D.C. Dispatch: Debt limit crisis is averted for now

By: - October 8, 2021 4:11 pm
American flag flying with U.S. Capitol in the background.

A flag flies near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., in file photo from Dec. 18. 2019. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Howdy, friends. Welcome to the D.C. Dispatch, your weekly roundup of what the Iowa delegation did in the nation’s capital. 

This week was another eventful one as the Senate reached a compromise on the debt ceiling (for now) and Republicans collectively shifted their focus to the southern border. And the week isn’t over yet: former President Donald Trump will be in Des Moines on Saturday for a rally.

Here’s what you need to know heading into the weekend:

Senators come to an agreement on the debt ceiling

Less than two weeks before the U.S. was expected to default on its debts, Senate Republicans and Democrats reached a deal to delay the crisis.

The Senate passed a bill on Thursday to raise the debt ceiling through early December. Eleven Republicans voted to break the filibuster and allow the bill to move forward. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst did not vote to break the filibuster.

The House will likely pass the bill early next week.

The compromise brings the country back from the brink of default, but the underlying political fight lingers. After this bill passes, there will still be only enough of an increase to last until early December. Republicans and Democrats will likely face off again, this time attempting to raise the debt ceiling more significantly.

What about the infrastructure and spending bills?

The two high-priority spending bills took a backseat this week to the debt limit showdown. Behind the scenes, Democrats were working on paring back the proposals to ensure support from moderates. 

Rep. Cindy Axne said during an Iowa visit this week that negotiations in the Democratic caucus were less tumultuous as they appeared.

“What they don’t talk about are the progressives and the moderates … working together on a lot of issues,” she told reporters Monday.

Republicans focus on border crisis

As D.C. negotiations moved slowly forward, Republicans in Iowa’s delegation and Gov. Kim Reynolds turned their focus to issues with immigration.

Read more: Gov. Reynolds criticizes Biden border policies during Texas visit

Ernst introduced a bill to prevent sexual predators from becoming U.S. residents and sent several letters about the situation at the Southern border.

Grassley and Ernst signed onto a lengthy letter asking the Department of Homeland Security about Haitian migrants who were allowed to enter the U.S. following a surge in Del Rio, Texas. 

“Until DHS consistently enforces our immigration laws to swiftly remove migrants with weak or nonexistent asylum claims, smuggling organizations will continue to prey on these individuals and convince them to undertake the treacherous journey to our southern border,” the letter reads.

Ernst also wrote a letter asking the DHS to improve the vetting process for Afghan evacuees

Rep. Ashley Hinson told right-wing site Breitbart that the Biden administration’s handling of the border was “unacceptable,” and that the federal government had failed to provide answers about how illegal immigrants are tracked in the U.S. 

Iowa is geographically far from the border, but Iowa Republicans argued this week that drug trafficking and other issues affect people across the U.S. Grassley said in a news conference that Iowans speak to him about the border during his 99-county visits.

“This is a problem for all 50 states in the United States,” he said. “And when illegal drugs come into Iowa from across the border, it’s because the president isn’t enforcing the laws.”

Senate passes Ernst’s Buddy Check bill

The Senate unanimously passed a bill to create an annual “Buddy Check Week,” during which the Department of Veterans Affairs will educate veterans on the importance of checking on their friends for mental health issues.

Ernst, a combat veteran, was the sponsor of the legislation, which now heads to the House for a vote.

“I’ll keep pushing to get this important legislation signed into law to allow more veterans the opportunity to learn how to conduct peer wellness checks so they can check in with their fellow veterans and help get them the care and support they need,” Ernst said in a statement.

D.C. delegation praises Reynolds for $1.2 billion surplus

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week that Iowa ended fiscal year 2021 with a surplus of $1.24 billion. Several Republicans in the D.C. delegation praised Reynolds on social media for the excess funds.

Read more: Why does Iowa have a $1.24 billion surplus?

“It’s strong conservative leadership like this that I take to Washington every day to fight back against Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi!” wrote Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in a tweet.

Axne amends stock trade disclosure

A watchdog group reported in late September that Axne did not properly disclose over 40 stock trades between 2019 and 2020. A spokesperson for Axne announced Friday that Axne filed the appropriate reports on the trades and hired an outside counsel to audit her records.

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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.