D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers tackle inflation, birth control access

By: - July 22, 2022 5:09 pm

Those who oppose the Biden administration have sought to blame the president for high fuel costs, sometimes by affixing stickers to fuel pumps. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa lawmakers in Washington are pressing the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to take action on inflation.

U.S. inflation reached a 40-year high in June as prices for gas, food and rent rose according to the Consumer Price Index. Some studies show that rising prices hit Iowa harder. Rural households are more vulnerable to the impact of high gas prices and lagging wages, an Iowa Small Towns Project study found.

The Federal Reserve plans to raise its interest rates next week in an attempt to combat the impact of inflation. The move would raise interest rates on consumer loans, which can be used for home mortgages, cars and student debt. In a House Budget Committee hearing Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Randy Feenstra said the move will hurt American families.

“In Iowa, families are sitting around the kitchen table trying to figure out how they are going to make ends meet because of skyrocketing inflation. Gas and grocery prices are at record highs while paychecks are shrinking in real terms,” Feenstra said in the committee meeting.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley also called on Congress to help families struggling with rising costs of living. Grassley introduced a proposal for the Family and Community Inflation Relief Act to the Senate Thursday to help middle- and low-income families through tax credits.

The legislation would adjust the thresholds currently required for families and students to receive certain tax benefits and assistance from government programs based on rising costs. The proposed legislation would impact people applying for benefits through programs like the Child Tax Credit, Student Loan Interest Deduction and American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Grassley said the proposal was in response to the hardships families are facing due to rising costs.

“While President Biden has failed to produce any meaningful solutions to the economic crisis he created, I’ll continue working on commonsense policies that will help Americans weather this soaring inflation,” Grassley said in a news release.

Alternatives to contraceptive bill

U.S. Reps. Marianette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson did not vote for the legislation guaranteeing people the right to use contraception without government interference that passed the House Thursday. But the two Iowa Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday to make U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved oral contraceptives available over the counter.

This act would not impact people’s legal access to contraceptives. The House bill passed this week was in response to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the case overturning Roe v. Wade in June, in which Thomas called on the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider other decisions, including those which established rights to gay marriage and access to birth control.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne voted for the measure, which would prevent states from imposing restrictions on birth control access.

“People deserve the right to make decisions about when they want to have children, and the ability to access contraceptives is critical to that,” Axne said in a news release. “The decision last month in Dobbs v. Jackson decision sadly threatens that right, which is why it is so critical that Congress acts to ensure Iowans and all Americans are able to access birth control if they want it.”

The House also passed legislation this week that would codify the right to same-sex marriage in response to Thomas’ opinion. Miller-Meeks and Hinson voted in favor of the measure.

Hinson said she and Miller-Meeks’ bill would expand access to birth control.

“I have long advocated for better access to birth control, and today I am proud to introduce legislation that will make birth control pills available over the counter for adult women,” she said in a news release. “Millions of American women safely use oral contraceptives and enabling women to access birth control pills at their local pharmacy is commonsense policy.”

Miller-Meeks talked about passing a similar piece of legislation while she was in the Iowa State Senate in a news release.

“As a woman and a doctor, I recognize the need for increased access to contraceptives and believe that this bill is an important step to promote women’s health,” Miller-Meeks said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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