Grassley touts infrastructure vote; Ernst quiet on opposition

Can you guess which Iowa senator is up for re-election in 2022, and which one won’t face Iowa voters for another five years?

In a rare gesture of bipartisanship on August 10, the U.S. Senate approved by 69 votes to 30 a bill that would spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructure projects. Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley was among nineteen Republicans who supported final passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, despite being unhappy with the amendment process. Senator Joni Ernst stuck with the majority of the GOP caucus in opposition; the no votes included potential 2024 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

In a written statement enclosed in full below, Grassley said, “Iowa’s aging infrastructure risks slowing economic growth and eroding daily comfort and convenience. This bipartisan bill fixes potholes, rebuilds bridges, upgrades water systems and brings broadband to rural corners of our state. Investing in Iowa’s infrastructure will pay dividends for decades to come.” His news release highlighted reports showing Iowa has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state and many large roads in poor or fair condition.

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Joni Ernst among small group rejecting first Biden cabinet nominee

Two hours after President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst said in a written statement, “As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful we can work together with President Joe Biden, and the first female Vice President, Kamala Harris, in a bipartisan way to deliver for the American people.”

Later the same day, Ernst was among just ten Republicans to oppose the first Biden cabinet nomination considered on the Senate floor.

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Where are they now? Matt Whitaker edition

Matt Whitaker will become a managing director for the Kansas City-based Clout Public Affairs consulting firm, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News was first to report on August 1. Whitaker served as chief of staff for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a little more than a year before President Donald Trump named him acting attorney general in November 2018, flouting a federal law and a constitutional requirement that anyone holding that position be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Whitaker stepped down as acting attorney general in February, after the Senate confirmed William Barr. He was “counselor in the associate attorney general’s office” for just a few weeks before leaving the Justice Department in early March. Jacobs tweeted on August 1, “There was speculation Trump would appoint Whitaker to another admin job, but the president so far hasn’t made any moves to do so, I’m told.”

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David Young beats too-clever-by-half Zach Nunn to IA-03 starting gate

Former U.S. Representative David Young became the first declared Republican candidate in Iowa’s third Congressional district on May 6, telling the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel he looks forward to campaigning against the Democrat who defeated him last November.

“I spent a lot of time with folks around the 3rd District, listening to their priorities and listening to their voices, and they are not being heard right now in the U.S. Congress,” Young said in an interview. “The policies that Cindy Axne is putting forward with Nancy Pelosi is not what Iowans are talking about or wanting.”

Young gave the exclusive to the Register about nine hours after State Senator Zach Nunn announced a “listening tour” of the district’s sixteen counties while he pretends to be merely considering a bid for the U.S. House.

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IA-04: Five reasons Steve King could be in trouble

The Cook Political Report changed its rating on Iowa’s fourth Congressional district today from “likely” to “lean” Republican. Although eight-term U.S. Representative Steve King carried this R+11 district by more than 20 points in 2016, several factors make a winning path for Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten seem more plausible than a few months ago, when forecasters moved IA-04 from “safe” to “likely” Republican.

Change Research announced last night that its new survey showed King leading Scholten by just 45 percent to 44 percent. The incumbent quickly released results from an internal poll by WPA Intelligence, showing King ahead by 52 percent to 34 percent, with 11 percent undecided and 3 percent inclined to support a third-party candidate.

FiveThirtyEight.com still gives King a 5 in 6 chance of winning a ninth term, but he could have set himself up much better for next Tuesday. Consider:

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Iowa political reaction to Trump's family separation policy

Editor’s note: Des Moines Democratic activist Robert Niederklopfer drew the cartoon posted above.

The crisis of some 2,300 children separated from their parents after crossing the southern border of the U.S. reached a tipping point this week. The “zero-tolerance policy” is two months old, but new images of kids locked in cages and heartbreaking sounds of children crying for their parents outraged millions of Americans.

A new national poll suggests voters oppose taking children away from their parents by a two to one margin. Thousands have called their members of Congress to demand action. Former acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Obama administration John Sandweg has warned that many of the separations will end up becoming permanent. Several “tender age” shelters are housing very young children, some unable to talk or remember their parents’ names.

I enclose below comments from leading Iowa politicians on the issue. Most predate the executive order Trump signed today, which will do nothing for families already separated and may not help new arrivals either.

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