All the drama around congressional Democrats’ efforts to pass two major spending bills amounted to more or less a draw last week, as infrastructure and Build Back Better were punted, but a government shutdown was avoided.
The tug of war between centrist Senate Democrats and progressive House of Representatives Democrats meant missing a self-imposed deadline put in place by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a vote on the bipartisan $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill. Neither side of the interparty debate seemed to gain enough ground to secure a success for that or the $3.5 trillion larger spending package.
Of all the tri-state lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, was probably nearest the center of this fight. He co-founded and, until recently, co-chaired the House Progressive Caucus. He was confident last week that an agreement eventually would be reached.
“We’re going to get this done,” he said on MSNBC. “When it happens is, to me, all procedure. If you watched the (Green Bay) Packers game last week, unless you were in the game in the final 37 seconds of the game when the game flipped, you’d think the Packers were losing. They got it done. We’re going to get it done.”
The quote was a reference to the Packers’ last-second victory last Sunday night over the San Francisco 49ers.
Later in the week, though, he retweeted a post from the Progressive Caucus doubling down on not dropping provisions of the larger package just to get the infrastructure bill through.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, waded into the fray via Twitter as well, applauding U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., for his role as chief centrist stalemate architect.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, joined Pocan in a letter asking that access to quality, affordable health care not be forgotten as the debate continued.
“The Build Back Better Act, as voted out of the House Committee on Budget, promises to provide a permanent option to deliver access to health care for millions of low-income Americans, regardless of which state they live in,” the letter read. “As many as 90,000 people in Wisconsin could become eligible for robust health benefits at little to no cost if Medicaid expansion is made available in our state.”
Republicans had plenty to say.
“It’s unfortunate that they have these total blinders on to priorities of the American people,” U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, told Fox Business. “Instead, they have been so laser-focused on this reconciliation bill, this huge social spending bill.”
She introduced legislation that would block measures in the bill Democrats are attempting to move via budget reconciliation through the Senate. Her Protecting Financial Privacy Act would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from tracking certain financial transactions.
“Forcing financial institutions to turn over Americans’ transactions of $600 or more would compromise the privacy of Americans, shut down community financial institutions and ultimately reduce Iowans’ access to credit,” she said. “The IRS doesn’t need access to Iowans’ most basic personal information; the government has no right to know every time Iowans pay their bills or go to the grocery store.”
This provision in President Joe Biden’s original proposal for the legislation has not been included in legislative language.
Iowa republicans, Democrats together on midterm caucus
The Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party announced Friday that they would both hold midterm precinct caucuses on Feb. 7 in a sign of solidarity in supporting the state’s caucus processes generally.
“The Iowa Caucuses have always brought our two parties together,” said Republican Chairman Jeff Kaufman in a release. “Hosting the precinct caucuses on the same date allows Iowans across the political spectrum to easily participate in this great party-building tradition. While these are the midterm precinct caucuses, I look forward to working with (Iowa Democratic Party) Chairman (Ross) Wilburn to ensure this type of cooperation occurs for the 2024 presidential caucuses.”
Wilburn concurred in the joint release.
“We don’t agree on much, but we do agree on the importance of holding the Iowa Caucuses on the same day,” he said. “I’m excited about this year’s caucus-to-convention calendar. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage with Iowans from all different backgrounds.”
Ernst dons her cap and glove
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst,
R-Iowa, was the area’s only lawmaker to play in the annual Congressional Baseball Game last week. She played outfield for the winning Republican team, who eked out a 13-12 win over Democrats.
U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller Meeks, R-Iowa, currently represents the state’s Second Congressional District, which is outside the coverage area of the Telegraph Herald.
But if the Iowa Legislature approves the congressional district map that has been proposed by the Legislative Services Agency, that district will include Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque and Jackson counties. So, readers may be interested to learn how Miller-Meeks has spent her week.
Miller-Meeks also stuck with her Republican colleagues in voting against each of the Democrats’ funding efforts.
A doctor herself, she also introduced a bill that would require undocumented immigrants to be tested for COVID-19 before being released into the U.S.
Miller-Meeks’ bill was not taken up by the Democratic majority.
The Congressional Management Foundation recognized U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., in its 2021 Democracy Awards in the constituent services category.