Governor joins suit challenging limits on state tax cuts

Governor Kim Reynolds signed Iowa on to a lawsuit challenging part of the federal government’s most recent COVID-19 relief package. Thirteen states filed suit in Alabama on March 31, charging that the American Rescue Plan “impermissibly seizes tax authority from the States.” Reynolds announced the lawsuit during a March 31 appearance on WHO Radio’s program hosted by Simon Conway. The Associated Press was first to report the news.

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Joni Ernst voted against more than half of Biden's cabinet

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has voted against confirming twelve of President Joe Biden’s cabinet appointees, a majority of the 23 cabinet officials who are subject to Senate confirmation. Senators have confirmed 21 cabinet members; Eric Lander is awaiting a vote as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the president has yet to announce a replacement for Neera Tanden, who withdrew her nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Only ten of the 50 Republican senators have voted against more of Biden’s appointees than Ernst: Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Tom Cotton, Tommy Tuberville, Bill Hagerty, Rand Paul, Richard Shelby, Marsha Blackburn, and Tim Scott.

Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley has voted against five of the 21 cabinet members confirmed so far.

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Joni Ernst opposing more Biden nominees than Chuck Grassley

During their six years serving together in Congress, Iowa’s two Republican U.S. senators have rarely differed on matters that came to the Senate floor. But seven weeks into Joe Biden’s presidency, a pattern is emerging: Senator Joni Ernst is more inclined to reject the new president’s nominees than is her senior colleague Chuck Grassley.

In most cases, Ernst has not released any statement explaining her confirmation votes. Her staff have not responded to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries about why she opposed specific nominees or her general approach to evaluating prospective cabinet members.

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Harkin yes, Grassley no as Senate confirms Yellen to chair the Fed

Today the U.S. Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to be the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve. All of the Democrats present, including Iowa’s Tom Harkin, voted for the cloture motion on Yellen’s nomination in December. All of the Democrats present on January 6 voted to confirm her, joined by eleven Republicans. Incidentally, only 59 senators voted for cloture, which would have sunk Yellen under old Senate rules. Senate Democrats removed the 60-vote requirement for motions on presidential nominations in November.

Although a sizable group of Republicans voted to confirm Yellen, most of the Senate GOP caucus opposed her nomination, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. In a floor statement I’ve posted after the jump, Grassley said he could not support her nomination because he is concerned the Federal Reserve’s “easy money” policies are “misguided” and will lead to high inflation. Yellen is widely considered an “inflation dove” who is willing to balance the Fed’s longstanding concern for keeping inflation down with a focus on reducing unemployment.

UPDATE: Corrected to clarify that the cloture vote on Yellen happened before the holiday recess. Grassley was among the 26 Republicans who voted no on Yellen’s confirmation. Harkin was absent for the final vote on Yellen on January 6, as were many other senators because of the extreme winter weather.

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Obama nominates Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve (updated)

President Barack Obama finally settled on Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as the next chair of the Federal Reserve. No woman has previously held that position, nor has any previous nominee for the job been as qualified as Yellen. Binyamin Appelbaum’s profile of Yellen for the New York Times is excellent. Some other good links about her views are here. She is commonly described as an “inflation dove,” meaning that in her opinion, reducing unemployment should be a higher priority than keeping inflation low (the traditional obsession of Fed chairs). A few years ago, Bleeding Heartland user PrairieBreezeCheeze discussed why it’s time for a Fed chair willing to prioritize employment. Even now, long-term unemployment is still near historically high levels.

Nobody’s perfect, and Zach Carter offers a more negative take on Yellen, focusing on her support for NAFTA, a chained Consumer Price Index, and repealing the Glass-Steagall Act during the 1990s. Nevertheless, Yellen is a much better person to run the Fed than Obama’s first choice for the job, Larry Summers. Credit goes to the coalition that came out early against Summers, convincing five Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee to oppose him.

Despite today’s news, President Obama’s record on appointing women to cabinet-level positions remains worse than Bill Clinton’s–and not for lack of qualified women to choose from.

UPDATE: After the jump I’ve added some remarks from President Obama and Yellen at today’s press conference. SECOND UPDATE: Added Senator Tom Harkin’s official comment.

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