News late last week of an alleged spy balloon from China entering and remaining in U.S. airspace drew sharp reactions from, especially Republican, members of the tri-state area’s congressional delegation.
The U.S. military downed the balloon on Saturday, but it was only the latest bit of news from area lawmakers aimed at harming or out-competing China.
“It is deeply concerning that the Chinese Communist Party felt emboldened to send a spy balloon into the United States, a clear and brazen violation of our sovereignty,” said U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, in a release on Friday. “Even more unbelievable is that the Biden administration’s response is to simply let this spy balloon float over the U.S. for a few more days.”
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New U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., posted to Twitter many times about the balloon — speculating that it would not be there if former President Donald Trump were in office, saying he would feel unsafe to live in Taiwan and mocking Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder‘s statement calling China’s sending the balloon “unacceptable.”
“‘We assess that getting our teeth kicked in and our lunch money stolen does not present a danger to our teeth or our lunch money.’ — The Pentagon,” Van Orden posted.
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., said that confronting threats from China should not be a partisan issue.
“The CCP continues to abide by different rules,” he said on Twitter. “The Admin should send a clear message that this violation is unacceptable.”
Hinson and many other Republicans have taken to referring to China only by the Chinese Communist Party — a distinction nearly uniform in Republican messaging in recent weeks. Republicans’ new majority in the U.S. House also pushed a vote on a perfunctory resolution denouncing socialism last week. It received support from all Republicans and most Democrats, with 86 Democrats voting against and 14 voting present.
Hinson and LaHood both now serve on the House’s bipartisan Select Committee on China and have been vocal in condemning a wide variety of practices from the country in recent months. Hinson co-led legislation last week to ban the sale of U.S. agricultural land to the Chinese government or associated foreign nationals.
The discussion has not been exclusive to Republicans, however. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced the Increasing American Jobs through Greater Exports to Africa Act in part as a way to out-compete China.
“China & others are building markets on the African continent & the U.S. is being left behind,” he said on Twitter. “This bill will help us build economic ties with African nations and our neighbors in Latin America & the Caribbean to meet the strong demand for American products & create jobs at home.”
Iowa school funding
Iowa Senate Republicans pushed a 3% increase to per-pupil state funding for public schools, over Democrats’ objections that the amount was not enough.
Senate leaders had originally introduced a bill calling for 2% in State Supplemental Aid, a decrease from last year’s 2.5%, and scheduled a committee meeting for early last week before canceling it abruptly. The next day, the Senate had picked up the House’s version, which called for 3%.
“SF 192 provides $107 million in new funding for K-12 schools next year. This amount contributes to a total of more than $8.4 billion in funding from all sources for Iowa schools and an average of over $17,000 per student. SF 192 is sustainable, reliable, and timely, just as K-12 funding has been for the last six years,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, in a release. “Despite Senate Democrats’ complaints, Iowans remember that the only time K-12 funding has been cut in the last 25 years was when Democrats had total control of state government.”
Despite the 3% number starting in the House, there was no universal support among lawmakers representing the TH coverage area.
Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said in a text message that the bill was expected for full House debate either Monday or Tuesday. In her weekly newsletter, she said she was not yet sold.
“As we are all facing increasing costs due to inflation and rising interest rates under our current federal administration, we need to take a serious look at how it has impacted our schools,” she said. “The House currently has a bill at 3% which is higher than it has been for several years. I am still advocating for an added +1%-2% that can help with staff retention and recruitment.”
Iowa Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, also bemoaned the state support for public education as too frail.
“In honoring our commitment to public education, Democratic lawmakers proposed a $267 million investment in private schools for the 2023-24 school year,” she said. “If Governor Reynolds and Republican lawmakers have $267 million for corporate tax giveaways and vouchers, public schools should get at least $267 million as well. This proposal offers sharp contrast to the plan offered by Republican lawmakers, which continues to underfund public education.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who served under former Trump for two years, is likely to announce her long-expected 2024 Republican presidential primary bid next week at a “special announcement” scheduled for Feb. 15.
Since sharing plans of the coming announcement, Haley peppered Twitter with posts — including a National Review piece criticizing President Joe Biden’s southern border management, calling for cognitive tests for older politicians, lambasting Democrats for not voting for House Republicans’ resolution “denouncing socialism” and serving guidance for the U.S.’ response to China’s alleged spy balloon.
“Shoot down the balloon. Cancel (Antony) Blinken‘s trip. Hold China accountable,” Haley posted. “Biden is letting China walk all over us. It’s time to make America strong again.”
Another long-rumored Republican presidential candidate from 2024, former Vice President Mike Pence, has only hinted at a run, but volleyed with his own, similarly structured guidance for the Chinese balloon just after Haley’s.
“Shoot down the Chinese spy balloon. Go ahead and send the Secretary of State to China next week,” he said. “Have @SecBlinken Look them in the eye and tell em- it better never happen again. That’s Peace Through Strength.”
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