59 senators defended the constitution. Not Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst

President Donald Trump will soon cast his first veto. The U.S. Senate approved on March 14 a resolution disapproving of Trump’s declaration of emergency powers. All 47 members of the Democratic caucus and twelve Republicans voted for the resolution (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the 41 Republicans to oppose terminating Trump’s power grab.

Ernst’s office released this statement a few hours after the vote.

“There is a humanitarian crisis at our southern border that demands attention and action. Iowans have been clear on their desire for a strong, secure border and to curb human trafficking and the flow of drugs into our state.

“Under the National Emergencies Act, the president has the authority to make this decision, and while I’ve consistently stated this is not the approach I would have preferred, I do recognize the need to secure our border.

“I hope to see Congress work diligently to enact legislation that will restore the balance of powers. That’s why I’ve cosponsored Senator Lee’s bill that gives Congress more oversight and puts a check on presidents’ authorities for emergency declarations.”

Earlier in the day, Ernst told Iowa reporters on a conference call, “We have sorted through this from top to bottom and bottom to top. And from what I have been able to learn is that the president does have the ability to do this.”

No serious constitutional scholar shares that opinion.

Grassley’s office put out seven news releases on March 14. None were about why he backed up Trump’s unconstitutional move to build a wall Congress declined to fund. Last month he expressed some “concerns about the precedent” while making clear he would stand with Trump.

Iowa’s senior senator frequently denounced what he perceived as executive overreaches by President Barack Obama. But as attorney Armando Llorens explained on Twitter today,

I know Republicans like to compare DACA and DAPA [Obama’s immigration-related executive orders] to this, but it is fundamentally different. Whether you think Obama acted illegally or even unconstitutionally, he was exercising Article 2 powers. Here Trump is usurping Article 1 powers. It’s simply unacceptable.

Llorens added, “The Muslim Ban, as heinous as it was, was much more defensible Constitutionally than this,” because “Trump’s usurpation of the Congressional Article 1 power of the purse is a direct assault at the basic framework of the Constitution.”

In other news about Iowans in the Senate, this week Ernst co-sponsored what she called a “paid family leave” proposal. Alexia Fernández Campbell noted in this story for Vox,

But the truth is, it’s not paid leave at all. It’s another version of unpaid leave that working parents in the United States would have to fund themselves.

Here’s how it would work: The Cradle Act would let workers access some of their Social Security retirement income in advance to make up for some of the wages they would lose when taking parental leave. Workers would still bear the cost of taking time off — by delaying their retirement by twice as many months as they took off for parental leave. Someone who takes the maximum three months off, for example, would need to delay their Social Security retirement by six months. […]

[T]he Cradle Act would raid the Social Security Trust Fund, which is already at risk of being depleted. Ernst and Lee say their plan will address that by moving money from other parts of the budget to cover the borrowed Social Security funds until they are repaid — a move that would likely expand the already ballooning budget deficit.

Tara Siegel Bernard and Claire Cain Miller highlighted flaws in a similar proposal Senate Republicans introduced last year.

Ernst’s bill generated a lot of publicity, and the Des Moines Register even put her inaccurate spin in the headline for their online story: “Sen. Joni Ernst introduces plans for paid family leave through retirement deferral.” The headline in the print version was more accurate: “Plan: Take family leave, delay Social Security.”

Final note: the American Democracy Legal Fund, a 527 organization funded by the Democratic-aligned super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century, last week requested an investigation of how Ernst claimed eligibility for the homestead tax credit in the nation’s capital. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth reported in February that Ernst “repaid almost $1,900 for a tax break that she had claimed on her Washington, D.C., condo since 2016, while simultaneously claiming a similar tax break in Iowa.”

Homestead tax credits are available only to people who own property and claim the property as their primary residence.

Her office said her claim of the homestead tax credit in Washington, D.C., was an error that she rectified with the check. Ernst wrote the check to the Washington, D.C., Office of Tax and Revenue Friday [February 8], two days after the Des Moines Register inquired about the matter.

On March 4, a video tracker for American Bridge caught up with Ernst and asked her who applied for the DC property tax credit. She did not respond. The same day, the American Democracy Legal Fund asked the Washington, DC Office of Tax Revenue to investigate the matter.

After repeated inquiries, staff for that office told Bleeding Heartland on March 13, “OTR considers the matter corrected and closed in this instance,” because the benefit has been rescinded. The office normally would not conduct further investigation on how a tax exemption was improperly claimed.

OTR routinely audits for tax compliance, and inspects each application that is submitted. The homestead deduction is typically applied for at closing, where the form is included in and executed during the closing process along with many other documents. The overwhelming majority of residential closings in the District are homestead deduction eligible, and therefore the form may be erroneously included as a matter of routine.

  • Joni Ernst also has a weird mailing list

    Someone I know received a fancy six-piece fundraising letter from her office, thanking him for his “above and beyond” support for her campaign and then praising him for being “a distinguished Iowan and leader in the [his town] community and steadfast supporter…” He was also praised for being “well known to represent the highest conservative ideals of liberty and independence” and was invited to be one of only one hundred special supporters in his county.

    The amusing thing is that he is the kind of liberal sometimes called “flaming.” He regularly contributes to liberal causes and candidates. He’d have to be hit extremely hard on the head before he’d ever contribute to an Ernst campaign. He’s a rural resident and farmland owner, however, so maybe someone in the Ernst office just assumes all such are Republicans.

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