House approves defense authorization bill: How the Iowans voted

The U.S. House on July 12 approved a draft National Defense Authorization Act, setting military policy for the coming fiscal year. The final vote on passage split mostly along party lines, 220 to 197 (roll call).

Along the way, House members considered dozens of amendments, and the controversial ones received separate roll call votes. On most of those votes, Iowa’s delegation divided as one would expect: Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted with most of the Democratic caucus, while Republican Steve King (IA-04) was on the other side.

But one or more Iowa Democrats voted with the majority of House Republicans on quite a few proposals. Axne did so most often, siding with most GOP colleagues rather than with her own caucus on fourteen amendments.

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Interview: Why Cindy Axne's not for impeachment hearings (yet)

Months have passed since Special Counsel Robert Mueller released hundreds of pages of findings from a two-year investigation. About 1,000 former federal prosecutors signed a statement saying “the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

Various Trump administration officials have flouted Congressional subpoenas to produce documents or testify. President Richard Nixon’s failure to comply with the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoenas in 1974 were the basis for one of the three articles of impeachment against him.

Yet only about 80 of the 235 U.S. House Democrats are now on record supporting formal impeachment hearings.

None of Iowa’s three Democrats in Congress are among them.

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IA-02: Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne endorse Rita Hart

Former State Senator Rita Hart now has the backing of every Democrat representing Iowa in Congress for her bid to succeed Representative Dave Loebsack in the second district. The campaign announced support this morning from Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03). I enclose below the full statement.

Loebsack endorsed Hart last month, and State Auditor Rob Sand did the same last week. Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and a number of state lawmakers are among more than six dozen other high-profile supporters of Hart in the 24 counties that comprise IA-02. The current press contact for Hart’s campaign, Zachary Meunier, managed Loebsack’s re-election effort in 2018.

With several other prospective Democratic candidates taking themselves out of contention in recent weeks, Newman Abuissa appears likely to be Hart’s only competitor for the 2020 nomination. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will surely back Hart but probably will spend little on the primary.

The Republican field has not yet settled in IA-02. Although the GOP has vowed to play for this seat, and recent voting patterns suggest it could be competitive, I question whether Republicans will invest heavily in the race. Hart is a good fit for the area and should be able to capitalize on the district’s slight Democratic lean.

The 24 counties in IA-02 contain 164,390 active registered Democrats, 142,462 Republicans, and 184,572 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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Republican's stunt holds up flood relief funding (updated)

Iowans awaiting federal flood relief money will have to wait a little longer.

Congressional leaders thought they had a deal to approve $19.1 billion in disaster aid before the Memorial Day recess. The U.S. Senate passed the bill on May 23 by 85 votes to 8. (Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both supported the measure and said they’d worked to secure “specific relief for farmers whose grain bins busted because of flooding.”) President Donald Trump was willing to sign the legislation. House passage seemed assured, so most representatives left town for the holiday weekend.

Then a first-term Republican from Texas used a procedural move to hold up the bill on May 24. While most of the blame lies with U.S. Representative Chip Roy and the GOP leaders who failed to dissuade him, top House Democrats should not have put themselves at the mercy of any member of the minority.

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IA-03: Zach Nunn spreads false hearsay about Cindy Axne

State Senator Zach Nunn has described his planned “listening tour” of Iowa’s third Congressional district as “an opportunity to learn from Iowa families, farmers, and business owners […] about priorities for their communities.”

Unfortunately, the not-quite-official Republican candidate for IA-03 can’t be bothered to check the facts before spreading false claims that suit his political ambitions.

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IA-01: First thoughts on a possible Rod Blum-Abby Finkenauer rematch

Thomas Nelson of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier was first to report last week that former U.S. Representative Rod Blum’s campaign has spent $11,365 on polling this year. Blum’s quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission showed two disbursements to the candidate’s longtime pollster in early January.

The payments exceeded the $4,119 Blum for Congress owed The Polling Company at the end of December, indicating that Blum commissioned new surveys in the first district and wasn’t merely settling debts left over from the 2018 campaign.

While I have not been able to find details about the questions asked, his campaign likely tested voters’ views on key issues as well as approval and favorability numbers for himself and Representative Abby Finkenauer. Blum hasn’t ruled out running for office again. Nelson noted that he appeared at a Jones County GOP event on April 11.

No Republican has confirmed plans to run against Finkenauer. I see Blum as a weaker challenger than State Representative Ashley Hinson, who has said she’s considering the race and will make her intentions known after the legislative session ends.

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