The US House and Senate moved quickly this week to approve $1.5 trillion to fund the government and another $13.6 billion to help Ukraine. The Senate passed the package on Thursday evening, missing the Friday deadline for government funding.
Members of the Iowa delegation celebrated the funding bill’s investments in their districts and the inclusion of certain legislative priorities. The delegation also focused on Ukraine, rural access to federal programs and maternal health.
Here’s what happened in DC this week:
Iowa Delegation Highlights Funding Bill Allocations
The bill to help Ukraine and fund the US government through September has received bipartisan support in Congress. Several members of the Iowa delegation voted for the package, pointing to local projects that will receive funding through the legislation.
Rep. Ashley Hinson, a Republican representing Iowa’s 1st District, vaunted federal funding for airport improvements, road construction and a $45 million project to upgrade locks and dams in the upper Mississippi system. She said the investments “will have a transformational impact”.
Representative Marianne Miller-Meeks highlighted the projects of the 2nd arrondissement, including more than $4 million for sewer projects in Ottawa and Burlington. The bill included the Miller-Meeks VET TEC Act, a bill aimed at increasing job training opportunities for veterans.
“I have been able to work with district leaders to ensure that important programs and projects receive the funding they deserve and will continue to fight in Congress for the benefit of all Iowans,” said Miller-Meeks.
Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, said more than $10 million would be go to projects in the 3rd district of Iowaincluding bridge repairs, affordable housing and child care.
“I am so happy to know that these projects, which will help the Third District immensely, will finally come to fruition,” said Axne.
Funding for the project was made possible through earmarking, a political bargaining chip that Republicans banned in 2011. Earmarking allows lawmakers to seek funding for projects in their district, sometimes in exchange for support from a certain bill. Democrats reintroduced assignments in 2021 with new guidelines to keep the process fair and transparent.
Rep. Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Iowa’s 4th District, voted in favor of aid to Ukraine but against the domestic expenditure program and its allocations.
“I couldn’t support the non-defensive part of the omnibus. This included wasteful spending and billions of dollars to let the IRS harass law-abiding taxpayers,” Feenstra said in a statement. “These provisions are bad for our rural communities and bad for Iowa.”
The package also included several priority bills for Iowa lawmakers. Top of the list: the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2019. Senator Joni Ernst led efforts to pass a new version of VAWA.
“For three years, I have worked diligently with Democrats and Republicans to modernize the Violence Against Women Act to ensure my fellow survivors are empowered and have access to the support they need,” Ernst said. said in a press release. “I am delighted that this important legislation is a step closer to being passed into law. »
Senators want more help for Ukraine, offer biofuel solutions
Even with the $13.6 billion shift to Ukraine, Iowa senators were asking for more. Ernst and Senator Chuck Grassley signed a letter asking President Joe Biden and the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO) to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine.
“We implore you to act without delay to provide the urgently needed air power that will enhance the ability of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to defend their country and save civilian lives,” he added. the letter reads.
Grassley and Ernst promoted local biofuels replacing Russian oil. Biden bans the import of Russian oil into the United States., which he warned would contribute to higher gasoline prices.
“It’s very clear that biofuels offer a quick and easy solution to lower prices at the pump,” Grassley said Wednesday.
The entire delegation, including Democrat Axne, wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking the Biden administration promote biofuels when discussing energy sanctions against Russia.
“As a domestically produced renewable fuel source, ethanol and other biofuels enhance our national security and help meet the administration’s climate goals,” reads the letter.
Delegation proposes Office of Rural Prosperity
Several members of the Iowa delegation proposed the Rural Prosperity Act, a bill to streamline federal services for rural Americans. The proposal would create a Rural Prosperity Office to coordinate programs for rural communities.
“Far too often I hear from people in rural Iowa who worry that the issues they face aren’t prioritized at the top,” Axne said in a press release. “Overwhelmed and inflexible programs make it hard for people in rural Iowa to get the help they need, which is why I’m proud to introduce the Rural Prosperity Act.”
Axne, Feenstra and Hinson co-sponsored the legislation in the House. Ernst and Grassley are co-sponsors in the Senate.
Hinson proposes stillbirth prevention bill
Hinson led the introduction of a bipartisan proposal to promote maternal health and prevent stillbirths.
“Ensuring women have access to maternal health care throughout pregnancy is essential and helps prevent stillbirths – the unexpected loss of a baby 20 weeks or more during pregnancy – and maternal mortality,” Hinson said in a statement. “This is particularly important in rural areas, where women may have to drive over an hour to get to their doctor.”
The bill would allow for the use of an annual credit for research and the reduction of stillbirth rates.
Delegation reacts to East High shooting
A shooting in Des Moines on Monday left a teenager dead and two others injured. Monks Police arrested six teenagers in connection with the death of 15-year-old Jose David Lopez, who was killed outside East High School.
Biden released a statement Tuesday calling on Congress to take action on gun violence.
“Enough. Our young people need to be safe in and around school, in their neighborhoods and in their homes,” Biden said. “Every American should be able to visit a place of worship, a grocery store, a nightclub or any other place without fear of being shot.”
He urged Congress to pass legislation requiring universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and repealing liability shields for manufacturers.
Members of the Iowa delegation released statements following the shooting.
Axne, who represents Des Moines, said she was “deeply saddened” by the incident.
“Cases of gun violence and school shootings occur far too often in this country and our children deserve better,” she said in a statement. “There are no words to express how it feels to see something like this unfold in your own community.”
Grassley tweeted that he would pray for the victims.
I am monitoring reports of a shooting outside of East HS in Des Moines 2 days earlier I thank local law enforcement/students/teachers/administrators for navigating this tragic situation and pray for the recovery of victims
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) March 7, 2022