D.C. Dispatch: Voting rights legislation fails on Senate floor

Iowa lawmakers speak out on abortion, infrastructure and a college readiness program

By: - January 21, 2022 12:57 pm

The U.S. Capitol on Nov. 25, 2021. (Photo by Jane Norman/States Newsroom)

The U.S. Senate filibuster remains intact, despite Democratic efforts this week to circumvent the rule and pass voting rights legislation. 

Iowa’s D.C. delegation this week also recognized the Roe v. Wade anniversary by reaffirming their stances on abortion, celebrated the federal funding of Mississippi River locks and dams, and teamed up on behalf of an Iowa college readiness program.

Here’s what you need to know:

Democratic voting rights bill fails on the Senate floor

So remember how last week, the Democrats were working on a plan to circumvent the Senate filibuster and pass voting rights legislation?

It didn’t work out.

The Senate voted Wednesday on a voting rights bill that would set additional, federal standards for elections across the U.S. Democrats have identified voting rights as a major priority ahead of the 2022 election.

But party leaders knew they didn’t have the 60 votes to pass the legislation. Democrats attempted to change the chamber rules to allow the legislation to pass with only 50 votes. That proposal failed, with two Democratic moderates voting to uphold the filibuster.

Ultimately, both the voting rights legislation and the rule change failed on the floor.

Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, spoke in favor of keeping the filibuster. Grassley said the rule promotes “thorough debate and collaboration where all points of view are heard and amendments are considered.”

Iowa’s senators also objected to the proposed changes to election law.

“Democrats manufactured a crisis in an attempt to destroy the Senate, take control of America’s elections, and fundamentally change our country,” Ernst said in a statement.

Iowa Republicans recognize Roe v. Wade anniversary by reaffirming pro-life beliefs

Jan. 22 is the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion before the fetus is viable outside of the womb.

Iowa’s Republican representatives touted their pro-life beliefs this week, attending the March for Life and issuing statements on their anti-abortion policy records.

Grassley pointed to his A+ rating from the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, and promised to “continue fighting to uphold the sanctity of all human life.”

Ernst reintroduced a proposal to require more state data on abortions, including statistics on any cases where the baby is born alive. 

“This straightforward effort will require states to report abortion data accurately and completely, ensuring that no life is ever ignored, hidden, or forgotten,” Ernst said in a statement.

Several lawmakers attended the annual March for Life event.

Rep. Cindy Axne, Iowa’s only Democrat in D.C., had not released a statement on the anniversary by midday Friday. But Axne voted in favor of the Women’s Health Protection Act last year, a bill that would have essentially codified the Roe v. Wade decision into federal law.

“For nearly half a century, a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body and her reproductive health has been supported by the ruling of our nation’s highest court,” Axne said in a September statement. “Those decisions have been recognized as the law of our land, but recently we have seen a dangerous erosion of that precedent which threatens the health of millions of women.”

Locks, dams and Twitter slams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that it would use $829 million from the federal infrastructure bill to improve locks and dams along the upper Mississippi River. Grassley, the sole Republican in the delegation to vote for the infrastructure package, praised the announcement.

“When I voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I was voting for exactly this type of federal support for critical infrastructure that Iowans depend on,” Grassley said in a statement.

Other members of the delegation also celebrated the funding.

Rep. Ashley Hinson tweeted, “We secured $829 million in federal funding to upgrade locks & dams along the Upper Mississippi River,” calling the investment “game-changing.”

Thousands of people replied to the tweet, noting that Hinson voted against the infrastructure bill and called it “the biggest leap toward socialism this nation has ever seen.” 

“You voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” tweeted Iowa State Sen. Liz Mathis, who will challenge Hinson in the 2nd District this year. “The bill clearly isn’t ‘spending at its worst’ now that you want to take credit for it.”

Days before the package was signed into law, Hinson said in a statement that she supported  “targeted investments in real infrastructure that will improve Iowans’ daily lives,” but objected to additional spending in the bill.

Sophie Seid, communications director for Hinson, tweeted that there was “missing context” to the discussion.

Delegation teams up on college readiness issue

An Iowa college readiness program has been cut off from federal funding, and all six of Iowa’s delegation members want to know why.

The delegation sent a letter this week to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, asking why GEAR UP, an Iowa program to help rural and low-income students prepare for college, was defunded. 

“As a result of the current haphazard application process, the rural kids being helped by GEAR UP Iowa are being left behind,” the letter reads.

Lawmakers asked Cardona to respond by Feb. 18.

Axne: Remove tax subsidy for pharmaceutical ads

Axne introduced a bill this week to prevent pharmaceutical companies from deducting advertising expenses on their federal taxes.

“Iowans are paying more than ever for their prescription drugs while giant pharmaceutical companies clear record profits in part by exploiting loopholes in our tax code to flood our airwaves with T.V. ads subsidized by Iowa tax dollars,” Axne said in a statement.

The bill would prohibit companies from deducting any direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

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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.