D.C. Dispatch: Delegates weigh in on vacant chair and the Farm Bill

By: - October 6, 2023 5:01 pm

The U.S. Capitol Building. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

After avoiding a government shutdown, the U.S. House stuck around longer than planned to remove its speaker this week. The House also delayed voting on a new speaker — and anything else — until at least next week. 

See what Iowa’s delegates were up to this week amid the looming shutdown and the vacancy in the speaker’s office.

Thoughts on vacating the chair

In a rare occurrence, a motion to vacate the office of the Speaker of the House was filed, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, removed from the House’s highest-ranking position. 

Iowa’s delegates supported McCarthy, voting for him to remain in the job. 

“Under Speaker McCarthy’s leadership, House Republicans have passed appropriations bills covering over 70% of discretionary spending and $2 trillion in spending cuts, passed legislation to give the largest pay raise to service members in two decades and clawed back billions from the Biden Administration’s woke agenda,” Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “Matt Gaetz and his minions are single-handedly derailing our progress and eroding our ability to pass appropriation bills, hold committee hearings, investigate the Biden family corruption, issue subpoenas and work to secure the border and reduce crime.”

Rep. Zach Nunn weighed in on X, formerly known as Twitter, writing: “We have just 45 days to pass bills to get spending under control. Wasting even one day voting on a motion to vacate instead of budget cuts is self defeating & DC politics at its worst. I am a NO on the motion to vacate & a YES to getting back to work for Americans.” 

Rep. Ashley Hinson also criticized Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the push to remove McCarthy from the role.

“Republicans had an opportunity to focus all our energy against the disastrous Biden agenda that has resulted in open borders, rampant inflation and skyrocketing crime,” Hinson said in a news release. “Instead, Matt Gaetz has paralyzed the House and brought our work for the American people to a halt. Hardworking Americans are the ones who pay the price for political games like these – not the selfish politicians who play them.”

Since McCarthy has left the seat, Miller-Meeks and Hinson spoke up about who they want to see fill the role next: Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Miller-Meeks wrote,I am proud to support Steve Scalise in his bid to become the 56th Speaker of the House. Under his leadership, this Conference will unite and continue to the great work for the American people. It’s time to get the Republicans “Back In The Game!”

“We need a speaker who will unite our historically thin majority so we can put the drama behind us and help deliver the most conservative legislation possible as we are faced with several looming and important deadlines,” Hinson said in a news release. “Steve Scalise is the right person for the job and has my full support to be our speaker.”

The fate of the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill, updated every five years, has expired. The bill has yet to receive an update, and committee work still needs to be done to advance the bill.

During Sen. Chuck Grassley’s weekly Capitol Hill Report, the Senate’s most senior member told reporters his thoughts on the Farm Bill’s prospects, saying an extension of the current bill, rather than a new one, is most likely the next move.

“I think the future of the five-year Farm Bill is not very realistic, but we will have a one-year or two-year extension of the existing farm bill, so farmers will continue to have the protection of the farm bill,” Grassley said. “What they won’t get, that they ought to have if we have a five-year Farm Bill, is probably some increase in preference pricing to protect the low prices we have right now for corn and soybeans.”

Grassley said a reason to update the bill is to give farmers more relief on products that have increased in price, like fertilizers. 

Sen. Joni Ernst said in a Sept. 27 hearing that “we do not have at this time meaningful progress on the Farm Bill.”

Senate passes Iowan-led stillbirth legislation

Hinson introduced a bill in July to support stillbirth prevention activities by allowing federal funds to research such initiatives. The bill passed the Senate this week and awaits a vote in the House.

“Stillbirth is a preventable tragedy — we can end this silent crisis and ensure no mom or dad has to endure the pain of a stillbirth,” Hinson said in a news release

Grassley is an original co-sponsor of the Senate version of Hinson’s bill, and advocated for the passage of the bill that would amend the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant of the Social Security Act.

“No family should have to endure the heartbreak of a stillbirth,” Grassley said in a news release. “Effective problem solving starts with having a thorough understanding of root causes, contributors and vulnerabilities. Our bill would get rid of limits on federal resources, so that the medical community can further pursue evidence-based efforts to support expectant moms and save babies’ lives.”

Feenstra fights trade barriers

Rep. Randy Feenstra joined an effort to introduce an act to create a joint task force to identify export opportunities and dismantle trade barriers for agricultural products. 

The proposed legislation would create a task force between the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

The task force would dismantle tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, according to Feenstra’s office. 

“President Biden has abandoned and punished our farmers on every front imaginable,” Feenstra said in a news release. “His new WOTUS rule invites federal bureaucrats to saddle Iowa farmers with costly red tape, his electric vehicle mandates threaten the vitality of our biofuels industry and his economic agenda jeopardizes long-standing provisions in the tax code to strengthen Iowa agriculture. Even worse, he has no interest in negotiating new trade agreements that would expand our export capacity or holding foreign countries – like Mexico and Brazil – accountable for their unfair trade practices.”

Ernst against Iran

Ernst proposed a law to enforce what her office described as “maximum sanctions” on Iran. 

The bill has garnered support from 27 other senators, all Republicans, including Grassley.

The bill extends sanctions and national emergencies related to Iran established by executive orders and limits the authority of the president to waive sanctions related to Iran, according to the summary of the bill. 

The bill would maintain sanctions until the Department of State can certify there has not been an Iranian-supported attempt or activity to kill a U.S. citizen, former or current U.S. official or Iranian dissident living in the U.S., according to Ernst’s office. 

“President Biden’s strategy of appeasement continues to risk the lives of Americans at home and abroad,” Ernst said in a news release. “Iran cannot be allowed to continue to attempt to kill U.S. citizens and Iranian dissidents with impunity. The world’s number-one state sponsor of terrorism is not to be trusted. I’m holding President Biden accountable by preventing his administration from providing Tehran with another cent of sanctions relief.”

Ernst has been part of several efforts this year to limit threats from Iran, including asking President Joe Biden to enforce oil and gas sanctions and a law to combat air attacks and strengthen missile defense capabilities. 

Senators: Market news is essential

Grassley and Ernst sent a letter to former governor of Iowa and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, asking the USDA to classify the Market News Department as essential in the event of a government shutdown. 

The department, which provides market information to contributors in the supply chain, plays “a pivotal role in the agricultural sector,” the letter states. 

A shutdown has been averted until at least mid-November, but the letter asks Vilsack to keep the service as essential for any future shutdowns.

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.