D.C. Dispatch: Iowa lawmakers back Israel and fret over the speakership

By: - October 13, 2023 2:19 pm

Members of Congress gather on the steps of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, Oct. 12, for a candlelit prayer vigil and moment of silence honoring the victims of the Hamas attacks on Israel. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

Iowa’s congressional delegation focused heavily on Hamas attacks on Israel this week and called for a rescission of money provided to Iran in a September deal.

At the same time, House members are sorting out the speakership after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted more than a week ago. 

Check out the lawmakers’ posts to social media and their statements on the topics Congress is discussing this week:

Resolutions support of Israel, oppose Hamas and Iran

Following attacks by Hamas militants that have killed more than 1,300, including 27 Americans, President Joe Biden called on Congress to take action to address Israel’s security. 

Several Iowa lawmakers have aired concerns that funds sent to Iran are being used to support Hamas, and representatives have introduced resolutions to aid Israel and stop support to Iran.

Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Zach Nunn introduced resolutions this week, and all four Iowa representatives have cosponsored several pro-Israel resolutions. 

Miller-Meeks’ resolution asks Biden to rescind Iran’s access to the $6 billion the country was granted in September in exchange for releasing U.S. prisoners.

Additionally, the resolution asks Biden to maintain sanctions on Iran and to utilize all resources necessary to release Americans detained in Gaza.

Sen. Joni Ernst posted to X, stating Hamas is funded by Iran. 

Rep. Ashley Hinson posted on X, stating Hamas is no different from ISIS, a terrorist group associated with Iraq and Syria.

Nunn’s resolution declares support for Israel and would classify cross-border attacks as terrorism. The resolution also asks Biden to provide military support and calls for all countries to remove Hamas personnel from any country where they may reside. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley also released a statement targeted at terrorists, saying, “To any bad actors who dare cross onto American soil seeking to exploit the crisis in Israel and wreak havoc domestically, our message is clear: Any threat to the United States will be pursued and suppressed swiftly, forcefully and to the fullest extent of U.S. justice. Your vile and hateful acts have no place here.” 

In a letter to Biden this week, Grassley and nine other Republican senators asked the chief executive to convene the G-7, the seven leading industrial nations, to place sanctions on Iran and deny the release of the $6 billion. 

“Every dollar within the grasp and control of the Iranian regime is used to fund terrorism and fuel its power,” the letter reads. “That is why we must isolate Iran and cut it off economically. Without sources of revenue, Iran will be unable to fund the mass terror it supports around the globe.”

The senators stated the $6 billion played a role in the attacks.

Ernst and Miller-Meeks, along with three Democrats and one other Republican, visited the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and Israel, this week. The delegation met with American families and foreign leaders and discussed recent aggression in Israel. 

Standing at the Israel and Jordan border, Ernst said “so many families hurt, children and women killed, brutally savaged by Hamas coming over the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel. They are savages, and this can’t stand. If you are part of civil society, you cannot allow this to happen.”

Hamas has taken about 150 hostages, including 17 Americans, as of Wednesday, and Iowa’s delegation has been speaking out about it.

“Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, has experienced some of the most heinous acts in recent history over the last four days, and at least 150 individuals are still being brutalized and held hostage by Hamas,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release.

In Washington, Miller-Meeks is emphasizing support for Israel, too. 

Hinson said America must “thwart” terrorist threats at home and against allies, which includes closing the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“We must bring Americans home, return to maximum pressure sanction on Iran, provide Israel with military and intelligence support needed to eradicate Hamas, call out anti-Semitism in every form, and take steps to thwart terrorist threats to our allies and the United States, including by securing the southern border,” Hinson said in a news release.

Hinson also called for America to show leadership, moral clarity and support for Israel.

Nunn, who along with Miller-Meeks and Ernst, has a military background, stated a strong response to the attacks is needed. 

“The Iranian-backed terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas against Israel this weekend was barbaric and demands a strong response,” Nunn said in a news release. “Congress must be unwavering in our support of Israel’s right to defend herself, including through immediate intelligence, diplomatic and military support from the United States. We must not abandon our strongest ally in the Middle East during her moment of need.” 

Representatives held a vigil at the U.S. Capitol Thursday to pray for Israel.

Rep. Randy Feenstra said he is praying for those who have lost loved ones, the Israeli military and more. 

“The United States unequivocally stands with the people of Israel in their fight to defend their homeland, protect their families and safeguard their communities,” Feenstra said in a news release. “… I continue to pray for the families who have lost loved ones, the brave Israeli military and peace in the region.”

Speaker’s race

After ousting McCarthy from the role of speaker, the House remains without a top leader  more than a week later. All four of Iowa’s representatives had backed McCarthy for speaker and opposed his ouster.

A majority of House GOP members chose Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as their choice for speaker in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, but he lacked the votes to win election. 

Thursday, Scalise dropped out of the race for speaker. Later that day, Hinson posted to X that the House must become solution-oriented, and GOP members will meet Friday to “discuss a path forward.”

Nunn called for a functioning government and said he cares about getting policy to the floor and said he cares less about who the speaker is in a news conference Thursday.

Student debt debate continues

Grassley sent a letter Monday to the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, asking for “legal reforms through the legislative process,” to lessen student debt. 

Iowa Republicans have proposed various alternatives to the Biden administration’s proposals to forgive or reduce federal student loan repayment.

After the Supreme Court ruled Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan unconstitutional, the Biden administration proposed an income-based repayment program, in addition to existing forgiveness programs offered to specific people such as teachers, government employees, nonprofit employees, those living with a disability and other qualifications. 

Grassley has made efforts regarding student loans, including a proposal to make Pell Grants tax-free and legislation to inform students about the implications of taking on student loans.

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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.