D.C. Dispatch: Miller-Meeks seeks national monument oversight

Suicide prevention, drug costs, affirmative action also on Iowa lawmakers’ to-do list

By: - September 15, 2023 4:04 pm

President Joe Biden announced on March 21, 2023, the establishment of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in southern Nevada, fulfilling a commitment he made last year. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior)

During a short week in Washington headed into the Rosh Hashanah holiday, members of Iowa’s congressional delegation announced legislation addressing suicide prevention, affirmative action, national monuments and more. 

Check out what the delegates were up to this week:

Miller-Meeks asks for oversight over national monuments

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks introduced legislation Thursday to require congressional approval for the designation of new national monuments.

“We must preserve the use of federal lands for responsible recreational, agricultural and energy use,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “For years, the Obama and Biden administrations used the Antiquities Act to institutionalize massive executive overreach, seizing acres and acres of land without consequence.”

The legislation would require approval from Congress when a president declares a national monument within six months or before the end of the last session of Congress it was introduced, whichever comes first, according to Miller-Meeks’ office. If the declaration does not receive approval from Congress, the same declaration cannot be made for 25 years. 

The Antiquities Act of 1906 law allows the president to, on existing federal lands, establish national monuments, among other regulations for federal lands.

Biden has designated five national monuments so far. The most recent, announced last month, was The Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument.

Nunn’s bill responds to youth suicide rates

In an effort to prevent youth suicide, Rep. Zach Nunn and Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat from Alaska, introduced legislation to require biennial training on suicide prevention and awareness for school teachers and staff. 

“Any life lost to suicide is one too many, especially when it involves a child,” Nunn said in a news release. “Families, classmates and educators should never be left to deal with this kind of loss. We can do more to prevent suicides by properly training those who play a pivotal role in the development of young people, like teachers, faculty and staff.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and the suicide rate increased by more than 50% between 2000-2021. 

The U.S. Department of Education would be responsible for the integration of evidence-based training for all licensed school personnel who interact with students in grades 6-12 under this legislation. 

Nunn formally announced the legislation on Tuesday at YSS in Des Moines. 

Miller-Meeks asks for manufacturing measurements

Miller-Meeks has requested information from the U.S. secretary of commerce on the feasibility of manufacturing more products in the United States and how the supply chain could be improved or harmed by doing so. 

The bipartisan legislation aims to test the feasibility of manufacturing critical infrastructure goods in rural areas, as well as other goods. Specifically, the study would seek out high-demand critical infrastructure products imported due to manufacturing, material or supply chain constraints in the U.S., according to the bill’s text.

“We can no longer let countries, like China, dictate our flow of goods and disrupt our economy,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “The Critical Infrastructure Manufacturing Feasibility Act not only protects the United States from global supply chain issues, but it also determines which rural communities are best suited to manufacture products right here in America.”

The bill calls for an 18-month timeline for the study.

Grassley continues organ procurement push

As part of his push to improve the organ procurement industry, Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to several organ procurement organization (OPO) executives. The letter asks the executives to share examples of when they have abused their position for monetary gain. 

“It’s appalling to think OPO executives could be using their positions to pull strings for their own financial benefit and charge taxpayers for pricey dinners, luxury gifts and flashy entertainment,” Grassley said in a news release.

The House passed the Securing the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Act, another effort by Grassley, which attempts to de-monopolize organ transplantation. The legislation passed the Senate on July 27 and was presented to the president on Thursday.

If signed, the legislation would allow for multiple organ procurement contracts to be accepted after the single contract between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network operated by the United Network for Organ Sharing expires Sept. 30.

Delegates respond to Biden impeachment inquiry and son’s indictment

Iowa’s senators took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to comment on recent news with the Biden family, with Sen. Joni Ernst stating accountability is on the way for the Biden family. 

Grassley called Hunter Biden’s Thursday indictment a “starting point 4 justice.”

Additionally, all four of Iowa’s representatives announced support for an impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Wednesday, a House Republican move the White House called “baseless” and a “political stunt.” 

Grassley on Friday downplayed the inquiry as a fact-finding exercise, as opposed to a move toward impeachment.

“It’s got nothing to do with a step towards impeachment. It’s a process to make sure that we can get information that we’ve been stonewalled. I should say the House, not we, the House, to get information that they’ve been stonewalled by this administration,” Grassley said during recording of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.

Miller-Meeks proposes Medicare adjustment

Legislation benefitting Medicare Part D plans by requiring cost-sharing was introduced by Miller-Meeks. 

“The Share the Savings with Seniors Act lowers out-of-pocket costs for our seniors with chronic medical conditions,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “In today’s economy, where we are battling debilitating inflation rates and skyrocketing prescription prices, our seniors are often looking for financial relief without sacrificing the quality of their medications.

Medication used to treat chronic conditions would require patient cost-sharing based on the net price the plan would pay for the medicine but does not apply when there is a fixed copay, according to Miller-Meeks’ office. 

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Deborah Ross, a Democrat from North Carolina, Earl Carter, a Republican from Georgia, Scott Peters, a Democrat from California and Brad Wenstrup, a Republican from Ohio.

Grassley contests increased sentences

Grassley reintroduced bipartisan legislation to prevent judges from increasing sentences based on conduct that has previously been acquitted by a jury. 

The legislation would allow sentences to only lessen, not increase, based on a prior acquittal by a jury.

“There’s no sense in punishing defendants for conduct they’ve already been acquitted for,” Grassley said in a news release. “Not only have three Supreme Court Justices agreed this practice is unconstitutional, but it also undermines a bedrock principle of American criminal justice: innocent until proven guilty.’”

The bill was introduced in 2021 but failed to move past the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ernst asks Department of Education to study admissions practices

In an attempt to offer “equitable educational opportunities,” the U.S. Department of Justice issued recommendations for colleges and universities to achieve a diverse student body across “a range of factors.”

Ernst and nine other Republican senators sent a letter to the Department of Education demanding a detailed plan to monitor admissions practices to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling. 

“No policies derived from a racially motivated worldview benefit our democracy, our society, or our young college hopefuls,” the letter states. “Each applicant deserves an equal chance to be admitted, regardless of their race. It is concerning to see your Department produce guidance to the contrary.

“We call upon the Biden administration to embrace the full essence of the Court’s holdings in both Students for Fair Admissions and Brown v. Board of Education: neither de facto nor de jure racial discrimination have any place in schooling.”

Cy-Hawk weekend

Members of the Iowa delegation attended the Cy-Hawk football game on Saturday, meeting up with presidential candidates during their stop in Ames. 

Meanwhile, the Grassleys took in the University of Northern Iowa versus Weber State football game. 

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.

Jay Waagmeester
Jay Waagmeester

Jay is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch intern. Jay is based in Ames and is currently a senior majoring in journalism and marketing at Iowa State University. He has interned at New Century Press and contributed to the Iowa State Daily.