D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers continue focus on China, immigration

By: - February 5, 2023 10:59 am

The U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Getty Images)

The discovery of a Chinese surveillance satellite flying over the United States drew alarm from members of the Iowa congressional delegation, who were already moving on anti-China legislation.

Rep. Ashley Hinson called the incident a “security failure” by the Biden administration.

Rep. Randy Feenstra, in a tweet, said: “China is violating our airspace & buying our farmland.”

The U.S. military shot down the balloon over the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Feenstra, Hinson and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks have introduced legislation related to Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland.

The two Iowa Republicans helped introduce legislation that bars anyone associated with the Chinese Communist Party from buying American farmland. The Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act was introduced with Washington Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse.

“China must be banned from buying our farmland because American farmland belongs to American farmers,” Feenstra said in a news release.

Hinson pointed out the national security threats in foreign ownership of agricultural land.
“The Chinese Communist Party has been strategically buying up U.S. farmland – including near military bases – threatening our agriculture industry, our food supply, and our national security,” Hinson said.

Hinson, Ernst, seek increased support for trade programs

Hinson also helped introduce bipartisan legislation to increase funding for two programs aimed at expanding markets for U.S. agricultural products.

The Agriculture Export Promotion Act would increase funding for two U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), according to a press release.

“The Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program have proven to be valuable tools that help American producers access new export markets while offering a strong return on investment,” Hinson said. “The Agriculture Export Promotion Act will help ensure that Iowa farmers have greater resources to remain competitive in the global marketplace, improve food security, and support our rural economy.”

Sen. Joni Ernst announced introduction of parallel legislation in the Senate, the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act.

“The continued success and growth of Iowa, and the American agricultural industry, is dependent on strong trade. The MAP and FMD programs help ensure Iowa farmers have strong commodity markets and export opportunities, adding value to farmers’ bottom line and our state’s economy,” Ernst said in a news release.

Cattle price transparency

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sens. Deb Fischer, Ron Wyden and Jon Tester introduced legislation aimed at improving the cattle market for producers.

There are about 850 dairy farms in Iowa, ranging in size from 25 to 10,000 cows. (Photo courtesy of Iowa State Dairy Association)

The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2023 would “restore transparency and accountability in the cattle market by establishing regional cash minimums and equipping producers with more market information, including permanently authorizing a cattle contract library,” according to a press release.

“Iowa cattle producers have struggled to receive a fair price for years – long before the massive market distortions cattle producers have endured most recently,” Grassley said. “It’s past time for Congress to stand with independent cattle producers and put an end to the cozy relationship between large meat packers and big cattle feedlots.”

Grassley introduces crime, drone legislation

Grassley, with Democratic Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, introduced legislation aimed at investigating and prosecuting organized retail crime.

The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 would create a “Center to Combat Organized Retail Crime at Homeland Security Investigations that combines expertise from state and local law enforcement agencies as well as retail industry representatives.” according to a news release.

Grassley said organized theft rings “have been developing new tactics to pilfer goods, causing economic harm to American businesses and putting consumers at risk while funding transnational criminal organizations throughout the world. … This bill improves our federal response to organized retail crime and establishes new tools to recover goods and illicit proceeds, and deter future attacks on American retailers.”

Grassley and Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff also reintroduced legislation to allow homicide prosecutions to proceed regardless of how long ago the crime occurred.

The Justice for Murder Victims Act would “eliminate the 13th century ‘year-and-a-day’ rule, which prohibits homicide prosecutions if the victim died more than a year-and-a-day from the date of the defendant’s assault… so there is no maximum prosecutorial time period between the assault and death of the victim,” according to a news release.

Parallel legislation was introduced in the House by Republican Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia.

Grassley, with Democratic Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, also introduced legislation expanding criminal penalties for “dangerous” drone activity.

The Drone Act of 2023 would expand the list of criminal offenses considered dangerous drone activity and “make them punishable with a $250,000 fine or a prison sentence,” according to a press release.

“As drone usage continues to increase, we have to modernize our laws to deter criminal activity. Significant effort went into making sure this bill doesn’t stifle the positive aspects of drone innovation. A lot of work also went into making sure this bill gives law enforcement the tools it needs to go after terrorists and drug cartels that use drones to advance their dangerous enterprises,” Grassley said in a statement.

Additionally, Grassley, along with a group of 44 other senators, introduced guns rights legislation.
The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act “allows individuals with concealed carry privileges in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state with concealed carry laws.”

It treats state-issued concealed carry permits “like drivers’ licenses where an individual can use their home-state license to drive in another state, but must abide by that other state’s speed limit or road laws,” according to a press release.

Republicans keep attention on immigration

Feenstra, Miller-Meeks and Ernst reintroduced legislation to require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented immigrants charged with killing or seriously injuring another person.

“Sarah’s Law” is named for Sarah Root, 21, of Council Bluffs, was killed seven years ago by a drunk driver who was undocumented.

“Instead of being prosecuted for his crimes, he was released from custody and never seen again,” Feenstra said. “No family should have to endure the pain of losing a child like the Root family did.”

Ernst emphasized that the proposed law would close a significant loophole in criminal immigration law. “Because of a small loophole in our law, for seven years now, Sarah’s killer has walked free, and the Root family has been robbed of justice,” Ernst said. “… This straightforward bill would ensure that illegal immigrants responsible for these crimes cannot slip into the shadows and instead will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Grassley also reintroduced legislation aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from securing employment in the U.S.

The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act would “permanently authorize and expand the E-Verify program, an internet-based system that assists employers in determining whether current or prospective employees are authorized to work in the United States [and] require employers to use the program to determine workers’ eligibility,” according to a news release.

Miller-Meeks and Ernst were part of a GOP delegation visiting the Southern border.

Nunn, Hinson blast national Democrats for dropping Iowa caucuses

Rep. Zach Nunn and Hinson were among Iowa Republicans criticizing Saturday’s decision by the Democratic National Committee to drop the Iowa caucuses as an early nominating contest for 2024.

Nunn blamed the Iowa Democratic Party, which opposed the national party’s move.

Hinson called the decision a “slap in the face to all Iowans.”

Iowa congressional delegation honors George Washington Carver

The Iowa House and Senate delegations honored the legacy of George Washington Carver, designating Feb. 1, 2023 as “George Washington Carver Day.”

“George Washington Carver was one of the greatest agricultural scientists of all time, and as Iowans we’re proud that he chose to pursue his education at Iowa State University,” Miller-Meeks said. “I’m proud to join this resolution to honor Carver’s legacy.”

Committee updates

Miller-Meeks was appointed to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and now chairs the Health Subcommittee.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, and as Chair of the Health Subcommittee on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs,” Miller-Meeks said in a press release.

Ernst was named the top Republican of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“As Ranking Member, I will bring the voices of Iowa’s entrepreneurs to the table and work with my colleagues to get Washington off their backs and allow our small businesses to thrive,” Ernst said in a press release.

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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.