Iowa Republicans complicit in Trump's fake national emergency

“Whatever a national emergency may be, that’s not it,” tweeted experienced Supreme Court litigator Neal Katyal, after President Donald Trump admitted during his February 15 press conference, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

The courts may stop Trump from using funds appropriated for other purposes to have the military build a wall along the southern border, which Congress has repeatedly declined to authorize. But the president’s warlord-like behavior can still do lasting harm to democratic institutions.

Iowa Republicans in Congress are either unconcerned about this “reckless disregard for the separation of powers” or cheering it on.

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Iowa Congressional reaction to ending government shutdown

The federal government reopened as of 9:23 pm Eastern time on January 25. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump retreated from his demand that any spending bill include money for a wall along the U.S. southern border.

Why cave now? For weeks, media around the country have been reporting on the hardship faced by some 800,000 federal workers and at least 1 million contractors going without pay. Trump changed course largely for two reasons: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denied him permission to deliver a State of the Union address while the government was shut down, and several major east coast airports experienced delays on January 25 due to air traffic controller staff shortages.

Shortly after Trump announced his new position, the U.S. House and Senate approved by voice votes a continuing resolution to fund the government for three weeks. Congressional leaders and White House representatives will attempt to work out some kind of immigration compromise by February 15. The deal includes an extension and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired near the beginning of the shutdown.

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History made in U.S. House: How the Iowans voted

Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03) joined a long list of “firsts” when they were sworn in on January 3. Iowa had never elected a woman to the U.S. House before 2018, but now women make up half of our state’s delegation. The “most diverse Congress in history” includes record numbers of women and members of religious, racial, ethnic, or LGBTQ groups that have not previously represented their states in Washington. Finkenauer also became the second-youngest woman to serve in Congress, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

The first votes in the 116th Congress involved some drama within the Democratic caucus, but Iowans did not rock the boat.

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A snowless December stroll

Ed Fallon is a former Iowa legislator, longtime environmental activist, and the author of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim, a memoir from the 2014 Great March for Climate Action. -promoted by Laura Belin

If you work the land, it’s impossible not to notice that our climate is changing dramatically. I checked out the cold frame Kathy and I planted in mid-October. Normally, the seeds sprout a little bit, then the young plants hunker down until early March. The way they’re growing this year, we’ll be eating fresh greens later this month.

That’s wonderful on one level — and deeply disturbing on another.

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Criminal justice reform caps Grassley tenure heading Judiciary Committee

Both Senator Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted for a criminal justice reform bill that cleared the U.S. Senate on December 18 by a resounding 87 votes to 12 (roll call). Iowa’s senators were also part of the bipartisan majority that rejected three Republican amendments, described by one advocacy group as poison pills “aimed at gutting the substance and intent of the bill.”

Grassley wasn’t an early advocate of criminal justice reform, especially sentencing reform. As recently as March 2015, he slammed what he called the “leniency industrial complex,” which favored reducing long mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. But he came around about three years ago and helped build Republican support for the current bill, commonly known as the First Step Act.

In one of his final acts as Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Grassley pushed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly and privately to bring the legislation to the Senate floor. After yesterday’s votes, New York Times photographer Sarah Silbiger captured images of Grassley celebrating with Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who has helped lead the charge on this issue.

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