D.C. Dispatch: Jan. 6 investigation begins in the House, lawmakers react to CDC guidance

By: - July 30, 2021 9:53 am

Law enforcement witnesses rise to be sworn in as the Congressional Jan 6th commission hearing begins on July 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. From left are USCP Ofc. Harry Dunn, Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges, Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone, and U.S. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell. (Photo by Bill O’Leary – Pool/Getty Images)

Howdy folks, welcome to the D.C. Dispatch. This week in Washington, the House investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot began. Meanwhile, Iowa’s lawmakers railed against new mask guidance, passed legislation on opioids and national parks, and demanded more support for biofuels and imported prescription drugs.

House investigation into Jan. 6 Capitol riot begins

The House on Tuesday held the first meeting of a select committee on the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. Four law enforcement officers gave testimony about their experience as rioters stormed the Capitol grounds, demanding former President Donald Trump be recognized as the winner of the 2020 election.

The committee is made up of five House Democrats and two Republicans. None of Iowa’s representatives are sitting on the committee. Iowa’s three Republican representatives — Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks — voted against convening the committee. Rep. Cindy Axne voted in favor.

On a Thursday episode of Iowa Public Radio’s
“River to River” show,
 Donna Hoffman, a political science professor at University of Northern Iowa, speculated that Republicans were under pressure to align themselves with Trump. 

“I do think fear — fear of not being elected, or being primaried — is at the root of that,” Hoffman said.

She noted that many GOP members were critical of Trump directly after the Jan. 6 attack, then walked back their statements later. Miller-Meeks initially voted in favor of a Jan. 6 commission, then voted against.

Watch the July 27 hearing here, via PBS

Lawmakers aren’t thrilled about new CDC recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday announced new recommendations for mask-wearing: everyone, including vaccinated people, should wear face coverings indoors in areas of “high” or “substantial” transmission. The changed guidance did not go over well for Iowa’s Republican representatives.

  • Hinson: “I am concerned that the CDC’s guidance will erode public trust in the three safe & effective American vaccines that protect against COVID-19.”
  • Miller-Meeks: “The CDC needs to be more transparent on their decision making. Flip flopping this often only creates confusion and mistrust.”
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley: “It would be good if they would give this data, that’s so important backing it up, because they don’t have the credibility they ought to have. I don’t have any reason not to say they’re a credible organization, and that they do use science, but they sure have poor public relations.”

The CDC also recommends that everyone in K-12 schools should wear a face covering. Sen. Joni Ernst told Iowa reporters parents should choose whether their child wears a mask in school.

Also on the pandemic front, Axne and Miller-Meeks teamed up to introduce a bill that would allow health care providers more time to spend money from the Provider Relief Fund.

Two Miller-Meeks bills pass the House, one signed into law

Two bills led by Miller-Meeks passed the House this week. The first was the DUMP Opioids Act, a proposal that would require Veterans Affairs medical facilities to allow drop-off of opioids for disposal. Biden signed the bill into law Thursday.

The House also passed a bill that would allow veterans and families of military personnel killed in combat to access national parks for free. 

Feenstra and Axne get derecho included in disaster funding

The House Agriculture Committee advanced a reauthorization of the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, legislation that helps cover agricultural losses from natural disasters. Iowa’s two representatives on the committee, Axne and Feenstra, introduced new language that will allow wind storms like the derecho to be covered under the program.

“Like I promised, I have not stopped fighting to secure much-needed assistance for Iowa ag producers who suffered losses from last year’s catastrophic derecho storm, which produced wind gusts comparable to a major tornado or hurricane,” Feenstra said in a news release.

Senate and House pass Afghan allies legislation

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed the Afghan Allies Protection Act to increase the number of visas for Afghanistan citizens who helped U.S. troops. Ernst is a co-sponsor on the legislation. Shortly after, the House also passed the measure, sending it to Biden as part of a $2.1 billion supplemental security bill.

In Iowa, Afghan translator Zalmay Niazy is facing deportation after being denied asylum. Ernst said earlier this month that she had done everything she could do for Niazy, but that his case was in the hands of the State Department. Ernst’s office did not respond to questions about how the new legislation could affect Niazy’s case.

Lawmakers want Biden to focus on biofuels

A bipartisan group of lawmakers came to a compromise Wednesday on an infrastructure bill with $550 billion in new spending. Axne, who held several events to promote the infrastructure package before the compromise, said the latest plan was “unacceptable” because it did not include investments in biofuels.

“While I am withholding my final decision on this agreement until there is a bill I can read, I will have strong reservations about supporting the final bill if there is no pathway for critical investments in our biofuels sector,” Axne said in a Thursday statement.

Several senators, including Ernst and Grassley, sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking for a meeting about the “tremendous opportunity that biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel present to bolster affordable American energy.” The letter pushes back against the Biden administration’s focus on electric vehicles and urges the president to include biofuels in his environmental messaging. 

Axne proposes skills training for community colleges, National Guard 

The House on Tuesday approved an Axne amendment that would introduce additional funding for career skills training at community colleges. Axne also reintroduced legislation from last year that would extend more skills training to members of the National Guard and Reserve who are transitioning back to civilian life.

“Employers want to hire our veterans, and veterans want employment where their skills and service is valued,” Axne said in a press release.

Grassley asks for HHS support on prescription drug proposals

Grassley and a bipartisan group of senators wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services, urging the department to back legislation that would allow individuals to import certain prescription drugs from Canada. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, is leading the bill, which has not yet passed committee.

On the campaign trail…

Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, announced her candidacy for Hinson’s 1st District seat. Republican party leaders held a press conference Thursday to criticize Mathis for a “lack of transparency” during her time at the state Capitol.

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann identified a 2016 bill that provided a sales tax rebate of up to $2.5 million for a sports complex in Marion. Kaufmann cited a Fox News story that said Mathis did not disclose at the time that a business she co-owns with her husband, ME&V, had received payments from Prospect Meadows in 2012 and 2013 totaling about $148,000 for production of promotional materials and consulting.

He said there was “an overt, undeniable withholding of information from people” that raises questions about what other business dealings Mathis may have that affect her job as a legislator.

The Mathis campaign told Fox News that there was “no conflict of interest.”

“(N)either ME&V nor Amperage (the current business name) benefited from a state tax credit awarded to this non-profit complex,” a campaign spokesperson said.

— Kathie Obradovich contributed to this report.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie 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.