D.C. Dispatch: House members appointed to committees; lawmakers take aim at China

By: - January 15, 2023 2:26 pm

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa speaks at a press conference following Senate Republicans’ vote on their leadership for the next Congress. From left to right are GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell, John Barrasso, John Thune, Shelley Moore Capito, and Steve Daines. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

After the weeklong delay caused by the prolonged speakership election, Iowa’s House members have finally received their committee assignments, allowing them to begin their work in Congress.

On the other side of the Capitol building, Sen. Joni Ernst joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call for increased interreligious dialogue and Sen. Chuck Grassley is gearing up for some big fights on agriculture.

House members clinch prominent committees

Typically, House members serve on only one or two committees, whereas senators may serve on up to four or five committees.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks was appointed to serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a committee that could allow more influence on topics from renewable energy to consumer protection.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce,” Miller-Meeks said in a press release. “I’m proud of my background as a surgeon, and I’m confident that experience, paired with Iowa’s leadership in the clean energy space, leaves me uniquely qualified for this role.”

Rep. Ashley Hinson was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, which controls government spending, a position she held in the last session of Congress.

“As the only Iowan on this committee, I will continue to watch your taxpayer dollars like a hawk, work to restore fiscal responsibility, bring critical investments back home, and ensure our state has a seat at the table,” Hinson said in a news release.

Rep. Zach Nunn was appointed to the House Financial Services Committee, which regulates finance, banking and currency.

“With Des Moines being an influential insurance and financial hub known around the world, I’m honored to be selected to sit on the House Financial Services Committee and intend to be a leading voice for top employers and their employees in our state,” Nunn said in a press release. “On Financial Services, we’ll be prioritizing rebuilding our economy, combatting China’s malign influence and working across the aisle to put Americans back in control of their personal financial data.”

Rep. Randy Feenstra was appointed to the House Ways and Means Committee, another influential House committee that oversees taxation and tariffs.

“From agriculture and trade matters to healthcare and tax policy, Ways and Means covers a wide array of legislative priorities important to our agricultural community and rural way of life,” Feenstra said in a news release. “As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I will continue to be a strong voice for Iowa families, farmers, producers, taxpayers, and small business owners who deserve a seat at the table.”

In the Senate, Grassley will continue serving on the Senate Budget, Finance, Judiciary and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committees, along with the Joint Committee on Taxation, holding Iowa’s place in powerful committees.

Ernst will continue serving on the Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry committees this session.

Big votes, big issues

China was a primary focus at the start of this session, along with abortion and the IRS.

The House voted to establish a Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, or more colloquially, the Select Committee on China. All four of Iowa’s House members voted to establish the committee.

“The United States is the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world, but China will stop at nothing to threaten our economy, buy up American farmland, and undermine our interests,”  Feenstra said in news release. “By establishing a select committee to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s alarming aggression, Republicans are sending a clear message to China and their sympathizers that we will not be intimidated by their reckless behavior. In Congress, I will continue my work to prevent China from purchasing our farmland and jeopardizing our national security.”

The House, including all of Iowa’s members, also voted to end selling oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China.

“China represents the greatest threat to our national, economic, energy, and food security. From buying up American farmland to stonewalling investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, China cannot be trusted,” Feenstra said in a statement.

More locally, Hinson and other House members are backing a bill that would end foreign ownership of farmland. This comes after the purchase of farmland near a military base in North Dakota, which critics said raised security concerns.

Republicans also approved legislation on providing medical care to babies who survive an abortion and defunding new money provided to the IRS by the last session of Congress. Iowa’s House members voted in favor of both pieces of legislation.

Grassley also weighed in on foreign ownership of farmland by responding with proposed legislation.

“I plan to reintroduce my bipartisan bill that bans the federal government from allowing foreign individuals to obtain credit and financial services through the Farm Credit System,” Grassley said.

Grassley, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, co-sponsored legislation to “prevent the Farm Credit Administration from underwriting foreign buyers seeking to purchase U.S. farmland.

Grassley said the bill would amend the 1971 Farm Credit Act to “ensure foreign nationals can’t obtain financing through federal government-backed financial institutions to purchase American farmland.”

He will also be proposing changes to the Conservation Reserve Program that he said would make it easier for domestic farmers to buy land.

Grassley makes oversight moves

Grassley, in his position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, announced he is seeking a review of a program that allows employees of private companies to serve in federal government roles. He said he is seeking to determine whether a non-profit organization with ties to Google CEO Eric Schmidt was creating a conflict of interest for federal employees who work with the organization.

Grassley said in a press release and letter that he wants to ensure that the Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignees who worked with the Federation of American Scientists were under no conflict of interest due to the influence of Schmidt’s money. Schmidt has donated to FAS in the past.

Ernst encourages interreligious dialogue

Ernst, who co-chairs the Abraham Accords Caucus, sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain, pressing for increased interreligious dialogue in the region where the Abraham Accords are in effect, she announced in a press release. Those countries include Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan.

Also signing the letter were Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; James Lankford, R-Okla., and Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.; Brad Schneider, D-Ill.; David Trone, D-Md.; and Ann Wagner, R-Mo.

The Abraham Accords Caucus was created to promote peace between Israel and its neighbors.

Supreme Court, balanced budget

Hinson introduced Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, at a press conference Saturday, where Johnson announced a bill that would ensure that the number of Supreme Court justices stays at nine. The “Keep the Nine” amendment is a response to some Democrats calling for an increased number of justices on the court due to outsized conservative influence.

Additionally, Nunn introduced his first bill, one that would amend the Constitution to force the federal government to have a balanced budget and require a certain number of members to pass certain fiscal and monetary measures.

“It’s time to restore a sensible, functional government that works for the American people, not one that irresponsibly spends money and taxes us,” Nunn said in in a news release. “Having a balanced budget is a step in the right direction to restoring good public service to every single American regardless of party or background.”

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen is a reporting intern with Iowa Capital Dispatch. He is a student at Drake University studying Multimedia Journalism, Magazine and Brand Media, and International Relations. Additionally, he helps to manage the Ambassador-in-Residence initiative at Drake with Ambassador Terry Branstad and Drake's Global Engagement team.