D.C. Dispatch: House delegation teams up on bill to improve National Weather Service

By: - April 8, 2022 5:21 pm

Iowa’s delegation in the U.S. House introduced a bill to improve communication systems at the National Weather Service. (Photo courtesy of NWS storm survey)

Following a fatal string of tornadoes in early March, Iowa’s four representatives in the U.S. House cosponsored legislation this week to improve the outdated National Weather Service communications system.

Iowa’s delegation also voted on the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice, called for further aid to Ukraine and criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to end a pandemic-era immigration policy.

House delegation introduces bill to improve National Weather Service communications

Rep. Randy Feenstra and all of Iowa’s House representatives introduced a bill this week to upgrade the communications network for the National Weather Service. The proposal comes after the NWS reported communication delays during a series of tornadoes that moved through Iowa in March, according to the Des Moines Register.

“For too long, NWS Chat has failed our broadcasters, emergency response teams, and the general public,” Feenstra said. “This bipartisan legislation will finally ensure that local officials and emergency personnel receive accurate, timely information that saves lives.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst cosponsored a bill in the Senate last month to test and improve weather alert systems. That bill has not yet come up for a vote.

Grassley, Ernst vote no on Brown Jackson nomination

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court Thursday, after the U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to confirm her appointment.

Iowa’s two Republican senators voted against Jackson’s nomination, citing issues with her judicial philosophy and perceived leniency in criminal cases.

“Her record clearly shows she does not believe in or act within the limited and proper role of a judge, so I will vote against her confirmation,” Grassley said. 

Ernst also raised concerns that Jackson did not define “woman” when asked to do so during her confirmation hearing. Jackson responded that she was not a biologist.

“While I’m grateful Judge Jackson believes science is the basis for determining a woman, I’m deeply concerned that a fellow woman, who is set to define the contours of laws that are specific to women, has to even think about an answer to that question,” Ernst said on the Senate floor. 

Read more: U.S. Senate confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson, ‘America at its best,’ to Supreme Court

Grassley leads bipartisan bill for first responder mental health

Grassley introduced a bill this week to create mental health programs for police officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders. 

“Beyond the physical scars, this essential service can also take a mental and emotional toll,” Grassley said in a statement. “This bill takes an essential step toward ensuring that the brave individuals who respond in critical situations have access to mental health services needed to manage stress, stay healthy and continue to serve our communities.”

The legislation has several Democratic cosponsors.

Bill would extend Medicare’s rural hospital programs

Grassley also cosponsored a bill with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, to reauthorize some rural hospital programs through Medicare. 

“Small, rural hospitals offer good-quality health care at a cost that compares well with urban hospitals’ cost,” Grassley said. “Congress should extend the programs that help keep the doors open for rural Medicare beneficiaries.”

Several Iowa hospital leaders support the reauthorization, according to a Grassley news release.

Senators continue to rally for Ukraine support

  • Grassley and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, proposed a bill to backfill weapons and defense equipment provided by lower-income NATO countries to Ukraine. Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Defense could transfer equipment to other NATO countries that donated their supplies to Ukraine.
  • Ernst and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, led a proposal to further cut off Russia from international groups, suspending them from the UN Human Rights Council, Interpol and the G-20.
  • An Ernst-backed bill to speed up military aid to Ukraine passed the Senate.
  • Ernst and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, met with Ukrainian representatives to discuss the war’s impact on agriculture.

Republicans say Title 42 still needed during ‘ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’

The Biden administration announced last week it would lift Title 42, a pandemic-era immigration policy that allowed the U.S. to turn away more asylum seekers. Iowa’s Republican representatives continued to criticize the idea, arguing the removal of Title 42 would result in a new wave of immigration and the spread of COVID-19 across the southern border.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks led Republicans in a letter, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to implement a new COVID-19 policy for immigrants when Title 42 is lifted.

“Title 42 is the strongest tool available to deter illegal immigration into our country and keep our borders secure during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads. “Our U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers are already overwhelmed, and this decision will only exacerbate the current crisis.”

Feenstra and Rep. Ashley Hinson also signed onto the letter.

Miller-Meeks also introduced a bill that would require border agencies to notify local governments and police agencies about “an impending release of migrants into their jurisdiction.”

Biden signs executive order to fix Affordable Care Act ‘glitch’

Biden signed an executive order Tuesday to fix the “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act, a way to allow some employees with large families to access ACA premium subsidies even if they have insurance through their employer.

Rep. Cindy Axne attended the signing, as did former President Barack Obama.

“The President’s proposal would ensure everyone who should be eligible for these premium subsidies can receive them,” Axne said. “This action will help thousands of Iowa families with affordable access to health care.”

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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.

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