Grassley touts infrastructure vote; Ernst quiet on opposition

Can you guess which Iowa senator is up for re-election in 2022, and which one won’t face Iowa voters for another five years?

In a rare gesture of bipartisanship on August 10, the U.S. Senate approved by 69 votes to 30 a bill that would spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructure projects. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among nineteen Republicans who supported final passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, despite being unhappy with the amendment process. Senator Joni Ernst stuck with the majority of the GOP caucus in opposition; the no votes included potential 2024 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

In a written statement enclosed in full below, Grassley said, “Iowa’s aging infrastructure risks slowing economic growth and eroding daily comfort and convenience. This bipartisan bill fixes potholes, rebuilds bridges, upgrades water systems and brings broadband to rural corners of our state. Investing in Iowa’s infrastructure will pay dividends for decades to come.” His news release highlighted reports showing Iowa has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state and many large roads in poor or fair condition.

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Grassley votes to advance bipartisan infrastructure bill (updated)

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst rarely land on opposite sides of any issue, but it happened on an important U.S. Senate floor vote on August 7. Iowa’s senior senator was among eighteen Republicans who joined Democrats on a procedural vote to advance a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Ernst was among the 27 Republicans who voted against the motion, which needed 60 votes to pass.

Grassley has not been among the 20 senators negotiating the bipartisan bill. He has spoken favorably of federal spending on projects like roads, bridges, airports, and broadband, but said this week “the big hold-up for me” on the infrastructure proposal is whether the “pay-for” provisions to cover the costs are real or just “gimmicks.”

A vote for the final version of this bill would be another data point suggesting Grassley intends to seek re-election in 2022.

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Iowans in Congress report big 2Q fundraising numbers

Candidates for federal offices are raising more money than ever, and that trend was noticeable in the second-quarter Federal Election Commission filings for Iowa’s four U.S. House incumbents. Most of them reported fundraising numbers that would have attracted national attention just a few cycles ago. Many large donors live outside Iowa, a sign that national committees are driving contributions to candidates perceived to be in competitive districts.

The cash on hand totals may seem daunting for challengers who recently launched their campaigns or are still considering it. On the other hand, war chests are less important than they used to be, given the massive growth in outside spending on battleground U.S. House races. A fundraising advantage for an incumbent in 2021 may not be a major factor by next summer.

With that caveat, let’s review where things stand for the three Republicans and one Democrat who represent Iowa in the lower chamber of Congress.

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Two Iowans opposed removing Confederate statues from Capitol

The U.S. House voted on June 29 to remove Confederate statues on public display at the Capitol and to replace a bust of Roger Taney with one of Thurgood Marshall. All 218 Democrats voted in favor, including Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). Representative Ashley Hinson (IA-01) was among the 67 Republicans who also supported the bill. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) were among the 120 Republicans who voted against the legislation.

Feenstra’s predecessor Steve King opposed a similar bill in 2020; all three Democrats who represented Iowa in the House last year voted to replace the bust of Taney and Confederate statues.

As chief justice in 1857, Taney authored the Dred Scott decision, widely regarded as the worst ever U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Marshall litigated important civil rights cases and eventually became the first Black Supreme Court justice in 1967.

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House committee upholds Miller-Meeks' fine for going maskless

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, IA-02) did not appeal the $500 fine she received last month for going without a mask in the U.S. House chamber, the House Ethics Committee announced on June 25. A letter and accompanying statement from the committee’s chair and ranking member upheld the fine, noting that Miller-Meeks had not filed an appeal within the time allowed under House rules.

Two other Republicans fined for the same reason did appeal, saying they were vaccinated and in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance. A majority of Ethics Committee members did not agree to those appeals. (Unlike most House committees, the ethics panel has equal representation for both parties.)

Under House rules adopted early this year, a second violation of the mask mandate would have incurred a $2,500 fine. However, Miller-Meeks won’t need to worry. Under guidance issued earlier this month, House members and staff who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are no longer subject to the mask mandate.

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