D.C. Dispatch: Grassley bill on child sex abuse passes Senate

Iowa’s GOP delegation address farm and medical technology, foreign investment

By: - March 11, 2023 3:19 pm

Olympic gold medalist Simon Biles testifies Sept. 15, 2021, before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee with fellow gymnasts about sexual abuse by Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics doctor. (Screen shot from U.S. Senate livestream)

Iowa’s congressional delegation marked a victory this week with the Senate passage of a bipartisan bill on child sex abuse co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Meanwhile Iowa Republicans proposed bills addressing technology on the farm and medical devices and pushed back at foreign ownership of the national debt and the means of renewable fuel production.

Child sex abuse bill passes Senate

Grassley and Democratic Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff’s bill aiming to tighten child sex abuse laws has passed the Senate and will now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Preventing Child Sex Abuse Act seeks to close loopholes in sexual abuse laws that put former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar into a legal gray area due to jurisdictional issues, since abuse occurred internationally and across state lines, according to a news release.

Members of the U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics team, including gold medalists Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, urged the Senate Judiciary Committee last year to address the FBI’s failure to investigate dozens of complaints of sexual abuse committed by Nassar.

“Although we can’t undo the past, we have a duty to ensure that our nation’s laws are strengthened to prevent future harm from being done,” Grassley said. “

Grassley, Feenstra address energy issues

Grassley, along with Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Dick Durbin of Illinois, reintroduced legislation aimed at price-fixing by oil cartels.

The No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, or NOPEC, would authorize the Justice Department to bring lawsuits against oil cartel members for antitrust violations and remove barriers to legal action on antitrust charges brought against foreign governments for engaging in illegal pricing, production and distribution of petroleum products, according to a press release.

OPEC is an international governmental organization whose members control around three-quarters of the world’s crude oil reserves.

“We’ve seen time and again how OPEC has colluded to set global oil prices, bringing uncertainty and high prices to consumers around the globe. The oil cartel and its member countries need to know that we are committed to stopping their anti-competitive behavior,” Grassley said.

Rep. Randy Feenstra introduced legislation aimed at curbing foreign investment in renewable fuels assets.

The Defend America’s Rural Energy (DARE) Act would “prohibit investment by foreign adversaries …in U.S. real estate suitable for renewable energy or renewable fuels production, particularly ethanol and biodiesel,” according to a news release.

“Due to recent aggressive behavior, we know that our foreign enemies – especially China – have their sights set on our most vital, yet finite resource in rural America: our farmland. That’s why I am proud to lead the DARE Act to defend our farmers and energy producers from Chinese influence and foreign land grabs,” Feenstra said in a news release.

Feenstra bill addresses chemical, biological weapons control

Feenstra also introduced a bill that would impose sanctions on foreign nations whose chemical and biological programs are found to operate with “gross negligence.”

The Holding Countries Accountable for Negligent Chemical and Biological Programs Act would also expand the existing system of sanctions to include countries that “handle hazardous chemicals or biological programs with extreme carelessness,” according to a press release. The bill also would require an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 virus.

“In light of assessments by the Department of Energy and the FBI that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a Chinese lab, I am proud to introduce legislation that will impose ruinous sanctions on our enemies for conducting negligent chemical experiments and spearheading other careless biological programs,” Feenstra said.

Ernst takes aim at foreign ownership of national debt

Sen. Joni Ernst introduced legislation, along with several other GOP lawmakers, that would curtail foreign ownership of the national debt.

The National Debt is National Security Act would limit foreign ownership to 25% of the national debt and specify that no more than 5% of the debt could be owned by any one nation,” according to a press release.

Currently, the total amount of foreign-owned debt is $7.3 trillion. The largest holder of America’s foreign-owned debt is China at $1 trillion, or around 12% of the total.

“Let’s be clear — because we cannot control our spending at home, we have to sell our debt to the Chinese Communist Party, which is undermining our national security, threatening our partners, and committing unspeakable atrocities,” Ernst said. 

Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana co-sponsored the bill.

Hinson introduces bipartisan ag legislation

Rep. Ashley Hinson introduced a bill aimed at expanding producers’ access to precision farm technology. Republican Rep. Brad Finstad of Minnesota and Democratic Reps. Jimmy Panetta of California and Angie Craig of Minnesota co-sponsored the bill.

The Producing Responsible Energy and Conservation Incentives and Solutions for the Environment (PRECISE) Act, would “expand farmers’ access to precision agriculture tools through existing USDA programs,” according to a press release.

Precision agriculture tools use global positioning systems (GPS) technology to guide activities such as fertilizer and herbicide application.

“Farmers are the best stewards of their own land and the ultimate conservationists. I’ve seen the benefits of precision agriculture techniques firsthand – this technology is key to increasing crop yields while also lowering input costs and environmental impacts,” Hinson said.

Biochar research bill introduced by Grassley, bipartisan group of senators

Grassley reintroduced bipartisan legislation aimed at carbon sequestration of agricultural waste productions.

Biochar is black carbon produced from biomass sources such as wood chips, plant residues, manure or other agricultural waste products, according to the USDA’s website. “The main purpose for the creation of biochar is for carbon sequestration.”

The Biochar Research Network Act would establish a “National Biochar Research Network to test the impact of biochar across various soil types, application methods and climates to learn more about its capacity to benefit farmers and the environment,” according to a press release. 

The proposed network would research “productive uses for biochar to help with crop production and climate mitigation, assess biochar’s potential for soil carbon sequestration and deliver cost-effective and practical information to farmers on sustainable biochar production and application,” the release stated.

“Farmers rely on science and innovation to increase crop productivity and advance soil health and water quality goals,” Grassley said. “Biochar presents an exciting opportunity for farmers looking for a low-cost way to improve soil quality while sequestering carbon.”

Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota were co-sponsors of the bill.

Ernst introduces child care legislation

Ernst introduced a bill aimed at expanding child care access.

The Small Business Child Care Investment Act, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada, would make state-licensed non-profit child care providers, including religiously affiliated organizations, eligible for Small Business Administration loans, according to a news release. The providers would have to ensure their employees have criminal background checks.

 Ernst is the ranking member, or top Republican, on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

“When traveling from river to river across Iowa, I consistently hear that access to quality, affordable child care is a workforce barrier for our growing communities,” Ernst said. “This bipartisan, commonsense solution will increase child care options and lessen the burdens on working families by expanding opportunities for providers, including religious non-profits.”

Miller-Meeks introduces medical device interoperability bill

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is seeking more information on how medical technology works together and shares patient data.

The Better Interoperability for Devices (BID) Act would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to submit a report to Congress on the “state of medical device interoperability and the implications of safety and effectiveness,” according to a press release.

A co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Washington, who has type 1 diabetes, expressed “frustration … that there is such limited interoperability between different continuous blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps, which together create an ‘artificial pancreas.’”

Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina and Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota also joined in introducing the bill.

“With constant research, development, and innovation within the medical technology field, it’s imperative new devices are compatible with one another and capable of safely sharing patient data,” Miller-Meeks said. “Our legislation will ensure the Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing medical device interoperability to offer patients top notch care in an efficient manner.” 

Feenstra proposes National Weather Service modernization 

Feenstra introduced a bill to replace the National Weather Service’s (NWS) communications network, NWS Chat.

The National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act would direct the NWS director to “review and select an off-the-shelf commercial alternative to NWS Chat that prioritizes reliability and security,” according to a press release.

“For decades, NWS Chat – which is sorely outdated – has failed our broadcasters, emergency response teams, and the general public. This must change,” Feenstra said. 

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Luke Clausen
Luke Clausen

Luke Clausen was 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.