Grassley, Ernst again vote for extreme budget, hope no one notices

For the second year in a row, Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted to advance a budget plan that would require massive cuts to most federal government programs in the coming decade. Senator Rand Paul’s plan was so extreme that only 22 Senate Republicans–less than half the GOP caucus–supported the motion to proceed with considering the legislation.

By not drawing attention to the June 3 vote, Iowa’s senators successfully kept the story out of the news in their home state.

It was another example of a phenomenon Bleeding Heartland has flagged before: if our members of Congress don’t brag about it in a press release or a conference call with reporters, Iowa newspaper readers and television viewers are unlikely ever to learn that it happened.

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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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"He knows how to get things done": Grassley endorses Young for IA-03

Senator Chuck Grassley is urging Republicans to support former U.S. Representative David Young in the primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district. In a written statement released on May 20, Grassley described his onetime chief of staff as “an effective leader” who “knows how to get things done” and could “hit the ground running” if elected to the House again.

Grassley rarely endorses in Republican primaries and did not publicly support any candidate before the GOP primary in 2014, the first time Young ran for Congress. That year, Young finished fifth out of six GOP contenders but won the party’s nomination on the fifth ballot at a district convention.

Young became the first declared challenger to U.S. Representative Cindy Axne earlier this month. Army veteran Bill Schafer will also seek the GOP nomination. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the main campaign arm of U.S. House Republicans, is rumored to prefer State Senator Zach Nunn. He is positioning himself as part of “a new generation of leaders.” While not yet officially running, Nunn is touring the district and recently alluded to Young in an interview as “a good man, but we don’t want to see a repeat of 2018.” Nunn briefly worked in Grassley’s Washington office, but Young worked for the senator from 2006 to 2013.

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Iowa Republicans choose not to look for overspending on Medicaid prescriptions

The Iowa Department of Human Services will not audit a practice that could be inflating costs for Medicaid prescription drug payments by millions of dollars a year.

State Representative John Forbes raised concerns after finding discrepancies on bills for some prescriptions his Urbandale pharmacy filled for patients served by Amerigroup, one of Iowa’s Medicaid managed-care providers. Earlier this month, House members unanimously approved Forbes’ amendment to the health and human services budget, instructing DHS to “audit all prescription drug benefit claims managed by a pharmacy benefit manager under the Medicaid program.”

However, House and Senate Republicans dropped that section from the final version of House File 766.

State Senator Mark Costello, who floor managed the health and human services budget in the upper chamber, claimed Iowa’s Medicaid director Michael Randol and an Amerigroup representative had told him the audit was unnecessary.

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Mueller's findings on Sam Clovis and a top Chuck Grassley staffer

The U.S. Department of Justice on April 18 released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” I’ve posted the full document after the jump. You can download it here or look through a searchable versions here or here.

Dozens of reporters and analysts have posted valuable takes on various aspects of the findings and Attorney General Bill Barr’s brazen lying about the Mueller team’s conclusions. This post will focus on angles of particular interest to Iowa readers: the roles of Sam Clovis, a former statewide candidate here who became a top foreign policy advisor for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and Barbara Ledeen, a senior staffer for U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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When politicians become assignment editors

For many years, the Des Moines Register regularly published dispatches from Washington on what the Iowans in Congress were doing. Coverage deteriorated after the newspaper laid off Jane Norman in 2008. To my knowledge, no Iowa-based news organization has had a correspondent in the nation’s capital since the Register let Philip Brasher go in 2011.

In a wide-ranging review of the Register’s political reporting four years ago, I commented, “If a member of Congress didn’t brag about it in a press release, conference call, or social media post, the Register’s readers are not likely ever to learn that it happened.”

The newspaper’s recent coverage of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley illustrates that problem.

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