# Zach Nunn



Underwhelming wins for Miller-Meeks, Feenstra in GOP primaries

The president of the Congressional Leadership Fund (the main super-PAC aligned with U.S. House Republicans) congratulated U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks on her “resounding victory” in the June 4 primary to represent Iowa’s first district.

U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra hailed the “clear message” from fourth district voters, saying he was “humbled by the strong support for our campaign.”

They can spin, but they can’t hide.

Pulling 55 to 60 percent of the vote against an underfunded, first-time candidate is anything but a “resounding” or “strong” performance for a member of Congress.

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Does character no longer count in the state of Character Counts?

Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, in Iowa and elsewhere. 

Character once counted in Iowa Republican politics. We could take pride in Governor Bob Ray, U.S. Representative Jim Leach, and the early U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. They led with integrity. They willingly crossed the aisle to achieve bipartisan goals. They served as role models for our children, standing up for democracy, truth, and accountability. Our state enjoyed a reputation in public administration circles as a “good government” jurisdiction.

Donald Trump has upended all this. He is the antithesis of character. He’s the skunk at the church picnic. He lies incessantly, bullies, commits fraud and adultery, sexually assaults women, mocks wounded veterans, and cheats contractors. He’s a racist. He puts his attempt to overthrow a free and fair election at the center of his campaign. Donald Trump is everything we don’t want our children to be.

In this historic moment, Iowa’s representatives in Washington—Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Zach Nunn, and Randy Feenstra—are failing the character test.

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Federal budget includes $82 million in earmarks to Iowa

The appropriations bill President Joe Biden signed into law on March 9 includes $74.36 million in federal funding for designated projects in Iowa, Bleeding Heartland’s analysis of a 605-page earmarks list reveals. Another $8 million earmark for Dubuque Flood Mitigation Gates and Pumps was part of the Homeland Security bill Biden signed on March 23, completing work on funding the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year on September 30.

All four Republicans who represent Iowa in the U.S. House—Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—were among the 339 members who approved the “minibus” spending package on March 6. Miller-Meeks, Hinson, and Nunn voted for the second minibus on March 22; Feenstra voted against that package with no public explanation.

Hinson is the only Iowan now serving on the House Appropriations Committee. Her projects will receive a combined $27.54 million; she had requested $37.06 million. Projects submitted by Miller-Meeks will receive about $28.38 million in earmarked funding; she had requested $40.15 million. Earmarks for projects Nunn submitted will total $26.22 million; he had asked for $41.25 million.

The 36 counties in IA-04 will receive none of the earmarked funding, because for the third straight year, Feenstra declined to submit any earmark requests.

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Congress finally approves foreign aid package

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Congress finally got it together.

Overruling a few outspoken far-right Republican members, on April 20 the U.S. House belatedly approved crucial aid for nations and peoples that desperately need it.
 The wide vote margins reflected bipartisan support for all three measures. Here are the numbers:

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Ernst, Hinson keep quiet about Ukraine visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with U.S. Representative Tom Suozzi (D, NY-03) on April 5, while U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (background), U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D, IL-05), and U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson (R, IA-02) stand nearby. Photo originally posted on Zelenskyy’s X/Twitter account.

Traveling to a strategically important foreign country as part of a Congressional delegation is an honor—but you wouldn’t guess that from how Iowa’s current representatives in Washington avoid talking about the experience.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst and U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 5 in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv Oblast. Zelenskyy posted that he briefed the bipartisan delegation “on the situation on the battlefield, our army’s urgent needs, and the scale of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.” He also “emphasized the vital need” for Congress to approve another military aid package to Ukraine.

Neither Ernst nor Hinson announced the visit in a news release or mentioned the trip on their social media. Since April 5, Hinson’s official Facebook page and X/Twitter feed have highlighted topics ranging from Hamas to Iowa women’s basketball, biofuels, a fallen World War II soldier, border security, “Bidenomics,” drought conditions, and solar eclipse safety. During the same period, Ernst used her social media to praise Iowa women’s basketball while bashing Hamas and President Joe Biden’s so-called electric vehicle “mandates,” “border crisis,” “socialist student loan schemes,” and federal policies on remote work.

Communications staff for Ernst and Hinson did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s emails seeking comment on the trip and their views on further military aid to Ukraine. Both have voted for previous aid packages.

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Zach Nunn visits Ukraine on Congressional delegation

U.S. Representative Zach Nunn met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, members of the Ukrainian parliament, and intelligence officials in Kyiv on February 9 as a member of a bipartisan U.S. House delegation.

At this writing, Nunn has not posted about the trip on his social media feeds or announced it in a news release, but he appears in pictures others shared from the visit, and is second from the left in the photo above.

Four of the five members of Congress on this delegation serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. A committee news release mentioned that Nunn “sits on the House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions and currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.”

Representative Mike Turner, who chairs the Intelligence committee, said at a news conference in Kyiv, “We came today so that we could voice to President Zelenskyy and others that we were seeing that the United States stands in full support of Ukraine.”

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Best of Bleeding Heartland's original reporting in 2023

Before Iowa politics kicks into high gear with a new legislative session and the caucuses, I want to highlight the investigative reporting, in-depth analysis, and accountability journalism published first or exclusively on this site last year.

Some newspapers, websites, and newsletters put their best original work behind a paywall for subscribers, or limit access to a set number of free articles a month. I’m committed to keeping all Bleeding Heartland content available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. That includes nearly 500 articles and commentaries from 2023 alone, and thousands more posts in archives going back to 2007.

To receive links to everything recently published here via email, subscribe to the free Evening Heartland newsletter. I also have a free Substack, which is part of the Iowa Writers Collaborative. Subscribers receive occasional cross-posts from Bleeding Heartland, as well as audio files and recaps for every episode of KHOI Radio’s “Capitol Week,” a 30-minute show about Iowa politics co-hosted by Dennis Hart and me.

I’m grateful to all readers, but especially to tipsters. Please reach out with story ideas that may be worth pursuing in 2024.

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What Iowa's House members said about Biden impeachment inquiry

All four Republicans who represent Iowa in the U.S. House voted on December 13 to formally authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. The chamber’s 221 to 212 vote fell entirely along party lines.

House Speaker Mike Johnson wrote in a December 12 op-ed that the vote will allow the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Ways and Means committees to “continue investigating the role of the president in promoting the alleged influence-peddling schemes of his family and associates […].” He said the formal inquiry “puts us in the strongest legal position to gather the evidence” as the House seeks to enforce subpoenas.

Critics have noted that while focusing on business activities of the president’s son Hunter Biden, House Republicans have yet to uncover evidence of any criminal activity involving Joe Biden, and are using unsubstantiated or false claims to justify their inquiry. Democrats have charged that Republicans are pursuing impeachment at the behest of former President Donald Trump.

None of Iowa’s House members spoke during the floor debate, but three released public comments following the vote.

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For first time, whole Iowa delegation parts ways with House leaders

Quite a few U.S. House Republicans have stirred up trouble for their party’s small majority this year. But the four House members from Iowa—Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—have generally aligned with the preferences of GOP caucus leaders. It has been rare for to even one of the Iowans to vote differently from top Republicans in the chamber, and they have never done so as a group.

That streak ended on December 1, when Miller-Meeks, Hinson, Nunn, and Feenstra all voted to expel U.S. Representative George Santos.

Santos is only the sixth U.S. House member ever to be expelled, and the 311 to 114 vote (roll call) divided Republicans. While 105 GOP members joined almost all Democrats to remove Santos from their ranks, 112 Republicans opposed the resolution, including the whole leadership team of House Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, and Republican Policy Chair Gary Palmer.

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Four paths: How Iowa Republicans are navigating House speaker fiasco

UPDATE: All four Iowans voted for Mike Johnson for speaker on October 25. Original post follows.

Iowa’s four U.S. House members didn’t want to be here.

Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) were Kevin McCarthy loyalists from day one of the new Congress. All voted against the motion to vacate the speaker’s position early this month.

Nineteen days after the House of Representatives removed a speaker for the first time in history, the Republican majority is no closer to finding a way out of the morass. A plan to temporarily empower interim Speaker Patrick McHenry collapsed before coming to the floor. House Judiciary chair Jim Jordan was unable to gain a majority in any of the three House votes this past week. Republicans voted by secret ballot on October 20 not to keep Jordan as their nominee for speaker.

At minimum, the House will be without a leader for three weeks. Members went home for the weekend with plans to return for a “candidate forum” on October 23, and a possible House floor vote the following day. More than a half-dozen Republicans are now considering running for speaker; none has a clear path to 217 votes. McCarthy has endorsed Representative Tom Emmer, the current majority whip. But former President Donald Trump, a close ally of Jordan, doesn’t like Emmer, who voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results. Most Republicans in public life are afraid to become a target for Trump or his devoted followers.

The Iowans have adopted distinct strategies for navigating the embarrassing crisis.

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Iowa political reaction to the crisis in Israel and Gaza

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association. Laura Belin contributed some reporting to this article.

Like all Iowans of good will, I was painfully alerted to the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7. Many have compared the events to the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack, in both its surprise and savagery. The scale of deaths and human loss is enormous; Israel’s total population is around 9 million.

The United States and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization because of its armed resistance against Israel. Hamas has sponsored years of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel, claiming Jewish presence in Palestine is illegitimate, which is counter-historical and denied by the United States.

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Hinson, Miller-Meeks back Steve Scalise for House speaker

Two of Iowa’s four U.S. House members laid down their marker early in the battle to elect a new House speaker.

U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-02) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01) announced on October 5 that they will support current House Majority leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana for the chamber’s top job.

The House cannot conduct normal business until members elect a new speaker, following the 216-210 vote on October 3 to declare the office vacant. As expected, all four Iowa Republicans opposed the effort to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but the resolution succeeded as eight Republicans joined all Democrats present to vote yes.

Scalise’s main competition appears to be House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan of Ohio. Others considering the race include Republican Study Committee chair Kevin Hern of Oklahoma. Several House members have vowed to nominate Donald Trump, but the former president told one of his supporters on October 5 that he is endorsing Jordan for speaker.

At this writing, Representatives Zach Nunn (IA-03) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) have not publicly committed to a candidate for speaker. Iowa’s House members have voted in unison on most important matters this year. In a statement to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Nunn said, “I’m waiting to make a decision until we have the opportunity to hear from everybody running about their vision to take on the D.C. bureaucracy, balance the budget, secure the border, and support the critical programs — like Medicare and Social Security — that Iowans rely on every day.”

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Four takeaways from Iowa Republicans' latest federal budget votes

Every member of Congress from Iowa voted on September 30 for a last-ditch effort to keep the federal government open until November 17. The continuing resolution will maintain fiscal year 2023 spending levels for the first 47 days of the 2024 federal fiscal year, plus $16 billion in disaster relief funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is the amount the Biden administration requested. In addition, the bill includes “an extension of a federal flood insurance program and reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

U.S. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) were among the 126 House Republicans who joined 209 Democrats to approve the measure. (Ninety Republicans and one Democrat voted no.) House leaders brought the funding measure to the floor under a suspension of the rules, which meant it needed a two-thirds majority rather than the usual 50 percent plus one to pass.

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were part of the 88-9 majority in the upper chamber that voted to send the bill to President Joe Biden just in time to avert a shutdown as the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

House members considered several other federal budget bills this week and dozens of related amendments—far too many to summarize in one article. As I watched how the Iowa delegation approached the most important votes, a few things stood out to me.

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Talkin' Farm Bill Blues

Dan Piller was a business reporter for more than four decades, working for the Des Moines Register and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He covered the oil and gas industry while in Texas and was the Register’s agriculture reporter before his retirement in 2013. He lives in Ankeny.

These are unhappy days for U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) and his fellow Republican Congresspeople from Iowa (there are no other kind).

Feenstra & co. have essentially one job: to get a Farm Bill passed every five years. The Farm Bill isn’t a radically new thing; Congress has passed them since 1933. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30. On that very day, by a cruel confluence, so do current federal appropriations, which sets up another one of those wearing government shutdown crises.

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How the Iowans explained their votes on debt ceiling deal

Iowa’s four U.S. House members avoided public comment for days after President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed on a deal to suspend the debt ceiling until January 2025, in exchange for some federal budget cuts and other policy changes.

But they all fell in line on May 31. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) voted with GOP leadership and the majority of their caucus for the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023.

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Russia adds Zach Nunn to sanctions list

U.S. Representative Zach Nunn is among 500 Americans the Russian Federation added to its personal sanctions list on May 19. The Foreign Ministry’s latest list of U.S. citizens who would be denied entry to Russia includes former President Barack Obama and various Biden administration officials, dozens of members of Congress and state-level politicians, journalists including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and CNN’s Erin Burnett, numerous people associated with think tanks, and even comedians Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.

The Republican who represents the third Congressional district is the only Iowan on the new “stop list.” Nunn posted on Twitter, “After years of fighting against Russian oppression and commanding mission after mission to curb Moscow’s aggression, I’m proud to be banned from Putin’s pathetic regime — the Russian people deserve better.”

Nunn served as an international elections monitor in Ukraine in 2019. After Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, Nunn called for President Vladimir Putin to be charged with war crimes. He has sometimes criticized President Joe Biden for supposedly not having a plan to end the war in Ukraine.

Last year, Russia sanctioned all four of Iowa’s U.S. House members, later adding Senator Joni Ernst and eventually Senator Chuck Grassley to the list of Americans barred from entering the country.

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Iowans vote to keep George Santos in Congress

Iowa’s four U.S. House members stuck with the Republican majority by voting on May 17 to refer a motion to expel U.S. Representative George Santos to the House Ethics Committee. The House had already referred the motion to that committee in February. But after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Santos on thirteen felony counts including fraudulent campaign contributions and unemployment insurance fraud, Democratic Representative Robert Garcia used a House rule to force a floor vote on the motion.

A two-thirds vote would have been needed to expel Santos. House members approved the referral instead along party lines, 221 to 204.

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Breaking down the 45 earmarks Iowans in Congress requested for 2024

Three of Iowa’s four U.S. House Republicans submitted the maximum number of fifteen earmark requests for federal funding in fiscal year 2024, which begins on October 1.

U.S. Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), and Zach Nunn (IA-03) were among the numerous House Republicans who asked for “Community Project Funding,” which Congress directs in several dozen areas of the federal budget. Iowa Capital Dispatch reported on May 14, “The sum of Nunn’s requests is the highest, at $41.25 million. Miller-Meeks is second with $40.15 million, while Hinson requested $37.06 million.”

For the third straight year, Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) declined to submit any earmark requests. As Bleeding Heartland previously discussed, Feenstra’s staff has said the Republicans “believes it is time for Congress to restore fiscal stability and balance our budget.” But earmarked projects come out of funds the federal government will spend regardless. So when a member makes no requests, that person’s district loses its chance to receive a share of money that has already been allocated for earmarks.

Thanks to transparency rules established in 2021, the funding requests submitted by Miller-Meeks, Hinson, and Nunn are available online. Once the 2024 budget has been finalized, Bleeding Heartland will report on which projects received funding for the coming fiscal year.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch article by Ashley Murray and Ariana Figueroa highlighted an apparent contradiction: many House Republicans who have demanded steep cuts across the federal budget have asked for millions of dollars to support projects in their own districts. That has long been the case with earmarks: one person’s valuable community investment can be portrayed as wasteful pork in someone else’s district.

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Iowans back debt ceiling plan, after winning concession on biofuels

All four Iowans in the U.S. House voted on April 26 for a plan to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion for the coming year, in exchange for “aggressive caps on federal spending” over the next decade.

The House approved the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 by 217 votes to 215, meaning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had no votes to spare.

The speaker secured passage of his bill by making concessions on biofuels subsidies on the eve of the vote. McCarthy had previously indicated he was not open to altering the bill, but a group of Republicans from the Midwest—including Iowa’s Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Randy Feenstra (IA-04)—insisted on changes.

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Democrats to target Miller-Meeks, Nunn in 2024

Two of Iowa’s four U.S. House districts are among the 31 top targets for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee next cycle.

On April 3, Sahil Kapur of NBC News was first to publish the Democratic target list. It includes Iowa’s first and third districts, now represented by Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Zach Nunn.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director Julie Merz told NBC that Democrats will present their candidates “as ‘team normal’ against a chaotic band of “MAGA extremists” they say have taken over the House Republican conference.”

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Republicans use debt ceiling fight to cut safety net

Kay Pence is vice president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling is like running up your credit card and punishing yourself by refusing to pay the bill.  It ruins your credit score and costs more in the long run. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending, it authorizes borrowing to pay bills already incurred. Paying bills are obligations not negotiations.

MAGA Republicans want to use the debt ceiling fight to force cuts in future unnamed programs. What they want to cut isn’t exactly secret; we have seen and rejected, most of their proposals before.

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Iowa Republicans didn't always push anti-LGBTQ bills. What changed?

As the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” deadline approaches, Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills targeting the LGBTQ community, roughly double the previous record. More than a dozen of those bills have either advanced from a subcommittee or have cleared a standing committee and are therefore eligible for debate in the Iowa House or Senate.

Until recently, the vast majority of bills threatening LGBTQ Iowans never received a subcommittee hearing. During the 2021 legislative session, none of the fifteen bills in that category made it through the first funnel (requiring approval by a House or Senate committee), and only a handful were even assigned to a subcommittee. Bills consigned to the scrap heap included proposed bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth and so-called “bathroom bills,” which require transgender people to use school restrooms or locker rooms that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate, rather than the facilities that match their gender identity.

In contrast, this week House and Senate subcommittees rushed to pass bathroom bills and measures prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors less than 24 hours after the bills appeared on the Iowa legislature’s website.

How did these policies become a priority for Republican lawmakers in such a short time?

Three factors seem most important.

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On double standards and State of the Union addresses

Political reactions to a president’s State of the Union address are as ritualized as the speech itself. Elected officials typically have nothing but praise when the president belongs to their own party, while finding much to criticize about a leader from the other party.

If President Joe Biden’s remarks to this year’s joint session of Congress are remembered for anything, it will probably be the segment where he turned Republican heckling to his advantage, promising to defend Medicare and Social Security from cuts.

In their public statements about the speech, Iowa’s all-Republican delegation criticized what Biden didn’t say about some of their priorities. It’s clear those standards apply only to Democratic presidents.

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Zach Nunn has a lot to learn about federal food programs

Fresh off his assignment to the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Representative Zach Nunn revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of who benefits from federal food assistance programs.

Although the first-term Republican told an interviewer that nutritional assistance goes “largely to blue state communities,” one federal food program alone serves nearly 10 percent of Nunn’s constituents in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

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Will Iowans' loyalty to Kevin McCarthy be rewarded?

UPDATE: All four Iowans received coveted committee assignments on January 11, which are discussed here. Original post follows.

The U.S. House spent most of last week mired in the longest-running attempt to elect a speaker since before the Civil War. Iowa’s four Republicans stood behind their caucus leader Kevin McCarthy from the first ballot on January 3 to the fifteenth ballot after midnight on January 7.

Iowa’s House delegation lacks any long-serving members; three are beginning their second terms, and Representative Zach Nunn was elected for the first time in 2022.

As House members receive committee assignments later this month, where the Iowans land could signal how much influence they have with GOP leadership.

Traditionally, members of Congress who publicly oppose their party’s leader are punished. But McCarthy’s team made so many concessions in search of votes for speaker that several Republican holdouts could be rewarded with prime committee assignments—arguably at the expense of those who were loyal to McCarthy throughout.

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Miller-Meeks used proxy voting five times after railing against policy

“[I]t is time for the House to end the mask mandate for fully vaccinated members and bring an end [to] proxy voting,” U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks tweeted in May 2021.

“Now that we are lifting the requirement for fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks, we should bring an end to proxy voting and return in-person work!” the Republican representing Iowa’s second district tweeted in June 2021.

“It’s time for the House to follow the science, lift the mask mandate in chamber, end proxy voting, and return to normal,” Miller-Meeks tweeted in February 2022.

Yet over the past two years Miller-Meeks signed five letters designating Republican colleagues to cast votes on her behalf. Most recently, she used a proxy for the final House floor votes of the year, recorded late last week.

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Did low turnout sink Iowa Democratic candidates?

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2022 state and federal elections.

Many people have asked why Iowa experienced the red wave that didn’t materialize across most of the country. While no one factor can account for the result, early signs point to turnout problems among groups that favor Democratic candidates.

Although this year’s turnout was the second-highest in absolute numbers for an Iowa midterm, participation was down about 8 percent compared to the 2018 general election. The number of Iowans who cast ballots this year (1,230,416) was closer to the 2014 level (1,142,311) than to the high-water mark of 1,334,279, reached four years ago.

My impression is that the decline in turnout was not evenly distributed, but was more pronounced among registered Democrats than among Republicans, who have long been more reliable midterm voters in Iowa.

That alone could account for the narrow defeats of U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (who lost to Zach Nunn in the third Congressional district by 2,145 votes, a margin of 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent), Attorney General Tom Miller (lost to Brenna Bird by 20,542 votes, 50.8 percent to 49.1 percent), and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (lost to Roby Smith by 30,922 votes, or 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent).

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Self-governance: It could be worse. It should be better

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

“It could be worse.”

At the start of 2022, friends may have uttered those four words to console or comfort us.

As the midterm elections approach, those four words may be prophetic.

Every election in a democracy —from township to presidency — is threatened by voters who are ill-informed, misinformed, and/or uninformed.

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Iowa Republicans call Democrats extreme on abortion. Will voters buy it?

Republicans seeking Iowa’s federal offices take some important advantages into the November election. Most are incumbents with more money to spend than their challengers. Recent history suggests midterms favor the party out of power in Washington, and President Joe Biden has low approval numbers in Iowa.

One wild card complicates the equation for GOP candidates here, as in many other states. Republicans are on record supporting near-total abortion bans, while a majority of voters favor keeping abortion mostly legal.

Republican campaign messaging has emphasized other topics, such as inflation, taxes, or unpopular Washington politicians. When they can’t avoid talking about abortion, Republicans have claimed their Democratic opponents are the real extremists on the issue.

Several races may hinge on whether moderate voters buy into that distortion of the facts.

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Voters, don't let tv ads mislead you

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

Televisions are getting larger, but that does not make it easier to decipher the political ads that are as common these days as gnats at a picnic.

There is one thing we should understand about these ads: Their purpose is not to educate voters or inform them about the finer points of a candidate’s views. Instead, their purpose is to scare us, or mislead us, or just confuse us.

One such example tells Iowa viewers that U.S. Representative Cindy Axne, a Democrat from Iowa’s third district, refuses to sign a pledge to support term limits for members of Congress. (Term Limits Action is spending $157,203 to run the ads.)

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Iowa GOP candidates love state fair, shun DM Register Soapbox

Politicians love spending time at the Iowa State Fair, and many candidates for state and federal offices made multiple visits this year. But in a break with a long-running practice, Republicans seeking statewide and federal offices mostly shunned the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.

Just three of the eleven GOP candidates invited to the Soapbox were willing to devote 20 minutes of their state fair visit to a public speech outlining their agenda. Every elected Republican official steered clear.

Avoiding the Register’s platform is another sign of growing Republican hostility toward traditional Iowa media. Other recent examples: some GOP candidates refused to meet with high-profile editorial boards in 2018 and 2020, and Iowa Senate leaders abandoned more than a century of tradition to kick reporters off the chamber’s press bench this year.

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Four takeaways for Iowa from the pro-choice vote in Kansas

In a huge victory for bodily autonomy, Kansas voters on August 2 overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have cleared a path for Republican lawmakers to ban abortion. With about 95 percent of votes counted, the “no” vote (against removing abortion protections from the Kansas constitution) led the “yes” vote by 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent.

Iowa Democrats and Republicans should pay attention to the results.

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Republicans reach deal on cutting Iowans' unemployment benefits

Iowa House and Senate Republicans have been at an impasse this month, as Senate Republicans refused to advance spending bills in an effort to pressure the House to approve a plan to divert more public education funds to private schools.

But in a sign of progress in backroom negotiations, GOP lawmakers finalized agreements on three bills April 26. The Senate approved the House version of a bill cutting unemployment benefits, while the House passed Senate versions of legislation on child care and an ethanol mandate for gasoline retailers.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will cover the child care and ethanol bills.

Republicans in both chambers had agreed on most of the unemployment benefits package in March. The centerpiece of House File 2355 is a proposal Governor Kim Reynolds highlighted during her Condition of the State address in January: reduce the maximum unemployment benefits in one year from 26 weeks to sixteen weeks. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimated the shortened window would reduce payments to jobless Iowans by nearly $69.2 million during fiscal year 2023 and nearly $70.9 million the following year.

Most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, while only a few provide as little as Iowa will after Reynolds signs this bill into law.

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Iowa Republicans close to deal on cutting unemployment benefits

The Iowa House and Senate approved similar bills on March 23 that would substantially cut unemployment benefits for jobless Iowans. The legislation, a priority for Governor Kim Reynolds, had been stalled for weeks, raising questions about whether Republican leaders could find the votes to pass it in the House.

Both versions of the legislation include the centerpiece of the proposal Reynolds highlighted during her Condition of the State address in January: reduce the maximum unemployment benefits in one year from 26 weeks to sixteen weeks. Currently, most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits per year, while only a handful of states provide a maximum of sixteen weeks or fewer.

The revised bill, House File 2355, also includes provisions that would force Iowans to accept new jobs for lower pay sooner, and would make it easier for Iowans to be denied benefits entirely.

A House amendment offered by State Representative Mike Bousselot removed language that would have denied Iowans benefits the first week they were unemployed. Senate Republicans put the one-week waiting period back in the bill before approving it.

All House and Senate Democrats voted against the bills, as did two Republicans in each chamber: State Representatives Martin Graber and Charlie McClintock, and State Senators Zach Nunn and Jeff Reichman.

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Iowa lawmakers should reject bad bill on appraisals (updated)

James C. Larew is an attorney in Iowa City who served as general counsel and chief of staff for former Governor Chet Culver. House File 2299 cleared the Iowa House unanimously last month and is scheduled to be considered in an Iowa Senate Commerce subcommittee on March 7.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

House File 2299, a bill aimed to deprive Appraisal Panels from determining the causes of insured losses, by amending Iowa’s longstanding, so-called, “standard fire contract,” located at Iowa Code section 515.109, is a fix for something that is not broken. It should not be approved.

Nearly sixty years ago, Iowa lawmakers wisely adopted a successful provision of New York law, which had provided home and business insurance policyholders with a low-cost, efficient means by which they could obtain full indemnification for their insured losses without need, in most cases, to file lawsuits.

More than forty other states have since adopted the New York-based alternative dispute resolution Appraisal process, under which contentious disputes over insurance claim valuations might be resolved.

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Strange GOP primary shaping up in IA-03

Iowa politics watchers and national forecasters agree that the third Congressional district is the only toss-up race among Iowa’s 2022 federal elections. Two-term Democratic incumbent Cindy Axne will face the winner of a three-way GOP primary.

The latest Federal Election Commission filings paint a confusing picture of the Republican race, rather than a clear path for the establishment favorite, State Senator Zach Nunn.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2022

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2022 session on January 10 with 32 Republicans and eighteen Democrats. Twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber prior to the 2020 election and double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. The biggest change: Republican Dave Rowley was elected in December to succeed Republican Zach Whiting, who resigned to take a job in Texas.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican, and two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Zach, Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

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How forecasters see Iowa's 2022 Congressional races

As election year approaches, the leading national political forecasters have updated their analysis of the coming U.S. Senate and House elections. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball revised its House ratings on December 16, while Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales and the Cook Political Report did so on December 28 and December 29, respectively.

The consensus is that Republicans are favored to win most of Iowa’s Congressional races, but the one House district held by a Democrat is a toss-up.

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