Iowans in Congress report big 2Q fundraising numbers

Candidates for federal offices are raising more money than ever, and that trend was noticeable in the second-quarter Federal Election Commission filings for Iowa’s four U.S. House incumbents. Most of them reported fundraising numbers that would have attracted national attention just a few cycles ago. Many large donors live outside Iowa, a sign that national committees are driving contributions to candidates perceived to be in competitive districts.

The cash on hand totals may seem daunting for challengers who recently launched their campaigns or are still considering it. On the other hand, war chests are less important than they used to be, given the massive growth in outside spending on battleground U.S. House races. A fundraising advantage for an incumbent in 2021 may not be a major factor by next summer.

With that caveat, let’s review where things stand for the three Republicans and one Democrat who represent Iowa in the lower chamber of Congress.

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Where Iowans in Congress stand on COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers

The battle to contain COVID-19 “is in many ways a race between vaccines and variants,” in the words of Canadian Dr. Christopher Labos. Every infected person gives the coronavirus another opportunity to mutate, and some of those mutations are especially dangerous, either because they spread more easily or cause more severe illness.

In the United States, where vaccine supplies are plentiful, low vaccination rates are increasingly linked to hesitancy rather than access problems. But COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply across much of the world. While the U.S. and some other wealthy countries are donating vaccines to poorer countries, the donation program will cover shots for at most 20 percent of the population in recipient countries.

The highly transmissible Delta variant, which is becoming dominant in the U.S. and Iowa and prompted Israel to reintroduce some mask mandates, was first identified in India, where vaccines are not widely available. Uncontrolled outbreaks anywhere will cause preventable loss of life and increase the risk of a variant emerging that can defeat current vaccines.

For that reason, more than 100 developing countries have asked the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for “health products and technologies” related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccines. The Trump administration opposed the waiver, but the Biden administration endorsed the proposal in early May. The pharmaceutical industry has been running an advertising campaign against the policy.

Iowa’s members of Congress have split along party lines.

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Two Iowans opposed removing Confederate statues from Capitol

The U.S. House voted on June 29 to remove Confederate statues on public display at the Capitol and to replace a bust of Roger Taney with one of Thurgood Marshall. All 218 Democrats voted in favor, including Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). Representative Ashley Hinson (IA-01) was among the 67 Republicans who also supported the bill. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) were among the 120 Republicans who voted against the legislation.

Feenstra’s predecessor Steve King opposed a similar bill in 2020; all three Democrats who represented Iowa in the House last year voted to replace the bust of Taney and Confederate statues.

As chief justice in 1857, Taney authored the Dred Scott decision, widely regarded as the worst ever U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Marshall litigated important civil rights cases and eventually became the first Black Supreme Court justice in 1967.

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House committee upholds Miller-Meeks' fine for going maskless

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, IA-02) did not appeal the $500 fine she received last month for going without a mask in the U.S. House chamber, the House Ethics Committee announced on June 25. A letter and accompanying statement from the committee’s chair and ranking member upheld the fine, noting that Miller-Meeks had not filed an appeal within the time allowed under House rules.

Two other Republicans fined for the same reason did appeal, saying they were vaccinated and in compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance. A majority of Ethics Committee members did not agree to those appeals. (Unlike most House committees, the ethics panel has equal representation for both parties.)

Under House rules adopted early this year, a second violation of the mask mandate would have incurred a $2,500 fine. However, Miller-Meeks won’t need to worry. Under guidance issued earlier this month, House members and staff who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are no longer subject to the mask mandate.

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Update on efforts to obtain a federal cannabis exemption for Iowa

Carl Olsen is the founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana. promoted by Laura Belin

In February 2019, I asked the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board, which regulates our state’s medical cannabis program, if there was anything we could be doing about federal drug law, such as obtaining a federal exemption (21 C.F.R. § 1307.03) like the one that currently exists for another federal Schedule I controlled substance, peyote (21 C.F.R. § 1307.31).

In August 2019, at my request, the board recommended that the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) obtain a federal exemption for cannabis. However, the department refused, saying none of the other 46 states that have enacted medical cannabis laws have requested federal exemptions, and that Iowans were not being injured by the federal criminalization of cannabis.

Keep in mind that patients had been testifying before the board about discrimination in schools and health care facilities because of the federal criminalization of cannabis. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller signed a September 2019 bipartisan letter from attorneys general saying the current federal policy “poses a serious threat to public safety.”

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Axne, Feenstra vote to repeal Iraq war authorization

Democratic Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Republican Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) voted on June 17 to repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force against Iraq. House members approved the legislation by 268 votes to 161, with 49 Republicans joining all but one Democrat to support the repeal.

Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) were among the 160 Republicans to vote no.

None of Iowa’s representatives released a statement about this vote or mentioned it on their social media feeds. Bleeding Heartland sought comment from staff for all four members on the morning of June 18, but none replied. I will update this post as needed if anyone explains their reasons for voting yes or no on this effort to “rein in presidential war-making powers for the first time in a generation.” Jennifer Steinhauer reported for the New York Times,

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