D.C. Dispatch: Grassley opposes marijuana, Hinson works on disaster recovery bills

By: and - July 9, 2021 8:00 am

Grain bins in Luther were flattened by a derecho storm featuring winds of more than 100 mph. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

After the holiday weekend, Iowa’s representatives in D.C. focused on a range of different things, from flood preparedness to drug policy to flags. Here’s the latest:

Axne plugs child care tax credits in Des Moines

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa’s only Democrat in the congressional delegation, was in Des Moines Thursday to promote the expanded child care tax credits, a temporary monthly payment for families with children 17 and under.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne visited the Outside Scoop in Ankeny for a town hall. She ordered scoops of strawberry, apple crisp and “salty caramel” ice cream. (Photo by Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Axne also held her fifth town hall at The Outside Scoop in Ankeny on Thursday evening. Nearly 40 people attended. The second-term representative conversed with Iowans about health care, child care, inflation and the filibuster.

One attendee asked Axne about Zalmay Niazy, a former U.S. military interpreter from Afghanistan who lives in Cedar Falls and is facing deportation. The federal government is pointing to an interaction Niazy had with terrorists at age 9 when he was forced to give them bread as a reason to deport him, according to the Des Moines Register. 

Axne said she didn’t have all the details on the issue, but she expects President Joe Biden to take action soon. Biden is working on a solution now, she said, calling him “a very loyal man.”

“President Biden certainly wants to ensure that those who helped our soldiers and our country can have a safe life, so I know he’s going to do that, he’s working on that,” she said. “When we pull our soldiers out later this year, out of Afghanistan, we also want to make sure that anybody that helped us out is safe.”

Axne also spoke on the recent court rulings against the biofuels industry. She said she plans to update “old laws” to prevent courts from reaching the “wrong interpretations.”

Hinson focuses on flood preparedness and disaster recovery

U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson represents Cedar Rapids, one of the cities hardest-hit by last summer’s derecho. This week, she secured $275.5 million to map and analyze flood hazards

Hinson also helped introduce a bipartisan bill that would increase the maximum loan amounts for physical damage disaster loans. Under the bill, homeowners could borrow up to $400,000 for repairs after a disaster, and up to $75,000 to replace household belongings.

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is also a co-sponsor of the legislation to increase loan limits.

Ernst visits National Guard in Kosovo

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst served food to members of the Iowa National Guard in Kosovo. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Ernst’s office)

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst spent July 4th in Kosovo, visiting with members of the Iowa National Guard.

“I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate Independence Day than alongside the Iowans protecting our nation in Kosovo — a close partner and Iowa’s sister state — and elsewhere,” Ernst said in a news release.

The visit was the last stop on Ernst’s four-day international tour. She spoke to the U.S. Africa Command and the U.S. European Command, visited the NATO headquarters in Belgium, and met with the president and several high-ranking officials in Kosovo.

Miller-Meeks proposes strict flag rules

Miller-Meeks introduced the Flag Standardization Act, a bill that would allow only certain flags to be flown on federal property, including embassies. Only the U.S. flag, state flags, tribal flags, flags for the Armed Forces or Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flags would be allowed. 

The Biden administration in April authorized U.S. embassies to fly rainbow flags for Pride, overruling a previous order by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The bill hasn’t yet been introduced to a committee.

Grassley weighs in on drug policy

U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley sent a list of suggestions to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), at the request of the acting director. 

  • Fentanyl: Grassley recommends permanently making fentanyl a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it cannot be used in medicine due to its high potential for abuse.
  • Methamphetamine: Focus on preventing drug trafficking from Mexico to the U.S., Grassley says, while also creating domestic programs to discourage the use of the drug.
  • Marijuana: “Despite a number of states legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, there is unfortunately not enough research into the impacts of marijuana use in the long term, particularly for adolescent or pregnant users,” Grassley writes, noting that drug could be harmful or addictive. He recommends the ONDCP should focus on education and prevention among young people.
  • Criminal justice: The ONDCP needs to “strike the appropriate balance of deterrence and punishment with rehabilitation and fairness, but also be mindful of the role that criminal laws have on preventing future addicts or drug abusers.”

Feenstra goes into campaign mode

Not much D.C. news from U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra this week, but social media posts show he was back in Iowa during the holiday weekend, shaking hands at the Clear Lake July 4th parade alongside Shannon Latham, a freshman representative in the U.S. House.

Feenstra also tweeted about his upcoming Sioux Center fundraiser with former Vice President Mike Pence. Tickets for the event begin at $50. Those contributing $1,000 or more will have an opportunity to take a photo with Pence. 

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.

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Eleanor Hildebrandt
Eleanor Hildebrandt

Eleanor Hildebrandt is a third-year student at the University of Iowa where she studies journalism and mass communication and global health studies. She worked as a news reporter covering shared governance and higher education and a digital producer for The Daily Iowan since her freshman year. In the fall, she will return to the paper as a news editor. As a second-year, she hosted and co-produced "On The Record", the DI's news podcast that was named Best Podcast by the Iowa Newspaper Association.

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