Joni Ernst picks a strange fight with Theresa Greenfield

“You know, I haven’t heard Theresa Greenfield say one thing that Chuck Schumer hasn’t told her to say,” Senator Joni Ernst declared today on her Twitter feed. “And that’s not what Iowans expect in a leader.”

Several political reporters quickly noted the role reversal in Ernst’s call for six debates with her Democratic opponent. Usually challengers want more debates in order to raise their profiles before the general election. An incumbent making that demand is likely trailing, as the three most recent published polls on Iowa’s Senate race suggest.

Other endangered Republican senators have similarly called for frequent debates this fall, a sign of justified fear that President Donald Trump’s sinking approval will drag them down in November.

Another thing about Ernst’s taunt struck me as more strange, though. If she wants to make the election about who slavishly follows her party’s leader, Iowa’s junior senator is on exceptionally weak ground.

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Dark money stains the Senate primary

Susan Nelson spoke to Mike Franken about claims made in an attack ad funded by a group supporting Theresa Greenfield. -promoted by Laura Belin

The polling must be tightening up in the U.S. Senate primary.  A tsunami of dark money is washing up on our TV screens. Women Vote!, the political arm of EMILY’s List, is spending $1 million to attack Admiral Michael Franken on behalf of the Democratic establishment favorite, Theresa Greenfield.

Their ad claims that Mike Franken is a former Republican, an accusation that was flung at Elizabeth Warren every day in the 2020 primary campaign. If true, I am not so sure that would be a bad thing in a general election in Iowa, and it did not seem to hurt Warren. Republican support and donations have not hurt J.D. Scholten either. They also attack Franken for being a defense contractor, and accuse him of being a carpetbagger, an attack Warren received during her first Senate campaign.

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Letter from disappointed Iowa Democrats to Senator Chuck Schumer

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: The Senate Majority PAC, a super-PAC aligned with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has already spent nearly $7 million to promote Theresa Greenfield, one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Women Vote!, a super-PAC aligned with EMILY’s List, has spent nearly $1 million, mostly on advertising attacking Mike Franken, with a small buy of negative ads against Eddie Mauro. Both EMILY’s List and the DSCC endorsed Greenfield days after she launched her campaign in June 2019.

Sent Via Fax: 202-228-3027

May 29, 2020
Senator Chuck Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: Cease and Desist Interferences in Iowa U.S. Senate Primary Campaign

Dear Senator Schumer:

We write to you as long-time Iowa political activists, asking that you, and allied groups and individuals working in concert with you, cease and desist unwelcomed interferences in the Iowa Democratic Party’s primary campaign to nominate our candidate for the United States Senate seat now held by Republican Joni Ernst.

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Weekend open thread: Jefferson-Jackson Dinner edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

The Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was an entertaining affair. I’ve posted some highlights after the jump. The “news” of the evening was Senator Chuck Schumer of New York endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, but for my money that wasn’t the most interesting part of his speech.

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Senate to extend unemployment benefits, but Grassley votes no (again)

The U.S. Senate defeated a Republican attempt to filibuster another month-long extension of unemployment benefits yesterday by a vote of 60 to 34. Four Republicans voted with all of the Democrats present on the cloture motion, but Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley supported the filibuster, as did most of his fellow Republicans (roll call here). Senator Tom Harkin was absent but would have voted to overcome the filibuster.

Republicans claim they simply want the unemployment benefits to be “paid for” (though they never objected when supplemental spending for the war in Iraq, or tax cuts for the wealthy, added to the deficit). Senator Chuck Schumer of New York countered,

“Unemployment extensions have always been considered emergency spending, and there’s a reason for that. […] Unemployment insurance is a form of stimulus, but offsetting the extension of this program would negate the stimulative impact. It would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Governor Chet Culver had written to the entire Iowa delegation in Congress urging them to pass the benefits extension. Unlike Grassley, our governor understands how important these benefits are as economic stimulus:

The nonpartisan Iowa Fiscal Partnership released a study earlier this year showing the economic impacts of stimulus spending for unemployment benefits. Analysts found that direct spending for unemployment insurance included in the federal stimulus, along with ripple effects from that spending, produced $501.7 million increased economic activity and $112.1 million in income in 2009, creating or saving 3,727 jobs.

For the current year, the researchers also found direct and indirect benefits but in lower amounts, $314.6 million activity, $68.6 million income and 2,258 jobs.

So extending unemployment benefits doesn’t just help the jobless and their families, it helps businesses in virtually every community. The bad news is that the bill the Senate is poised to pass this week is not retroactive, meaning that unemployed Americans whose benefits expired on April 5 won’t get back the money they would have received this month had the Senate passed this bill before the Easter recess. It was a big mistake for Democrats to go home without taking care of this business in March.

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Don't punt the public option debate to the states

Senate Democrats have not given up on passing health care reform through normal procedures requiring at least 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. The problem is, several conservative Senate Democrats are on record opposing a public health insurance option. Meanwhile, a bill with no public option will have trouble passing the House of Representatives, where the overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus supports a robust public option tied to Medicare rates.

The obvious political solution is to include some watered-down public option in the bill, giving cover to Progressive Democrats who insist on a public option while placating House Blue Dogs and Senate conservatives who want to protect private insurers’ market share.

The “triggered” public option favored by many industry allies didn’t fly, because most Democrats understand that the trigger would never be pulled. This past week, a new possible compromise emerged:

It was pulled out of an alternative idea, put forth by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and, prior to him, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, to give states the power to determine whether they want to implement a public insurance option.

But instead of starting with no national public option and giving state governments the right to develop their own, the newest compromise approaches the issue from the opposite direction: beginning with a national public option and giving state governments the right not to have one.

I consider this idea’s pros and cons after the jump.  

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