D.C. Dispatch: How did Iowa’s delegation vote on the infrastructure bill?

By: - November 6, 2021 12:05 pm

The House passed an infrastructure bill late Friday night. (Photo by Aleksandr Mansurov via Unsplash)

Howdy, folks. Welcome to the D.C. Dispatch.

There’s been a lot of waiting in national politics in recent weeks as Democrats negotiated major spending bills and President Joe Biden promised vaccine mandates for employees of large companies. This week, those two plans dropped back-to-back, as Biden announced the official language of the vaccine mandate and the House finally passed an infrastructure bill.

House passes bipartisan infrastructure package

House Democrats finally found common ground on Friday night, ending a weeks-long fight between moderates and progressives over a $1.75 trillion spending bill and passing a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

The infrastructure bill includes new funding for roads, trains, and public transit. It also allocates $65 billion to broadband expansion, a major priority for rural Iowa.

Rep. Cindy Axne, D-3rd District, was the only one of Iowa’s representatives to vote for the bill Friday night.

“This bipartisan infrastructure package, which I look forward to seeing signed into law very soon, will support thousands of Iowa jobs and fund vital investments that I’ve fought to see included in our agenda this year — like the largest investment in rural broadband connectivity in history,” Axne said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Grassley voted for the bill when it passed the Senate in August. 

Next up for House Democrats is the passage of the $1.75 reconciliation bill. They approved rules on Friday night that set up debate on the larger legislation, which House leaders expect to bring to the floor before Thanksgiving. 

Senators move against vaccine mandate

The other big news in D.C. this week was the long-awaited announcement of vaccine requirements for large employers. The rule, which takes effect in January, requires employees of large, private companies to either get vaccinated or to get tests weekly and wear face coverings.

Iowa Republicans immediately opposed the measure, and Gov. Kim Reynolds filed a lawsuit against it.

Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst joined an effort to use the Congressional Review Act to override Biden’s executive action. Republicans can only go so far with the measure, as Democrats control both the House and the Senate, but it could force vulnerable Democrats to vote in favor of the controversial mandate.

Republicans in the House rallied around a different bill that would exempt “essential workers” from being fired due to a vaccine mandate. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson are co-sponsors on the legislation.

Meanwhile, the senators also joined a letter asking federal agencies to require employees return to in-person work.

Is Biden paying $450,000 to illegal immigrants?

Several Iowa politicians spoke this week about a reported Biden administration plan to pay $450,000 to immigrant families that were separated at the border under the Trump administration. 

The idea was floated in negotiations between the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is advocating for the families that were separated. The New York Times reported last week that negotiations were ongoing between the families and the Biden administration, and that the $450,000 was a cap on potential payments.

“That’s more than Gold Star families receive after their relative is killed in action,” Ernst said in a statement. “This proposal is outrageous and incredibly disrespectful to the loved ones of those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Hinson called the payment a “cash prize for those who knowingly violated our laws.”

But in a Wednesday press conference, Biden seemed to reject the idea outright. 

“That’s not going to happen,” he told reporters.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified on Thursday that Biden objected to the $450,000 figure, but he is open to paying families who are challenging the federal government over their separations. Jean-Pierre said that Biden is “perfectly comfortable” if the Department of Justice settles with the families. 

Iowa Republicans said they don’t want to see any settlement payments to the immigrant families, arguing it would encourage more people to enter the country illegally.

Female senators demand support for Afghan women

All 24 female senators, led by Ernst, signed a letter Thursday asking Biden to develop a plan to “preserve the political, economic, social, and basic human rights of Afghan women and girls.”

The letter points toward advancements in female opportunity while American troops were in Afghanistan, and it raises concerns that the Taliban government threatens those advancements.

“Afghan women and girls need our action now,” the letter reads.

Delegation mourns Neal Smith, 101

Former Iowa Rep. Neal Smith passed away Tuesday at the age of 101. Smith, a Democrat, served in Congress for 36 years, from 1959 to 1995.

Long-time Iowa politicians who worked with Smith offered their condolences.

Former Sen. Tom Harkin also issued a statement in memory of Smith, who he said was a mentor to him in Congress.

“Neal was the epitome of an honest, effective, hardworking and selfless public servant,” Harkin said. “He got things done for Iowa and the nation that made lives better and yet he shunned the limelight.”

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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.