U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, recently introduced companion bills in their respective houses that would create a federal grant program for affordable, quality child care.

Finkenauer championed the partnership and the bills’ goals during a virtual call between eastern Iowa’s Congressional delegation and Dubuque leaders on Thursday.

“We introduced a bill together for child care as economic development, because it is,” she said. “As our schools are trying to do their best, you have a lot of parents worried about what child care looks like. Is there a place for their kids?”

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Ernst also pointed to child care access as a critical piece of the puzzle in rescuing the U.S. economy, now sputtering once again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that our moms and dads cannot go back to work if they don’t have a safe space for them to go to,” she said. “Especially if we have schools splitting between virtual learning and in the class room.”

The virtual panel Thursday actually highlighted some of the similarities in the two lawmakers’ committee work in the nation’s capital. Both are elbow deep in infrastructure policy — Ernst with Senate Environment and Public Works , Finkenauer with the House Transportation and Infrastructure. And both are in the thick of small business economic development — Finkenauer on House Small Business, Ernst on Senate Small Business and Administration.

“These are grants making sure we have affordable, accessible child care all over the country, but specifically states like Iowa where we see some of those deserts,” Finkenauer said. “If we want to have a workforce and bring people back home, we have to have child care available.”

Lawmakers, staff see silver lining in socially distanced outreachDuring the City of Dubuque’s virtual Congressional Staff Visit, lawmakers and their staff lamented not having been able to meet with the Dubuque contingent in person.

“I would prefer to have you all here,” Finkenauer said. “Last year, it was something I really looked forward to, it being my first year. I’m sad this can’t happen this year, but hopefully next.”

Her staff, as well as members of Sen. Chuck Grassley‘s and Ernst’s, though, said that in some ways, the growth of virtual meeting has improved at least the rate of communication between Iowa and D.C.

“It gives us an easier way to stay in touch with people sometimes,” said Tyler Smith, of Finkenauer’s office.

Grassley, for his part, said that ease of communication in some places may serve to highlight those places where people cannot use it.

“This pandemic, as bad as it is, has alerted us to the broadband need we have through much of the country,” he said. “That gets a big boost because of the pandemic. We need broadband and technology in our rural communities to let people keep up.”

Ernst said that she had begun discussions with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., about including a broadband boost for rural residents in the upcoming fourth phase of pandemic relief, although the measure has not yet made it into the Senate’s bill. Finkenauer told of similar efforts in the House.

Novak recognized by Wisconsin Counties Association

The WCA, last week, presented Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, with a 2020 WCA Outstanding Legislator Award.

“Representative Novak’s efforts for his district and all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are commendable and we are grateful for our partnership,” said WCA Executive Director Mark D. O’Connell, in a release. “He is an advocate who clearly understands the important relationship between the state and counties. We have been honored to work alongside him to create effective policies that nurture our communities, while keeping the taxpayers in mind.”

In addition, Novak’s Chief of Staff Jake Wolf received a WCA Outstanding Legislative Staff Award for his efforts.

Finkenauer bill succeeds in doubling research funds for endometriosis

In early March, Finkenauer made waves by announcing her struggle with endometriosis — in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus — since she was 18.

She launched the bipartisan

Endometriosis Caucus that day. The result of the work since was shown Thursday, when the U.S. House voted in favor of the caucus’s plan to double federally funded research into the disease — from $13 million to $26 million.

“Endometriosis is under-researched and suffers from a lack of proven and effective treatments,” Finkenauer said, in a release. “Doubling research funding will provide critical additional capacity for studying endometriosis, developing effective treatments and improving the quality of life for millions and millions of women. This is a game-changer.”

To secure the increase, Finkenauer’s amendment boosts the overall budget for the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which oversees endometriosis research. When signed into law, the funding increase would take effect for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2020.

Endorsements

The American Federation of Government Employees endorsed incumbent U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, in her run for re-election for Iowa’s First Congressional District.

The National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion — Republican nominee for Iowa’s First Congressional District — last week.

People’s Action grassroots political network endorsed Democrat Kriss Marion, last week, in her run against incumbent Republican Wisconsin Rep. Todd Novak for Dist. 51 of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Calendar

Today, 1 to 2 p.m., via Zoom, Iowa Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, will hold her annual Corn Boil fundraiser, this year featuring Sarah Holland Steward and Beth Silvers, co-Hosts of the Pantsuit Politics podcast.