D.C. Dispatch: Iowans work together on ag, health issues as Democrats pass spending bills

By: - November 19, 2021 4:45 pm

The U.S. Capitol dome, photographed June 17, 2019. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Welcome to the D.C. Dispatch. It was a busy week in Washington as Democrats advanced both of their major spending bills, breaking months-long stalemates. In the background, Iowa’s delegation was working on bipartisan bills on cattle price transparency and health care provider aid, and Republicans moved for a vote on overturning vaccine mandates.

There will be no D.C. Dispatch next week due to the Thanksgiving recess.

Biden signs infrastructure bill into law

President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package into law on Monday, the first of two major policy priorities that Democrats have been pushing for several months.

The law includes money for traditional infrastructure, like roads and bridges, and for new projects, like broadband expansion, public transportation and more.

Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley were the only two members of Iowa’s delegation to vote in favor of the bill. Axne attended the bill signing Monday evening.

Axne highlighted several parts of the plan in a Monday news release, including $65 billion for rural broadband. She anticipated that at least $100 million would go to Iowa broadband expansion. 

In total, Axne estimated that more than $5 billion of the plan would go to Iowa and that the law would create over 770,000 jobs in the state.

Grassley stood by his yes vote on Tuesday, saying that “without a doubt, the policy is good for Iowa.”

House advances reconciliation bill along party lines

The other half of the spending package is a $1.85 trillion plan that creates new programs for child care, education, health care, taxes and more. The House passed it Friday morning along party lines, with the exception of one Democrat from Maine.

Axne voted in favor. Iowa’s Republican Reps. Randy Feenstra, Ashley Hinson and Mariannettte Miller-Meeks voted against.

Read more: House Democrats pass Biden’s $1.85 trillion ‘Build Back Better’ plan

Entire Iowa delegation introduces cattle bill

There was some bipartisan work this week too: Iowa’s delegation teamed up on a bill that would increase price transparency in the cattle market. All four House members and two senators are co-sponsors of the legislation.

“Although the cost of beef continues to rise, independent cattle producers have seen prices decrease or remain stagnant for too long. It is clear the current negotiating structure puts consumers and smaller cattle operations at a disadvantage…,” Feenstra said in a statement.

Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst introduced an identical bill in the Senate. That bill also has bipartisan support.

“This bipartisan bill is the best opportunity we have to make real reform in the cattle market this year and I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to get this across the finish line,” Grassley said.

Grassley law enforcement bills signed into law

Three bills authored or co-sponsored by Grassley became law this week. The laws expand and improve disability protections for law enforcement officers, introduce confidential peer counseling programs and clarifies the legal consequences for the murder of an officer who is serving outside of the U.S. 

“Supporting law enforcement is just common sense,” Grassley said in a statement. “And it’s especially important after departments faced misguided defunding efforts, difficulties maintaining morale and workforce, and an increase in crime.”

Republicans will force a vote on vaccine mandate

Iowa Republicans in both chambers joined a resolution to challenge Biden’s vaccine and testing rules for large companies. Using the Congressional Review Act, the House and Senate will have to vote on whether to overturn the executive order.

Republicans are unlikely to actually overturn the order, but the vote could be tricky politically for moderate Democrats. 

Axne and Miller-Meeks propose changes to health care aid funds

Axne and Miller-Meeks are co-sponsors on a new bill that would distribute Provider Relief Funds more quickly. The bill would also allow providers to use the funds to keep employees safe against rising rates of violence.

“Having the flexibility necessary to use all of the COVID-19 relief funds made available to them is a critical part of this goal,” Miller-Meeks said.

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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.