Iowa's two first-term members of the U.S. House were among fourteen Democrats to oppose the latest bill drafted to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The so-called HEROES Act cleared the lower chamber on May 15 by 208 votes to 199 (roll call). It called for an estimated $3 trillion in spending, including "nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American tribes, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans."
Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate oppose the bill, so its passage in the House serves primarily to communicate preferred Democratic policy.
In written statements enclosed in full below, Representative Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) said the "next federal COVID-19 relief package must be focused on helping families, workers, small businesses and local governments. It needs bipartisan buy-in, and should not be tied up with unrelated provisions."
Similarly, Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) criticized "superfluous language" that made the bill "politically charged and without a path to becoming law – denying Iowans much-needed assistance in the critical weeks and months ahead." She noted that some provisions could send "large amounts of taxpayer dollars" to high-income people or lobbying groups.
The third Democrat who represents Iowa in Congress, Dave Loebsack (IA-02), voted for the bill but did not release a statement. Loebsack is retiring at the end of this year, so he doesn't have to worry about Republican attack ads.
Representative Steve King opposed the bill, as did all but one House Republican.
Not only did Finkenauer and Axne oppose the bill on final passage, they were among just thirteen House Democrats to vote for a GOP motion to recommit, which could have tanked the legislation. The New York Times explained,
Republicans forced a vote to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving $1,200 coronavirus aid payments, hoping to garner the support of enough centrist Democrats to prevail.
If that happened, progressives were privately threatening to band together with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to sink the bill, according to people familiar with their conversations who detailed them on the condition of anonymity.
[House Speaker] Ms. Pelosi furiously worked the House floor into the evening, intercepting lawmakers as they came, in an effort to discourage them from backing the Republicans’ proposal. Her efforts prevailed and the effort fell short.
The Republican challengers in IA-01 and IA-03 and GOP-aligned groups spending money in this district will surely try to depict Finkenauer and Axne as puppets of Nancy Pelosi. But today's votes are another reminder that Iowa's two first-term members of Congress are not always reliable votes for Democratic leaders.
Statements released by Axne's and Finkenauer's staff did not address the motion to recommit or the proposal to make an estimated 4.3 million undocumented immigrants eligible for stimulus payments. Other provisions in the bill would release "low-risk immigrants from ICE detention," protect "essential workers" from being deported, and "allow unauthorized immigrants without health care coverage to qualify for no-cost testing, treatment, and vaccines related to coronavirus." Representative Steve King (IA-04) highlighted those points in his news release touting his vote against what he called "Pelosi’s $3 Trillion Socialist Wish List."
Earlier on May 15, House Democrats approved a resolution to temporarily allow proxy voting. All three Iowa Democrats supported the policy, while King voted no (roll call). Grace Segers reported for CBS News,
The nearly party-line vote, 217 to 189, means that a member present at the Capitol would be able to cast a vote on behalf of up to 10 absent colleagues.
The pandemic has raised concerns about having lawmakers gather to vote, particularly since many members of Congress are older than 60 and therefore more vulnerable to serious illness caused by the virus.
House Republicans opposed the rule change, arguing that members of Congress are essential workers and should return to the Capitol.
Statement from Representative Abby Finkenauer (D, IA-01):
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) released the following statement regarding her vote Friday on the HEROES Act:
"In the days and weeks following passage of the CARES Act this spring, I listened to my constituents about the next steps in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," Congresswoman Finkenauer said. “They asked for support for our firefighters, police and local governments; more help for families and frontline workers; expanded access to testing and PPE; and meaningful support for our Main streets and the agricultural and biofuels economy."
"While I fought to include these priorities in the HEROES Act, I could not support the version of the bill that came before the House today,” Finkenauer said. “The next federal COVID-19 relief package must be focused on helping families, workers, small businesses and local governments. It needs bipartisan buy-in, and should not be tied up with unrelated provisions. I came to Washington to get things done, and this legislation only serves to push real relief further down the road."
"With growing cases and continuing economic hardship across Iowa, we need the Senate and the President to come to the table,” Finkenauer said. “I’m tired of Washington playing politics with issues that demand our attention, solutions, and action. I’ll keep fighting to move our priorities forward, and work with anyone who’s willing to craft a package that provides real relief to the families, businesses, and frontline workers who need it most and can’t afford to wait. As Iowans continue to face worry and hardship, Congressional leadership and the President must focus on realistic, common sense, bipartisan solutions."
Statement from Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03):
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) expressed deep disappointment with provisions included in the Heroes Act, the House’s latest coronavirus (COVID-19) response package, that transformed a much-needed COVID-19 relief package into legislation that she cannot support.
Despite Rep. Axne’s support for critical aid programs that will help Iowa’s families, farmers, small businesses, health systems, and local government services, superfluous language in the Heroes Act have made the relief in its current form politically charged and without a path to becoming law – denying Iowans much-needed assistance in the critical weeks and months ahead.
“While this legislation includes critical assistance for Iowa’s hospitals, schools, homeowners and renters, state and local governments, and families who are still feeling the burdens of this public health crisis – I am deeply troubled by numerous provisions in this bill that could see large amounts of taxpayer dollars allocated to helping those who are not hurting at all,” said Rep. Axne. “I could not in good conscience vote to accept this Washington gamesmanship, or vote to approve unrelated wastes of taxpayer dollars, while Iowa sees its COVID-19 case rates climbing and parts of my district become a national hotspot. I will always stand up to anyone – even my own party – when it comes to doing what’s right for Iowa.”
The Heroes Act includes changes to eligibility for COVID-19 aid that could allow lobbying groups to claim taxpayer dollars. It also includes changes to the tax code that would provide benefits largely to high-income earners, a provision that Rep. Axne rejected last year.
“Special interest groups and Americans already supported by massive incomes cannot be the priority in our continuing efforts to keep our country afloat,” said Rep. Axne. “I cannot support adding to our federal debt just to line the pockets of special interests and those who have the means to keep themselves healthy and financially stable.”
The Heroes Act includes two bills Rep. Axne introduced to help keep renters in Iowa’s rural communities and other Iowa families in their homes – the Protect Rural Renters Act and the Coronavirus Housing Counseling Support Act.
The legislation also includes $375 billion for local governments and $500 billion for states to help prevent cuts to public safety, education, and other essential services supported at the municipal level. Last week, Rep. Axne introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide direct aid to states and local governments to make up for lost revenue due to COVID-19.
The Heroes Act contains direct support for Iowa’s biofuel industry, a key priority for Rep. Axne that she has advocated for multiple times since the beginning of the outbreak.
“I do not vote against these provisions and the others that I have fought for lightly. As Iowa continues to endure outbreaks of COVID-19, we need to see these provisions maintained as negotiations move forward with our Senate colleagues,” said Rep. Axne.
In the past few weeks, Rep. Axne has written directly to Congressional leaders to advocate for specific aid to help Iowa’s hospitals and health systems, small businesses, rural communities, and vulnerable groups including retirees and children.
Statement from Representative Steve King (R, IA-04):
King Votes “NO!” on Pelosi’s $3 Trillion Socialist Wish List
Also Votes Against Speaker Pelosi’s Proxy Voting Power Grab
Washington DC- Congressman Steve King announces that he has voted NO on two proposals put forward for consideration by House Democrats today. King voted against HR. 6800, a $3 trillion wish list of liberal policy priorities put together behind closed doors by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. King also voted against House Democrats’ proposal to unilaterally change House Rules to allow for Proxy Voting despite the Constitution’s requirement that a quorum be present for business to be conducted. HR 6800 passed the House tonight on a vote of 208-199 (King voted No) and the Proxy Voting proposal passed on a vote of 217-189 (King voted No).
“President Trump is correct to oppose this legislation, and I am pleased that he has done so publicly, said King. “There is a saying, popular among some members on the other side of the aisle, that ‘one should never let a crisis go to waste.’ In my opinion, Speaker Pelosi's $3 Trillion wish-list is her latest attempt to use the terrible COVID-19 pandemic to radically restructure American society by advancing a bill that was drafted in secret and behind closed doors while Congress was out of town. I voted against this ‘socialist wish list,’ and I will support President Trump should he ever need to veto this legislation.”
Among the non-COVID-19 related items included in HR 6800 are provisions that incentivize illegal immigration to our country, wastefully provide hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that have no role in defeating the COVID-19 coronavirus, and that radically restructure the way Americans cast their votes in elections. After examining the legislation, Minority Whip Scalise has designated the bill "H.R. 6800 – Pelosi’s Socialist Wish List Act."
Here are just some of the troublesome provisions that House Republicans have already identified in Speaker Pelosi's $3 Trillion legislation:
Incentives for Illegal Immigration:
• Awards federal funding to sanctuary cities
• Requires review of those detained by ICE so certain illegal immigrants can be released
• Prevents the deportation of illegal immigrants
• Authorizes illegal immigrants to work during this crisis
• Allows illegal immigrants to collect Economic Impact Payments
• Provides funding to matters unrelated to combatting COVID-19 including:
o $125M to National Science Foundation
o $50M to Legal Services Corporation o $50M to the EPA in “environmental justice grants”
o $40M to U.S. Geological Survey
o $10M to National Endowment of the Arts
o $10M to National Endowment of the Humanities
Wholesale Election Law Changes:
• Federalizes the entire election process and takes power away from the states
• Calls for mailed absentee ballots to be sent to every voter permanently
• Permits same day voter registration nationwide which would lengthen voting lines
• Codifies ballot harvesting
• Enacts national vote by mail
• Prevents states from having voter ID requirements