D.C. Dispatch: Infrastructure bill sends $675 million for Iowa roads, airports

By: - December 17, 2021 2:08 pm

Lock and Dam 11 in the Mississippi River at Dubuque. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Happy holidays, Iowa. The U.S. House and Senate were in session this week, scrambling to pass bills before a winter recess. Democrats managed to raise the country’s debt ceiling, but they did not find a compromise on the Build Back Better Act before a self-imposed Christmas deadline. Meanwhile, Iowa’s delegation launched new proposals on teacher retention and biofuels. 

Infrastructure bill funds flow to Iowa roads, airports

Money from the bipartisan infrastructure package is arriving in Iowa. This week, Rep. Cindy Axne announced $650 million will go toward repairing Iowa’s roads and bridges, and $24 million will go to update and repair airports.

“I helped approve our bipartisan infrastructure law to fund the fixes that Iowa needs, and create good-paying local jobs to make those repairs happen,” Axne said in a statement.

Grassley also voted in favor of the infrastructure bill.

Senate launches bipartisan biofuels bill

Iowa’s delegation is striking back after the Environmental Protection Agency issued amended biofuel standards earlier this month. 

The EPA sets annual requirements for how many gallons of biofuels oil refiners must blend into their product. On Dec. 7, the EPA retroactively lowered the 2020 standard and set new goals for 2021 and 2022. Iowa Republicans said changing the 2020 standard created confusion and inconsistency, and they argued the 2021 goal was too low. 

This week, Grassley and fellow Republican Sen. Joni Ernst introduced a bill in the Senate that would prohibit the EPA from lowering blending requirements after they are set. The legislation mirrors a bill introduced by Hinson in the House last month

“With EPA’s most recent proposed action of lowering RVO numbers from 2020’s final rule, who’s to say that won’t happen again?” Grassley said in a statement. “It is critical that we establish new safeguards that uphold the RFS and ensure all administrations remain committed to following the law.”

Build Back Better stalled until new year

Senate Democrats planned to pass the Build Back Better Act by Christmas, but party leaders conceded this week that the $1.85 trillion plan isn’t going to meet that deadline.

“It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote,” Biden said in a statement.

The bill needs to pass on a razor-thin margin, with support from every single Democrat in the Senate. Some moderate hold-outs – notably Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – refuse to sign onto the plan as it passed the House last month.

Read more: Next child tax credit payments dependent on Senate negotiations

Grassley says Jan. 6 riot in D.C. did not worsen partisanship

Reporters asked Grassley this week to reflect on the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and whether that event changed politics in the county.

Grassley responded that he did not believe the event affected partisanship in D.C.

“The partisanship in Washington … that was already bad, and it’s not worse because of January the 6th,” he said.

Senate passes $770 billion defense bill

The Senate on Wednesday approved the annual defense spending bill on a bipartisan basis. Grassley and Ernst voted in favor of the legislation, even after they criticized the bill last week for not doing enough on military sexual assault reform

In a release, Ernst said the final bill does include steps forward on sexual assault persecution within the military. She also praised the bill’s authorization for a war on terror memorial on the national mall, something Ernst has campaigned for over several months.

“Having served over 23 years in the Armed Forces, I know firsthand how vitally important it is to ensure our men and women in uniform have the support and resources they need to defend America today and in the future,” Ernst said in the release

Axne proposes teacher retention bill

Axne introduced a bill last Friday that would provide $15 million for Iowa teacher recruitment and retention efforts. The proposal comes in response to a nationwide teacher shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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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.