Iowa Democrats seated on powerful House committees (updated)

U.S. House leaders announced committee assignments for the new Congress this week, and Iowa’s three Democrats could hardly have done better.

Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) will remain on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the most sought-after assignments. That committee “has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues, including energy policy; healthcare policy; trade policy; telecommunications and the internet; environment and air quality; and consumer affairs and protection.”

Although Loebsack joined Energy and Commerce in 2015, at the start of his fifth term, this year will be a new experience, since Democrats have a chance to move legislation. The last time Loebsack was part of the majority caucus (2007-2010), he served on the Education and Workforce and Armed Services committees.

Newly-elected Representative Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) will serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She requested that assignment, having previously served on the Iowa House Transportation Committee. In a written statement enclosed below, Finkenauer said,

I’ve heard from my constituents all across the district who are concerned about Iowa’s crumbling infrastructure. Our small businesses and farms rely on C-Minus graded roads to reach consumers. Our neighborhoods and businesses in Cedar Rapids remain vulnerable a decade after the devastating flood. I’m looking forward to working on bipartisan legislation that makes a smart investment in our future and creates good-paying jobs.

Side note: The House approved Finkenauer’s first bill on January 14. The bipartisan measure to help make federal funds available to rural businesses passed by voice vote. According to a separate news release enclosed below, “It is the first bill authored by a freshman member of Congress, and she is now the youngest woman in history to pass a bill in Congress.”

Newly-elected Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) will serve on two committees: Financial Services and Agriculture. Both affect major sectors of the Iowa economy. The third Congressional district includes more than a dozen rural counties and the Des Moines metro area, a major financial and insurance hub. Axne was appointed to Financial Services first and requested a waiver to serve on Agriculture after Republican leaders stripped Representative Steve King (IA-04) of his committee assignments. That action would have left Iowa without a representative on the House Agriculture Committee for the first time since the 1890s.

Commenting on her assignment to Financial Services, Axne said,

“As a small business owner representing an urban and rural district, I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring a unique perspective regarding the difficulties and challenges different communities face in obtaining access to capital, especially our rural entrepreneurs, small businesses, and our major employers” said Representative Axne. “I know that investing in small businesses and rural development is the key to job creation and economic growth. I look forward to serving as a champion of bipartisan solutions to ensure our banking and financial institutions are working to support hardworking Iowa families and create jobs in our rural communities.”

Axne’s statement about joining the House Agriculture Committee noted, “Iowa farmers are hurting from retaliation tariffs, a slower than usual harvest rate this year, a continuing decline of commodity prices, yet another decrease in farmland value this past year, and the ongoing government shutdown.” In September, Iowa State University economists documented the trade war’s impact on the agriculture sector and Iowa’s economy generally.

Committee assignments may seem like “inside baseball,” but seats on influential panels will help Finkenauer and Axne as they seek re-election in districts Republicans are likely to target in 2020. (Loebsack will probably face only token opposition.)

Meanwhile, losing the chance to represent his constituents on House committees will likely hurt King’s re-election prospects. He was already endangered, facing at least one primary challenger after barely defeating J.D. Scholten in Iowa’s most conservative district. A new poll commissioned by the Majority Rules PAC (run by King’s 2014 challenger Jim Mowrer) found King trails a generic Democrat by 45 percent to 37 percent, and trails Scholten by 44 percent to 39 percent.

Several Iowa newspapers have called on King to resign, including the Fort Dodge Messenger News (which endorsed King for re-election, as usual) and the Sioux City Journal (which endorsed Scholten after supporting King in every previous re-election bid).

King won’t resign, of course. He told WHO Radio, which has a predominantly conservative audience, “No, no chance at all. I’ll go out of this place dead before that happens and the Lord will have to make that decision.”

The Carroll Daily Times Herald’s editorial board took a different tack, writing,

We think the congressman should stay in office as a diminished representative, one with no committee assignments, a legislator with two arms and a leg tied behind his back, as an object lesson to voters in Iowa’s 4th District who looked the other way for years at his racist words and outrageous observations.

The people of this district deserve two more years of King’s disastrous time-management as a moon-howling fabulist more interested in spinning fantastical ideological yarns than engaging in the hard slog of legislating on rural development or a raft of other issues. Add to this, for the 16 months until the primary, King’s use of our congressional platform, the lift of our collective voices (which were heard fair and square at the ballot box), to serve as his own litigator in the court of public opinion.

Similarly, Storm Lake Times editor Art Cullen argued that “King must serve.”

He was just re-elected in November to a ninth term with everyone knowing full well what his views were on race and culture. Nobody should be suddenly shocked. Voters took all this into account before casting their ballot. Perhaps nothing is better known about King than his views on Latino immigrants. […]

King losing his committee assignments is inconsequential in a House controlled by Democrats. Nobody on the agriculture committee would listen to him, anyhow, and the five-year farm bill is safely written into law. There is really nothing for King to do in the next two years even with a committee assignment.

Any comments about the Iowans in Congress are welcome in this thread.

Representative Abby Finkenauer news release, January 17:

Washington, DC –Representative Abby Finkenauer announced her appointment to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Finkenauer served on the Iowa House Transportation Committee for three years as a state representative. The Committee is expected to hold an especially prominent position this year, with Republicans and Democrats calling infrastructure investment a top priority. Finkenauer released the following statement:

“I’m honored to serve on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. I’ve heard from my constituents all across the district who are concerned about Iowa’s crumbling infrastructure. Our small businesses and farms rely on C-Minus graded roads to reach consumers. Our neighborhoods and businesses in Cedar Rapids remain vulnerable a decade after the devastating flood. I’m looking forward to working on bipartisan legislation that makes a smart investment in our future and creates good-paying jobs. We can’t afford to talk about the problem any longer – we have to find common ground and get to work.”

Finkenauer news release, January 14:

Finkenauer Small Businesses Bill Passes House, Is First Legislation Passed by New Member of Congress
Bipartisan bill helps small businesses apply for government technology grants and contracts

Washington, D.C.— Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer’s (IA-1) first bill, which will help bring federal investment to small businesses in rural America. It is the first bill authored by a freshman member of Congress, and she is now the youngest woman in history to pass a bill in Congress.

Click here for a video of Finkenauer speaking in support of her bill on the House floor. The text of her remarks follows this release.

“I’m proud to pass bipartisan legislation with Congressman Curtis that will give the next generation of Iowans opportunities to innovate, especially in the rural areas we represent,” said Finkenauer. “I’m looking forward to continuing to reach across the aisle to deliver results for hardworking Iowa families.”

To help put innovative small firms on the map, Congress created the Small Business Innovative Research program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. These initiatives provide capital and other support to allow small businesses to engage in federal research and development with the goal of commercialization.

“I am proud that my home state of Utah has fostered a thriving tech hub and innovation marketplace, where the tech industry grew faster last year than any other state in the nation,” said Representative Curtis. “But there is still more work to be done there and across the country. This bill reinforces my commitment to small business success by stimulating technological innovation through the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR program. I was pleased to work with Rep. Abby Finkenauer to create this legislation that will ensure these small businesses have a voice in the procurement process and can compete on a level playing field to have a chance at success.”

The bill would help more small businesses access the SBIR and STTR programs, especially in rural communities. Specifically, the bill would require acquisition personnel to conduct outreach so more small firms can benefit from the SBIR and STTR programs.

###
I rise in support of my bill H.R. 246, the Stimulating Innovation through Procurement Act of 2019.
My bill helps small businesses compete for government contracts and research grants and gives them the opportunity to grow and innovate.
I grew up in a small town in northeast Iowa and I’m proud to represent communities like mine in Congress. The Iowans I know want to be able to stay and build a life in the communities that raised them. I’m proud to introduce legislation that will give the next generation of Iowans opportunities to innovate in our state.
Too often, small businesses—especially rural ones—get locked out of competition for government contracts. This bill ensures that agency procurement officers will be more directly involved in the process, helping small businesses pursue research that lets them compete for these opportunities.
HR 246 requires Procurement Center Representatives and other contracting officials to assist small businesses in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Making this a statutory mandate levels the playing field for our small businesses, ensuring they won’t be at a disadvantage during the bidding process. It means that when a small business owner in Marion or Manly has a great idea that will create jobs in their community, our government is actually making it easier—not harder—for them to grow and innovate.
And when Congress supports small businesses, it strengthens communities like mine in northeast Iowa.
I thank my colleague and co-sponsor, Congressman Curtis, and I thank Chairwoman Velazquez for her support and leadership of innovative small business. I urge Members to support this legislation.
I yield back.

Representative Cindy Axne news release, January 16:

CONGRESSWOMAN AXNE TO SIT ON U.S. HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
~ Congresswoman Axne to bring entrepreneurial and rural perspective to key House Committee ~

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) was appointed to sit on the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in the 116th Congress. The Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over key issues relevant to Iowa’s Third District, including oversight of federal monetary policy, banking and financial institutions, insurance, trade, housing, and community development.

“As a small business owner representing an urban and rural district, I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring a unique perspective regarding the difficulties and challenges different communities face in obtaining access to capital, especially our rural entrepreneurs, small businesses, and our major employers” said Representative Axne. “I know that investing in small businesses and rural development is the key to job creation and economic growth. I look forward to serving as a champion of bipartisan solutions to ensure our banking and financial institutions are working to support hardworking Iowa families and create jobs in our rural communities.”

Congresswoman Axne spent a decade at the State of Iowa directing initiatives to root out waste, fraud and abuse in order to save Iowa taxpayers $200 million dollars, without cutting services. During her time at the State of Iowa, Congresswoman Axne worked closely with the Iowa Department of Banking, Iowa Insurance Division, Iowa Economic Development Association, Iowa Finance Authority, Iowa Department of Revenue and Iowa Workforce Development on strategies to better serve Iowa.

The Greater Des Moines Area is a global hub of the insurance and financial services industries. It is home to 81 insurance company headquarters and has the highest concentration of insurance jobs among metro regions in the U.S.

Axne news release, January 17:

REP. AXNE TO SERVE ON HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
~ Congresswoman Axne granted waiver from House Leadership to serve on Agriculture and Financial Services Committees ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) was appointed to sit on the House Agriculture Committee in the 116th Congress, serving as the sole representative from Iowa on this crucial committee. The House Agriculture Committee has jurisdiction over key issues relevant to Iowa, including agricultural production, marketing and stabilization of prices, commodity exchanges, rural development, crop insurance, farm credit and farm security, agriculture research and extension services.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve as a voice for Iowa farmers on the House Agriculture Committee,” said Representative Axne. “Agriculture is not only an economic driver and job creator in our state, but our Iowa farmers and producers feed people here at home and around the world. Ensuring our agriculture industry thrives is not only beneficial for Iowa’s economy, but the entire country.”

Congresswoman Axne’s agriculture priorities for the 116th Congress include ensuring trade agreements benefit Iowa farmers, opening new markets for exports, expanding access to rural broadband and investing in innovative technologies to help Iowa farmers become more efficient and remain globally competitive. Additionally, Congresswoman Axne will advocate for programs to better support beginning, family, veteran, minority, and women farmers.

“Iowa farmers are hurting from retaliation tariffs, a slower than usual harvest rate this year, a continuing decline of commodity prices, yet another decrease in farmland value this past year, and the ongoing government shutdown,” added Congresswoman Axne. “Iowans must be represented and have a voice on the House Agriculture Committee.”

Iowa produces more than $8 billion dollars in corn and grain commodities, and over $5 billion in soybeans each year. Iowa ranked first in the nation for corn for grain production, corn export value, egg production, pork export value and total grain storage capacity. Iowa is ranked second in the nation for soybean production, soybean export value and net farm income.

Iowa’s agriculture industry contributes $112 billion to Iowa’s economy, creating 1 out of every 5 jobs in the state. Studies show that every dollar in net farm income results in an additional 60 cents of economic activity for small, rural communities.

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Axne was appointed to serve on the House Financial Services Committee. Given the importance of having an Iowan serve on the Agriculture Committee, House Leadership granted Congresswoman Axne’s request for a waiver to sit on both powerful committees.

UPDATE: Finkenauer’s office announced another committee assignment on January 24.

FINKENAUER ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT TO HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS COMMITTEE
Washington, DC – Today, Representative Abby Finkenauer announced her appointment to the House Small Business Committee in the 116th Congress. The announcement comes after Finkenauer became the youngest woman to pass a bill through the House of Representatives. Her bill, the Stimulating Innovation through Procurement Act, will help small businesses compete for government contracts and research opportunities.

“I look forward to serving on the Small Businesses Committee to bring a voice to small businesses and entrepreneurs across Iowa,” said Rep. Finkenauer. “Whether we’re talking about businesses that have been in the same family for decades or new businesses just starting up, I’ll make sure they have the opportunities they need to grow and innovate. That means making sure they can attract top talent and investment so that when someone has a great idea, they can stay in Iowa or come to Iowa to see it through.”

The Small Business Committee proposes and evaluates legislation that affects small businesses, and also oversees the Small Business Administration, which provides support for small businesses at every stage of their development. The Committee’s jurisdiction spans numerous issues, including addressing the high cost of insurance, making affordable loans available, and offering disaster assistance.

“A proven champion for Iowa’s small businesses and innovation, Rep. Finkenauer is an exciting new addition to our Committee,” said Small Business Committee Chairwoman Velázquez. “I look forward to working with her to help Main Street businesses in Eastern Iowa and across the country secure the resources they need to grow and create jobs along the way.”

“Over 48% of Iowans are small business employees,” said Rep. Finkenauer. “I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to pass commonsense legislation that cuts through the red tape and develops real results for our working families and communities.”

  • I agree with the Carroll Daily Times Herald and the Storm Lake Times

    And to point out the obvious, if the fit-and-fifty Feenstra were to take King’s place, he would vote in the ways King would, if not even worse, and might well stay in office for several terms.

    I also thank Art Cullen for the second part of his linked editorial, the part that points out that climate change is racing us all toward a giant cliff that most Iowa elected officials, especially King, are ignoring. In addition, Iowa’s mostly-unquestioned economic-nirvana goal of having more and more people on earth eating more and more Iowa pork is racing us toward that cliff even faster.

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