Grassley, Ernst again vote for extreme budget, hope no one notices

For the second year in a row, Iowa’s U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted to advance a budget plan that would require massive cuts to most federal government programs in the coming decade. Senator Rand Paul’s plan was so extreme that only 22 Senate Republicans–less than half the GOP caucus–supported the motion to proceed with considering the legislation.

By not drawing attention to the June 3 vote, Iowa’s senators successfully kept the story out of the news in their home state.

It was another example of a phenomenon Bleeding Heartland has flagged before: if our members of Congress don’t brag about it in a press release or a conference call with reporters, Iowa newspaper readers and television viewers are unlikely ever to learn that it happened.

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Grassley, Ernst not concerned by Trump's nominees or antics

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have given the White House nothing to worry about as the chamber begins the process of confirming President Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees. Not only have Iowa’s senators voted for the three cabinet members approved so far, they have yet to voice serious concern about any nominee.

Two of the least controversial cabinet appointees gained Senate approval within hours of Trump’s inauguration on January 20: James Mattis for secretary of defense and John Kelly for director of Homeland Security. Only one senator (Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand) voted against confirming Mattis, because she opposes the waiver allowing him to serve in the cabinet less than seven years after leaving the military. Only eleven Democrats voted against confirming Kelly.

Mike Pompeo’s nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency drew more opposition when it came to the Senate floor on January 23. Thirty Democrats, Republican Rand Paul, and independent Bernie Sanders voted against Pompeo’s nomination, largely over concerns about his positions on torture and government surveillance.

As dangerous as Pompeo could be to the rule of law as it relates to intelligence gathering and interrogation techniques, Trump’s deceptive, off-topic, self-centered speech on Saturday at CIA headquarters knocked Pompeo down the list of things that terrify me about the coming years. Robin Wright explained for the New Yorker why “Trump’s vainglorious affront to the CIA” horrified intelligence community professionals. According to NPR’s national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly, former CIA chief of Russia operations Steve Hall has said that agency staff are worried they might not be able to trust Trump enough to reveal the source of unflattering information about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This thread is for any comments related to Trump’s cabinet or out-of-control narcissistic rages, which require his advisers to serve as glorified babysitters keeping the president from spending too much time watching television. I enclose below official statements from Ernst on the first cabinet confirmations and from Grassley on his meeting with Kelly earlier this month. Both senators have studiously avoided any public comments about Trump’s child-like temperament or sometimes contradictory outbursts on matters of national security.

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Why Iowa's RNC votes all went for Trump, even though Cruz won the caucuses

The Republican Party of Iowa changed its bylaws earlier this year to prevent a repeat of what state party chair Jeff Kaufmann has called “the 2012 fiasco.” During the last Republican National Convention, 22 of Iowa’s delegates cast their ballots for Ron Paul, who had finished third in the Iowa caucuses. Only six of our state’s delegates cast ballots for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

Kaufmann has described the Iowa GOP’s new rules as designed to force RNC delegates to “vote with the intentions of the caucusgoers — the wishes of the grassroots.”

So why did all 30 of Iowa’s votes go to Donald Trump during today’s roll call vote in Cleveland?

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Will 2016 be a record-setting year for Libertarians in Iowa?

The two most recent national polls of the presidential race showed unusually high levels of support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted between June 19 and 23, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was backed by 39 percent of respondents, to 38 percent for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, 10 percent for Johnson and 6 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. An ABC/Washington Post poll in the field between June 20 and 23 found 47 percent of respondents for Clinton, 37 percent for Trump, 7 percent for Johnson, and 3 percent for Stein.

Even taking into account the reality that support for third-party candidates “usually diminishes over the course of the [U.S. presidential] campaign,” and third-party candidates have often received less than half as much support on election day as they did in nationwide surveys from June, Johnson has potential to shatter previous records for Libertarians. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson received 1,275,821 popular votes as the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012, just under 1 percent of the nationwide vote. The best showing for a Libertarian ticket in terms of vote share was 1.06 percent (921,128 votes) in 1980 for Ed Clark and his running mate David Koch, better known as one half of the Koch brothers.

I haven’t seen any Iowa polls yet that gave respondents the option of choosing Stein or Johnson as alternatives to Clinton and Trump, but now seems like a good time to examine Libertarian presidential performance in Iowa over the last four decades and Johnson’s chances to improve on his 2012 results.

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Do endorsements matter? Donald Trump's performance in Brad Zaun's Iowa Senate district

As Donald Trump appears increasingly likely to win the Republican nomination, more elected officials are supporting him. This past week, two U.S. House representatives became the first current members of Congress to back Trump. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Maine Governor Paul LePage endorsed Trump on Friday. The LePage about-face was hilarious, coming less than a week after he called on GOP governors “to draft an open letter ‘to the people,’ disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.” On Sunday, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama went public supporting Trump–a embarrassing turn of events for Senator Ted Cruz, who has repeatedly cited Sessions as cover for his stance on immigration reform.

Before the Iowa caucuses, only one GOP elected official in our state publicly supported Trump: State Senator Brad Zaun. That endorsement didn’t reflect any coherent ideology, since Zaun had backed Mitt Romney before the 2008 caucuses, Michele Bachmann before the 2012 caucuses, and was a co-chair for Scott Walker’s campaign last year, saying “we needed someone with some executive experience.” The pivot to Trump had a certain logic, though, as all the presidential candidates Zaun endorsed as a state lawmaker were leading Iowa Republican polls at the time he jumped on the bandwagon.

High-profile endorsements may drive a news cycle or two, but whether they influence a significant number of voters is another question. Join me in taking a close look at how Trump did in Zaun’s Iowa Senate district, which covers much of northwest Polk County.

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