” repeal bills that would have done nothing “to lower premiums for hardworking Americans,” let alone “drive down actual costs.” However, the stakes are higher now that a GOP-controlled Senate and Republican president might enact new health care legislation. I don’t know what kind of plan Blum is envisioning, but there is no magic wand Congress can wave to “help people who need the help” without the government setting minimum standards for health coverage and regulating the market in other ways.

Blum belongs to the House Freedom Caucus. Although that group has not taken an official stand against the AHCA, some of its prominent members are on various “whip counts” of Republicans opposing the bill. Since no Democrats are backing a plan that would leave millions uninsured and drive up costs for millions more, House leaders can’t spare more than 21 GOP members in any floor vote on their health care bill. Some Congress-watchers have already counted more defectors than that.

Representative Steve King (IA-04) was among the first House Republicans to come out against the AHCA. He supports “rip it out by the roots” repeal of “Obamacare” instead. I doubt the amendments unveiled this week to satisfy House conservatives will change his mind. UPDATE: A staffer told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble on March 22 that King is “undecided–leaning no” on the bill. SECOND UPDATE: White House spokesperson Sean Spicer announced that King will support the bill. Seeking confirmation. A member of the House whip team told Jonathan Martin of the New York Times that King “went from no to yes in the WH [White House] today after assurances about Senate tweaks.” UPDATE: King released a video statement explaining his decision to support the AHCA. He’s still committed to repealing Obamacare. He hopes Republicans will strip “essential health benefits” out of the bill, paving the way for other measures he wants, like health savings accounts and selling insurance across state lines. He said he told President Donald Trump in a White House meeting today that he worked very hard for total repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but that legislation won’t be brought up this year, because leaders don’t think they can get the votes. He said he had a “firm commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a manger’s amendment to strip out “mandates” and “essential health benefits” from the House bill. King views this bill as the “best chance” for the “closest thing” to total repeal of Obamacare in the current political environment. He later tweeted that he and Trump had negotiated “the best possible improvement on ObamaCare Repeal.”

Representative David Young (IA-03) has repeatedly said he is studying the bill and the Congressional Budget Office analysis of its impact. Young’s staff have told constituents this week that he is still undecided. I consider him likely to vote yes if the bill comes to the floor–which may never happen, if leaders conclude they don’t have the votes. For what it’s worth, The Hill’s whip count put Young in the “leaning/likely no” camp because he said on March 15, “I want to make sure it is something that works in the end for all Americans, and that it would pass if it gets over to the Senate.” Several GOP senators have said the AHCA will not pass the upper chamber. UPDATE: Young announced in a March 22 statement, “While the American Health Care Act, legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, is a very good start, it does not yet get it right and therefore I cannot support it in its’ [sic] present form.” I’ve added his whole press release below.

Neither of Iowa’s U.S. senators have clarified how they would vote on the Republican bill. Senator Chuck Grassley has made conflicting statements, telling House members the bill must be changed so that insurance premiums don’t skyrocket for older people not yet eligible for Medicare. On the other hand, Grassley has said Republicans can’t afford to miss what could be their only opportunity to keep six years of promises. Senator Joni Ernst said at town-hall meetings in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines on March 17 that she is studying the AHCA’s potential impact on Iowans and insurance premiums. I hate to break it to her: no alternative plan will magically make cheap insurance widely available while maintaining guaranteed coverage for people for pre-existing conditions and letting children stay on their parents insurance through age 26.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the Iowa Hospital Association estimates between 200,000 and 250,000 Iowans would lose their insurance coverage under the Republican plan. More on that story below.

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King opposes House GOP health care plan; Blum and Young non-committal

U.S. Representative Steve King confirmed this morning that he opposes the House Republican health care replacement bill released on Monday. Like several influential conservative groups that condemned the American Health Care Act earlier this week, King believes the legislation does not go far enough. He told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “We campaigned on the full, 100 percent, I say ‘rip it out by the roots’ repeal of Obamacare, and we don’t get that with this bill.”

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David Young's weak excuse for flip-flop on Trump's tax returns

Have you wondered why U.S. Representative David Young (IA-03) voted with fellow Republicans to table indefinitely a resolution “directing the House to ask for 10 years of [President Donald] Trump’s tax returns,” only four days after telling constituents the president should release those returns?

Explaining his vote today, Young demonstrated that he is ill-suited to the task of holding Trump accountable.

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