House wraps up work for the year: How the Iowans voted

The U.S. House adjourned for the rest of 2013 yesterday after approving several major bills. By a surprisingly large 332 to 94 majority (roll call), representatives approved The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, a federal budget compromise worked out by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. Most of the House GOP caucus supported the budget deal, including Tom Latham (IA-03). Bruce Braley (IA-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were among the 163 Democrats who voted for the budget deal. Steve King (IA-04) was one of the 62 Republicans who voted no because the agreement increased domestic discretionary spending. The 32 House Democrats who opposed the deal objected to the fact that it did not include an extension of unemployment benefits, did not reverse more of the “sequester” federal spending cuts, and increased federal worker contributions to their pensions.

Also yesterday, House members passed by voice vote a one-month extension to most federal agricultural programs, giving a conference committee more time to work out a deal on a long-term Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the upper chamber won’t pass any more short-term farm bill extensions, but he’ll probably have to backtrack now to prevent farm programs from expiring on January 1.

Finally, the House approved by 350 votes to 69 a compromise on the defense authorization bill. All four Iowans voted for the National Defense Authorization Act, negotiated informally by House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders after the Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the defense authorization bill before Thanksgiving. I need more time to read up on what’s in the final compromise, so will cover the details of the defense authorization bill in a future post.

After the jump I’ve enclosed comments on yesterday’s votes from the Iowans in Congress and some of the candidates for U.S. House and Senate, where available. UPDATE: Added more comments below. However, Steve King has uncharacteristically not released a statement explaining his vote on the budget compromise. His office did not respond to my request for comment or to the Sioux City Journal’s Bret Hayworth.

Statement from Bruce Braley on the budget deal (emphasis in original):

Braley Supports Bipartisan Budget Agreement

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after supporting the Ryan-Murray budget agreement voted on by the US House today:

“For the first time in a long time, the House has passed a long-term budget agreement that crosses the party divide. It’s hardly perfect, but it breaks the endless cycle of governing-by-crisis in Washington.

“I supported this bill because it makes spending cuts that reduce the deficit by $20 billion and more responsibly funds important priorities like education and transportation.

“I’m still frustrated that the House may leave town this week without doing anything to help 35,000 Iowans who could lose unemployment insurance, or renewing important job-creating tax cuts that expire at the end of the year, or passing a long-term renewal of the Farm Bill.

“Today’s vote was a step forward, but Congress has a thousand miles left to go.”

Braley comment on short-term Farm Bill extension (emphasis in original):

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement after the House passed by voice vote a short term Farm Bill extension. It extends the provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill until January 31, 2014. If Congress does not take additional action by this time, the Farm Bill will again expire, forcing farm programs to yet again revert to the provisions of the 1949 Farm Bill.

“I grew up detassling corn and baling hay like so many Iowans – we know how important the Farm Bill is to agriculture, and it’s a huge driver of the Iowa economy and job creation. Washington just doesn’t get how important this law is to us.

“The Farm Bill expired almost three months ago and today all Congress was willing to do was pass a short term extension, once again leaving Iowa farmers and ag producers without the predictability and stability they need.

“Iowa farmers just can’t afford any more uncertainty. It’s time for Congress to finish the job and pass a long-term Farm Bill renewal.”

UPDATE: On December 13, Braley’s office released this statement on the defense authorization.

Braley Statement on House-Passed Defense Bill

Legislation includes Braley-championed policies to reform the military justice system

Washington, D.C. – The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House of Representatives yesterday and included provisions promoted by Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) to help reform how the military handles cases of sexual assault. Today, Braley release the follow statement:

“The Defense Authorization Act makes some important changes to the way the military handles sexual assault within its ranks. Increasing protections for victims, stripping commanders of over-turning court martials, and establishing minimum sentencing guidelines for sexual assault are all steps in the right direction.

“But until decisions over investigating and prosecuting sexual assault allegations are removed from the normal chain of command, the problem will persist. We need to continue to fight to get independent prosecutors, who are trained in handling these crimes, to be responsible for seeking justice, not individual commanders without legal expertise and clear conflicts of interest.

Statement from Dave Loebsack on the budget deal:

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after the House voted on the Budget Act of 2013.

“The legislation that passed the House today is not perfect and certainly would not have been what I would have written. However, it serves as a compromise to finally break the cycle of lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis. I am pleased that this legislation takes steps to partially stop the irresponsible, across the board cuts, known as sequester that have hurt middle-class families, jobs, research, and economic development in Iowa. Though I do have serious concerns about several provisions, including extending sequestration for Medicare payments and changes to military retirement COLAs, voting against this proposal is ultimately a vote in favor of shutting down the government and allowing our economy to again be subjected to a manufactured crisis. It is my hope that this agreement is the beginning of the end for all the reckless gamesmanship and political posturing that have plagued Washington.

“Now that Congress has taken this first step, it must remain in session for as long as it takes to achieve bipartisan compromise on the farm bill, jobs initiatives, extension of unemployment benefits, and extension of critical tax credits for the wind industry, employers, and middle class families.”

Statement from Dave Loebsack on the defense bill (emphasis in original):

Key Loebsack Initiatives Supporting RIA, National Guard Pass House

Defense policy bill now heads to the Senate

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after key provisions he authored to support the Rock Island Arsenal and the National Guard were passed by the House. The legislation also includes language, which Loebsack supported and worked to include, that takes significant steps to address the ongoing military sexual assault crisis. Loebsack, the only member of the Iowa delegation who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, again helped draft this agreement, which was negotiated between members of the House and Senate. The National Defense Authorization Agreement for FY 2014 (NDAA) now heads to the Senate.

“The men and women who volunteer to serve our nation deserve our highest level of support and access to the resources they need,” said Loebsack. “I am proud to have authored a portion of this legislation that strengthens the Rock Island Arsenal by driving work there not just from the Army, but from across the Department of Defense.  This provision helps ensure both the Arsenal and Quad Cities’ economy remain strong.”

Congressman Loebsack authored two provisions included in the final NDAA that will provide critical workload support to Rock Island Arsenal and its workforce as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues. These initiatives will drive workload from all of the military services and defense agencies to Rock Island Arsenal by requiring the Department of Defense to assess manufacturing work that can be performed there. They also improve Rock Island Arsenal’s ability to compete for work by requiring contracting officers to review the arsenal’s manufacturing capabilities when determining how to meet a manufacturing requirement and to notify the arsenal of manufacturing requirements. By driving work to the Arsenal, these initiatives will support the highly skilled workforce there and improve Rock Island Arsenal’s ability to support our servicemembers across the entire Department of Defense.

The legislation that passed today also includes initiatives that Loebsack backed and worked to include to help address the ongoing military sexual assault crisis. While these are significant and important reforms, Loebsack is a cosponsor of legislation that would go farther by removing prosecution of sexual assault crimes form the chain of command.

“As a military parent, I am disgusted by the ongoing sexual assault crisis in the military. While I am disappointed the legislation does not go farther in responding to these horrible crimes, I am pleased that significant steps are included to address this crisis by improving prosecution of these reprehensible crimes and increasing support for victims.”

Specifically, amendments authored by Congressman Loebsack included in the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act are:

Workload for Rock Island Arsenal – Loebsack authored initiatives drive workload from all of the military services and defense agencies to Rock Island Arsenal by requiring the Department of Defense to assess manufacturing work that can be performed there.  They also improve Rock Island Arsenal’s ability to compete for work by requiring contracting officers to review the arsenal’s manufacturing capabilities when determining how to meet a manufacturing requirement and to notify the arsenal of manufacturing requirements.  These provisions will provide critical workload support to Rock Island Arsenal and its workforce as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues.  By driving work to the Arsenal, they will support the highly skilled workforce there and improve Rock Island Arsenal’s ability to support our servicemembers across the entire Department of Defense.

Mental Health Care for our National Guard and Reserve Troops – Requires the Department of Defense to provide specific resources to support mental health care and suicide prevention for our National Guard and Reserve troops.

In addition, Loebsack pushed to include many provisions important to our troops and their families, including.

·         Prohibiting a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)

·         A pay raise for our troops

·         Rejecting Department of Defense proposals to increase TRlCARE enrollment fees and pharmacy co-pays;

·         Providing many military retirees in Iowa and elsewhere with the ability to make a one-time choice to stay on TRICARE Prime instead of being forced to move to TRICARE Standard as the Department of Defense has proposed. Switching from TRICARE Prime to TRICARE Standard would increase out of pocket costs for retirees.  Loebsack has pushed for this in order to prevent health care cost increases for Iowa’s military retirees;

·         Requiring a minimum of 180 days notification for deployment of members of the National Guard and Reserve;

·         A number of important sexual assault prevention and prosecution provisions which Loeback has championed, including:

o   Stripping commanders of their authority to dismiss a finding by a court martial;

o   Prohibiting commanders from reducing guilty rulings;

o   Sets dismissal or dishonorable discharge dismissal as the mandatory minimum sentence for an assault conviction;

o   Removes the current five year statute of limitations on sexual assault under the UCMJ;

o   Requires victims be given access to qualified, specially trained lawyers to provide legal assistance;

o   Reforms preliminary hearing proceedings to avoid fishing expeditions that harm victims

Statement from Tom Latham:

Washington, Dec 12

Washington, DC – Iowa’s Third District Congressman Tom Latham released the following statement following U.S. House passage of the bipartisan House and Senate Federal Budget blueprint agreement:

“I have always been dedicated to supporting common sense solutions that transcend politics and provide results that end wasteful spending, gets our debt under control and delivers a more efficient, effective and accountable government. To claim that this budget blueprint would achieve all of those goals would be nothing more than empty rhetoric – because it won’t.

What I can honestly say is that this budget blueprint is a step in the right direction.  It begins permanent reforms of mandatory spending and reduces the deficit. Most importantly, this budget blueprint ends Washington’s recent and broken cycle of governing from crisis to crisis that risks America’s future and the trust of Americans in their leaders.

And, rather than repeatedly funding inefficient and wasteful federal programs through continuing resolutions, this blueprint gives us the ability for the first time in four years to make smart and targeted reforms that deliver more accountability to hardworking Americans.

I acknowledge and share the distrust with Washington by the overwhelming majority of Americans – it has unfortunately been well-earned.  However, to move our country forward again we have to start somewhere and we have to start with the reality of finding common ground in a divided government.  While not the perfect solution based on my core principles – it is a start and one that I honestly believe Washington is sorely in need of pursuing.”

I have not yet seen any comment from King on his budget or defense authorization votes, but his office released this statement about the farm bill extension (emphasis in original).

King Supports Farm Bill Extension

Washington, DC – Congressman Steve King released the following statement after the House passed an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill by voice vote. This extension expires January 31, 2014.

“I am pleased that the House passed an extension to the Farm Bill,” said King. “With this extension we can provide continued predictability for our farmers and producers and make sure we do not have a dairy cliff. I am glad that we will be continuing the work already begun in the conference committee into the new year. I will continue to work diligently with Chairman Frank Lucas and the other conferees to get a completed five year Farm Bill to the President’s desk in January 2014.”

December 11 statement from Sam Clovis, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate:

“Caving by allowing the automatic sequester spending cuts to be reduced in this budget deal is sending our country in the wrong direction,” said Sam Clovis. The structure of the deal may avoid a pending government shutdown but it does nothing to deal with our ever-increasing debt. “This ‘budget compromise’ raises taxes, does not curb spending, nor does it help our overall economy,” stated Clovis. “This is a horrible deal, and as usual, the politicians in Washington do not seem to be connected to the real world.”

December 12 statement from Matt Whitaker, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate:

As Iowa’s next US Senator, I would not vote to support the proposed budget ‘deal’ being considered by the Congress. The proposal only continues to mortgage our children’s futures – it does nothing to rein in out of control spending and increasing debts and deficits; it does nothing to reduce the expansion of a bloated federal government; it does nothing to jump start our economy and put Americans back to work.

This continues to be business as usual for Washington politicians. No one willing to make the tough choices and show true leadership. As Iowa’s next US Senator, I will fight for true debt reduction and spending cuts. I will stand on core conservative principles to preserve our Constitution and fight to change the political culture in Washington, for all Iowans and their children and families.

Republican Senate candidate Mark Jacobs criticized the budget deal without saying whether he would vote for it:

A budget deal may have been reached, but it does not address the real issues: too much debt & not enough jobs. DC lawmakers play politics to divert our attention from the lack of actual solutions.

UPDATE: King’s Democratic challenger in IA-04, Jim Mowrer, released this statement on December 13:

December 13, 2013

Boone, IA – Today, Iraq War Veteran, former senior Pentagon official and 4th district congressional candidate Jim Mowrer released the following statement in response to the announcement that Congress will not pass a Farm Bill in 2013.

“Congressman King is continuing to show us what we already expect from him- no action for Iowa.  Not passing a Farm Bill in 2013 hurts Iowa famers and it hurts Iowa families.  It is unacceptable for Congressman King and the rest of Congress to go home for the remainder of the year without doing their job for the families and farmers that need them to.

This is another sign of how bad the dysfunction is in Washington and how we desperately need new leadership.  In congress I’ll stay and fight until the job is done.  I won’t retreat home, while the people I’m responsible for helping are hurting, I will do all I can to make sure we come together on legislation that helps not only Iowa, but all of this nation, like the Farm Bill.”  

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