Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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So the Iran Deal was bad but North Korea was good?

Ben Cobley: If Senator Joni Ernst is “excited about the opportunity” of a denuclearized North Korea, why does she not feel the same way about a denuclearized Iran? -promoted by desmoinesdem

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

In my previous writing about the Iran Deal, I called out Senator Joni Ernst on her hypocrisy regarding President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. I also called into question her understanding of diplomatic affairs and the consequences they have on the people of Iowa, the safety of our troops around the world and the future of a G-Zero world under President Trump.

Whether or not Ernst read my piece is unclear, but she seems to have doubled down on her ignorance with her comments on the Singapore Summit.

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A reasoned take on the Iran Deal and Senator Ernst's failure to lead

Ben Cobley is a Senior Digital Strategist at GPS Impact in Des Moines. He studied international relations at the University of Iowa and served as part of the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Before I go too far down the rabbit hole that is Middle Eastern foreign policy, let me explain how this post started.

A recent interaction on Twitter reminded me that when it comes to the public’s understanding of foreign policy decisions, simplicity isn’t always best. Such is the case with many of our media’s attempts at discussing the intricacies of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as “The Iran Deal.”

I don’t blame the media for this oversimplification. Their job isn’t to teach – it’s to inform. And while many outlets try to toe that line to give an unbiased report on political findings, they also have to deal with countless variables that push them towards oversimplifying topics to keep a reader engaged.

I don’t have to face quite as many variables, and thus this post will be longer and more detail oriented. I’ll do my best to limit myself when needed.

Still with me? Okay – let’s talk about Iran and President Trump.

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the “omnibus” budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the “tax extenders” and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named “On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566”), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders “opposed the tax package” but “did not whip their members against it.” Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He “has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October,” Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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Iowans split as House votes on Iran nuclear deal (updated)

Today the four Iowans in the U.S. House split along party lines on several measures related to the multi-lateral agreement negotiated this summer to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

A resolution to approve the deal failed by 162 votes to 269 (roll call). Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) was among the 162 members (all Democrats) supporting the Iran agreement. Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted no, as did all but one House Republican and 25 Democrats. Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that “despite the defections, enough Democrats voted to support the deal to deprive the GOP of a veto-proof majority.” Keeping the no votes below a two-thirds majority was mostly a symbolic victory; President Barack Obama appears unlikely to need to exercise his veto power, now that Democrats have blocked a disapproval resolution in the U.S. Senate.

A few minutes after the first Iran-related vote today, House members approved by 247 votes to 186 a resolution “To suspend until January 21, 2017, the authority of the President to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions pursuant to an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran.” Only two House Democrats joined Republicans to support that measure. Again, the Iowans split along party lines.

Yesterday, on a straight party-line vote of 245 to 186, House members approved a resolution “Finding that the President has not complied with section 2 of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.” Marcos explained that the measure asserts “Obama didn’t provide Congress with all documents pertaining to the Iran deal in violation of the congressional review law passed earlier this year.” In May, Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King all supported the bill that cleared the way for this week’s Congressional votes on Iran. Bleeding Heartland compiled Iowa political reaction to the deal’s announcement in July here.

UPDATE: Added comments on the Iran deal from the Iowa Congressional delegation and the Republican Party of Iowa, which promised to make this vote a campaign issue against Loebsack in IA-02 next year.

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Grassley, Ernst explain why they voted to disapprove of Iran nuclear deal

This afternoon Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a motion to disapprove the deal the U.S. and five other countries reached with Iran in July. All 54 Republicans and four Democrats voted for the disapproval measure, which needed 60 votes to proceed under Senate rules. GOP leaders plan to return to the issue next week, but they are unlikely to change the minds of the 42 Democrats who upheld today’s filibuster. The U.S. House is expected to pass a disapproval motion, but without Senate action, President Barack Obama will not be forced to veto the measure.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted for the bill that allowed Congress to weigh in on the Iran deal. Both were skeptical when the Obama administration announced the agreement. Yesterday and today, both delivered Senate floor speeches explaining why they oppose the deal. You can watch Grassley’s speech here and Ernst’s here. I enclose below full transcripts released by each senator’s office.

Incidentally, Ernst’s campaign committee is list-building off the issue. At the end of this post, I enclose an e-mail blast that went out minutes before the Senate voted.

UPDATE: Added below a statement Ernst’s office released after the vote.

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