D.C. Dispatch: Republicans urge Supreme Court to limit federal waterway control

By: - April 22, 2022 2:07 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider federal water regulation laws. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

Iowa Republicans are again rallying against federal waterway restrictions, voicing their opposition as part of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case.

While the House and Senate were out of session this week, members of Iowa’s D.C. delegation also sent letters on crime, “junk” health insurance plans and railway delays.

Republican members join amicus brief on WOTUS

All five of Iowa’s Republican delegation members signed onto an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to limit federal control of waterways. 

The case revolves around the definition of “waters of the United States” or WOTUS. Some parts of the Clean Water Act apply only to those bodies of water, but the definition has shifted over the years and across various administrations. Iowa Republicans have called for less restrictive WOTUS rules, arguing a return to Obama-era policy would hurt farmers

The Supreme Court will consider the WOTUS definition when justices resolve a dispute between Michael and Chantell Sackett and the Environmental Protection Agency. According to SCOUTSblog, the Sacketts wanted to build a home on a plot of land, but the EPA said doing so would violate the Clean Water Act, as there were wetlands on the property.

Republicans nationwide have seized on the case, using it as an opportunity to advocate for limiting federal control of waterways.

“Like the members of Congress that enacted the CWA, [we] support policies that protect the environment while also ensuring that States retain their traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources, and that farmers, manufacturers, small business owners, and property owners like the Petitioners in this case can develop and use their land free of over-burdensome, job-killing federal regulations,” the brief reads.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst, Rep. Randy Feenstra, Rep. Ashley Hinson and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks all signed on to the amicus brief. Rep. Cindy Axne, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s delegation, did not sign.

The Iowa Farm Bureau also signed on to a different amicus brief, SCOTUSblog reports.

Related: State Auditor Rob Sand released a report this week alleging the Department of Natural Resources has violated the Clean Water Act.

Grassley says Democrats should take responsibility for increased crime rates

Grassley sent a wide-ranging letter to President Joe Biden this week, criticizing Biden’s nominee for the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and blaming Democrats for rising crime rates in cities.

“I am also concerned about the unprecedented 30% spike in murders that began as blue cities pulled their police forces off the streets in the summer of 2020,” Grassley wrote. “Democrats have recently attempted to shift the blame for the rise in violence in blue cities to not only lawful gun owners, but also conservative states.”

A USA Today fact check found increased homicide rates in major cities were not directly tied to police funding. It is still unclear what caused the significant, nationwide increase in homicides.

“It is disturbing to see Democrats refuse to take responsibility for the rising crime rate and find other people to blame, such as lawful firearms owners,” Grassley wrote.

Grassley also objected to Biden’s pick to lead ATF, Steven Dettelbach. Dettelbach is a Democrat and former federal prosecutor. Grassley said Dettelbach’s record showed an “outright favoritism of expansive gun control.”

The position of ATF director is always a tricky one to fill: the Senate has not successfully confirmed a director since 2013, according to CNN. 

Axne leads letter against ‘junk plans’

Axne sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, asking them to regulate the sale of “junk plans” – short-term health insurance plans that are exempt from some Affordable Care Act protections. Former President Barack Obama limited the plans to three-month terms, but former President Donald Trump expanded that window, allowing junk plans to last for up to a year, with options to renew coverage for another three years.

Axne and 41 colleagues on the letter called for HHS to once again limit the use of the plans. 

“Junk plans pose clear risks to consumers, undermine the strength of the ACA, and are incompatible with the goal of making affordable, high-quality health insurance accessible to all Americans,” the letter reads.

Axne, Feenstra call for action on slow rail shipments

Feenstra and Axne sent a letter asking the Surface Transportation Board to address delayed rail shipments in the agriculture industry.

“The longer these issues persist, the greater the effect it will have on the entire agriculture supply chain,” the letter reads. “Producers in Iowa are already concerned about grain bin space for this year’s harvest as delays continue to add up and they are unable to move last year’s crop.”

Feenstra backs bill to exempt guns from bankruptcy

Feenstra signed onto a Republican-led bill to allow debtors to exempt up to $3,000 worth of firearms from bankruptcy proceedings.

“The Second Amendment is one of the most fundamental rights in our Constitution,” Feenstra said. “Bankruptcy proceedings should not disqualify any American from exercising their constitutional freedoms.”

The bill has no Democratic cosigners – a bad sign for its prospects in the Democrat-controlled House.

Youth Straw Poll shows strong support for Republican incumbents

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office polled over 10,000 Iowa students for its Iowa Youth Straw Poll last week. 

The results showed a preference for Republican incumbents: Gov. Kim Reynolds won 65% of the vote, and Grassley won the simulated Senate race with 40% of the vote. His primary challenger, state Sen. Jim Carlin, had 23% of the vote, followed by Democratic competitor Abby Finkenauer, with 19%.

Iowa’s House incumbents all won their straw poll races. Miller-Meeks, Hinson and Feenstra won over 60% of the vote for their districts. 

Axne had a closer race against her three Republican competitors: she won 29% of the vote, beating Nicole Hasso by just 17 votes.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.