Interview: What drives Senator Jeff Merkley

“We need to use every tool we have to reclaim our country,” U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley told me during his latest visit to Des Moines. “We are at the verge of a tipping point, and maybe we’re almost past it, in which the power of the mega-wealthy is so profound that we can’t tip the balance back in to we the people.”

The senator from Oregon spent much of Labor Day weekend in central Iowa supporting Democratic candidates for the state legislature. His fifth trip here since the 2016 election won’t be his last: he will be a featured speaker at the Polk County Steak Fry later this month. During our September 2 interview, I asked Merkley about the most important matters pending in the U.S. Senate, prospects for Democrats in November, and his possible presidential candidacy.

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House approves Farm Bill with food assistance cuts: How the Iowans voted

The U.S. House approved a five-year farm bill on June 21 by 213 votes to 211, with support from Iowa GOP Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04). Every Democrat present, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), voted against the bill, as did 20 Republicans (roll call).

A conservative bloc had voted down the same legislation in May, seeking to force House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote on an immigration bill drafted by Robert Goodlatte. The tactic worked, in the sense that House leaders brought Goodlatte’s bill to the floor shortly before the farm bill. However, the immigration measure lacked the votes to pass the chamber.

According to Politico’s Catherine Boudreau, the legislation was “the first farm bill to pass either chamber with only one-party support,” because “Democrats revolted over its proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.”

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David vs. Goliath: Reflections on a special election in Decorah, Iowa

Community organizer Tabita Green provides a fascinating inside view of a hard-fought local referendum. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In a northeast Iowa town known for its Norwegian heritage, eagles, and beer, a grassroots effort to “topple Goliath” (aka Alliant Energy) almost succeeded—even in the face of extreme opposition from the corporate energy giant. A special election on May 1 to authorize the City of Decorah to establish a municipal electric utility (MEU) resulted in a three-vote win by the Alliant-funded “No” campaign. That is the good news.

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The case for each Democrat running for Congress in IA-03

With less than three weeks remaining before the June 5 primary, many Democrats (including myself) are still undecided in the primary to represent Iowa’s third Congressional district. All three candidates left standing in the once-crowded field have raised enough money to run strong, district-wide campaigns.

This post focuses on how Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro have presented themselves in stump speeches, direct mail, and television commercials aimed at Democratic voters.

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Iowa House passes energy giveaway bill like sneak-thieves in the night

Last night’s highly irregular Iowa House proceedings inspired Matt Chapman’s latest commentary. The chamber’s rules do not normally permit debate past midnight, but Republicans approved an amended version of a terrible energy bill a little past 5 am. A forthcoming Bleeding Heartland post will discuss the substantive changes to the legislation, which goes back to the Iowa Senate. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Senate File 2311, the Aliant Energy/Mid-American omnibus energy bill, was trotted out in the Iowa House after a more than eight-hour caucus after 10:00 pm last night. Much like last year’s bill that busted the unions for 180,000 public employees, this cowardly approach of sneaking legislation through while working Iowans are sleeping seems to be on par with the GOP’s values.

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