Joni Ernst won't cross NRA for deal on Violence Against Women Act

Months of work on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which lapsed in February, “came to a screeching halt” this week, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst announced on the Senate floor on November 7.

For 25 years, that federal law has supported “criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.” Congress has reauthorized it three times, each time with improvements. By Ernst’s telling, “Democrats are putting politics ahead of people,” rejecting a bipartisan approach to revive the law in favor of “non-starter” legislation the U.S. House approved in April.

Some salient facts were missing from Ernst’s narrative. The House bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was bipartisan: 33 Republicans voted for it.

Ernst also left out a few relevant words: guns, firearms, and National Rifle Association.

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Iowa political reaction to U.S. House vote on impeachment

The U.S. House voted mostly along party lines (232 votes to 196) on October 31 to approve rules for an impeachment inquiry. Iowa’s four House members split as one would expect: Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted for the resolution, while Republican Steve King (IA-04) opposed it.

The New York Times explained that the resolution

authorizes the House Intelligence Committee — the panel that has been leading the investigation and conducting private depositions — to convene public hearings and produce a report that will guide the Judiciary Committee as it considers whether to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The measure also gives the president rights in the Judiciary Committee, allowing his lawyers to participate in hearings and giving Republicans the chance to request subpoenas for witnesses and documents. But the White House says it still did not provide “basic due process rights,” and Republicans complain that their ability to issue subpoenas is limited. They would need the consent of Democrats, or a vote of a majority of members. That has been standard in previous modern impeachments. The majority has the final say over how the proceedings unfold.

I enclose below statements from Finkenauer, Loebsack, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. I will update this post as needed with comments from the other members of the Congressional delegation. Grassley’s mind appears to be made up: “This entire process has been contaminated from the beginning and the Senate may have a difficult time taking seriously an impeachment founded on these bases.” That’s comical, given that Iowa’s senior senator voted to remove President Bill Clinton from office on charges stemming from an investigation into unrelated property transactions.

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Joni Ernst locked into Trump's talking points on impeachment

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst repeatedly insisted today that she will evaluate any evidence about President Donald Trump’s wrongdoing as a “jurist.” But in her first conference call with Iowa reporters since mid-September, Ernst didn’t sound like a juror with an open mind about the case.

On the contrary, the senator expertly echoed White House talking points, from denouncing a “political show” and unfair process to using Trump’s derisive nickname for a key House committee chair.

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IA-Sen: Warning signs for Joni Ernst

Iowans haven’t voted out a sitting U.S. senator since 1984, but several recent events have caused political observers to question Senator Joni Ernst’s strengths going into her first re-election bid.

Inside Elections changed its rating on Iowa’s 2020 U.S. Senate race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” this month. (Sabato’s Crystal Ball already rated the IA-Sen race “lean R,” while the Cook Political Report still sees a GOP hold likely.) Writing at the National Journal on October 20, Josh Kraushaar cited several “major red flags suggesting Iowa is a much bigger battleground than Republicans anticipated at the beginning of the year.”

Ernst told supporters at a closed-door fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence this month that she is the fifth most-vulnerable senator, according to Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News.

What’s going on?

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