U.S. Congress

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 26, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Senator Joni Ernst voted against a measure Thursday that lumped federal aid for hurricane victims with budget and debt ceiling extensions.

President Donald Trump made a deal to that effect Wednesday with Democratic leaders. It pairs about $15 billion in disaster aid with an agreement to keep the government until Dec. 8.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Ernst said combining those issues into one bill is "a bad way of doing business." 

When Congress gets back to work after the Labor Day holiday, re-upping the farm bill is one many hope can be done in a bipartisan manner. The current law, which funds a wide range of programs including food stamps, farmers subsidies, rural development and agricultural research, expires in 2018.

Traditionally, the farm bill has skirted the worst of partisan politics, but vacancies at the top of the Agriculture Department mean fewer leaders working on it this time around.

Gage Skidmore

“Never ever lose your sense of outrage," said then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with the senator about the 2016 campaign, his plan to introduce a single-payer health care bill in September, and his new book, Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution

Sanders will speak in Iowa City August 31 at 7 p.m. at Hancher Auditorium.

Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump comes to Iowa today for the first time since his inauguration. He will be visiting Kirkwood Community College followed by a campaign-style rally tonight in Cedar Rapids.

In this politics day on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University, and Bruce Nesmith, Joan and Abbot Lipsky professor of political science at Coe College. 

Amy Mayer

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he doesn’t agree with former FBI Director James Comey’s statement that President Donald Trump was lying when he said the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership. Grassley says he considers the president’s statement a matter of opinion.

“When you characterize an agency, how you think it’s being run, you can be perfectly honest in your assessment of that, and somebody else could consider that a lie," he says.

iowa hospital association
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As the U.S. Senate crafts a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Iowa Hospital Association is emphasizing its opposition to the bill that came out of the U.S. House.

Iowa hospital leaders expressed concerns about proposed cuts to Medicaid funding Wednesday at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. They say cuts would cause problems for patients, hospitals, care providers and the state budget.

BKL / Flickr

"Constitutional crisis" is a phrase heard a great deal in the news lately. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch about what constitutes a constitutional crisis.

Walch also discusses several instances when the U.S. government threatened to break down - during the Civil War in the 1860s, the Great Depression in the 1930s and during the Watergate crisis in the 1970s.

rod blum town hall
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa Republican Representative Rod Blum was drowned out by constituents Tuesday night as he defended his vote to pass the House GOP healthcare bill at a contentious town hall in Cedar Rapids. 

Several audience members asked the 1st District congressman to explain why he voted for the House Republican plan to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Constituents raised concerns about Medicaid funding, the individual health insurance exchange, Planned Parenthood funding and the tax credits meant to help people buy insurance. 

abby finkenauer
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A Democratic state representative says she intends to run for Congress in 2018 to represent northeast Iowa.

Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque is hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Rod Blum in the race for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.

Finkenauer says she wants to focus on policies that support working families and raise wages in Iowa.

John Pemble / IPR

The launching of U.S. cruise missiles at Syrian air bases drew praise from U.S. Senator Joni Ernst at a constituent meeting in Elkader. But, should President Trump want to take further action, the message was clear - he needs congressional approval. "Anything further, if there were further actions that would happen, the president needs to come to Congress and explain that," says Ernst.

Congressman Steve King Facebook page

Republican U-S Congressman Steve King will cast the Iowa delegation’s only “yes” vote when the Republican health care bill comes to the House floor  Thursday.  King says he’ll vote in favor of the bill because he has a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to remove a requirement that all insurance policies provide certain benefits.

rod blum
Rod Blum for Congress

Iowa Republican Representative Rod Blum said Tuesday he will not support the House GOP’s health care plan in its current form.

The 1st District congressman tweeted that the American Health Care Act “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans.”

The repeal and replacement of much of Obamacare is supposed to get a vote on the House floor on Thursday. Dozens of Republican House members oppose the bill or have expressed major concerns.

President Trump met with House Republicans Tuesday to urge them to pass the health care bill.

Kevin Burkett

Politics in the U.S. haven’t always been as bitterly partisan as they seem today – at least according to former Republican Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot, who served in the U.S. House from 1985 to 1997.

“[Democratic Rep. Dave Nagle] and I tried to be the grease that was in the gears that made the thing work, and now both parties are trying to be the sand in the gears to shut it down,” he says. “We had a much more bipartisan approach to things. There was a lot more comedy and comradeship than you see there today.”

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Senate late Thursday approved a bill that outlaws states' efforts to put labels on food products made with genetically-modified organisms and instead gives companies more leeway in disclosing GMOs.

The measure must still be passed by the U.S. House, but there are lots of questions. Harvest Public Media has been watching this ongoing battle for more than a year and we have answers for the five big questions about this latest volley in this food fight.

 

Just a week before a Vermont law kicks-in requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senate agriculture leaders announced a deal Thursday that takes the power out of states' hands and sets a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the plan that had been negotiated for weeks with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

There’s rarely seen public animosity within Iowa’s congressional delegation.

2nd District Congressman David Loebsack, the only Democrat in the delegation, is calling 4th District Republican Congressman Steve King an “embarrassment to Iowa”.

It concerns King’s statements after introducing an amendment that would block plans for replacing former President Andrew Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with one of African American civil rights activist Harriet Tubman.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The proposed takeover of a major seed company by a Chinese government business is getting some scrutiny on Capitol Hill. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) chairs the Senate Judiciary committee and says he's looking at state-owned ChemChina's plans to buy the Swiss company Syngenta.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

courtesy of Ben & Jerry's

Calling a Vermont law that creates mandatory labeling of food that has genetically engineered ingredients a "wrecking ball," Republican Sen. Pat Roberts won first-round approval Tuesday of his bill that would circumvent the state law.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

One of Iowa's U.S. Senators says he's surprised at how far the state's wind energy production has come. Iowa continues to lead the nation in wind energy, and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was among its early backers. This week the US Department of Energy reported Iowa generates more than 30 percent of its power from wind, the highest percentage in the country. Grassley says back in 1992 when he pushed for tax incentives for wind energy, he didn't expect it would get this big.

"I'm glad it is," Grassley says, "but I'm just telling you I didn't foresee that."

Amy Mayer/IPR

The path to a lifelong appointment on the Supreme Court passes through the Senate Judiciary Committee. And with the opening created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend, some in the Republican-controlled Senate are hoping to put off a replacement until after the November elections.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the judiciary committee, says he is in no hurry to confirm a replacement for Justice Scalia.

Don Graham/Flickr

Cuts to the crop insurance program will again be a talking point on Capitol Hill.

The budget drafted by President Obama and released Tuesday would make cuts to the crop insurance system, allocate more funds for agricultural research and fund the summer program that provides free meals to children.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A Labor Department proposal could make some nitrogen fertilizer more expensive or harder to find. That has Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asking the Labor Department some questions about its new guidance on chemical storage.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

As Congress moves toward a budget deal, a $3 billion cut to crop insurance is now on the table. This comes after the money was approved as part of the 2014 farm bill, and the proposal is not sitting well with some Midwest senators. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says in a party caucus Monday, he and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) both expressed frustration over pulling more from farm programs. The current five-year farm bill, which includes crop insurance, other agricultural subsidies and many other programs like school nutrition and rural development, was passed early last year.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A top Iowa Republican has harsh words for his party’s representatives in the U.S. House, where the GOP has so far been unable to agree on a new House Speaker to replace the outgoing John Boehner.

Opposition from a cadre of conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus helped lead Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to withdraw from the race for the top post.

Former Iowa Republican party chair Matt Strawn says it looks like Republicans don’t know how to govern.

Photo by John Pemble

The U.S. Congress is back at work with a lengthy agenda for a short month and the federal budget squarely in its sights. Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, says the Waters of the U.S rule (WOTUS) is in the cross-hairs.

That rule, which extends Clean Water Act regulations to more bodies of water, went into effect in August, but only in states where courts hadn’t ruled to block it.

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King today showed up on the Washington Post’s list of questionable tweets by members of Congress. But the project that made his activity public was shut down after Twitter withdrew its permission.  

Twitter gave the Sunlight Foundation access to deleted tweets by members of Congress and King’s activity caught some attention. The congressman retweeted a message from someone getting on the subway.

John Pemble/IPR

The annual State of the Union address last night offered a national spotlight for Iowa’s junior senator.

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