D.C. Dispatch: Israel support, speakership drama and drug price transparency

By: - October 20, 2023 2:10 pm

The U.S. Capitol dome rises near the U..S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Jim Small/Arizona Mirror)

The U.S. House has spent much of its efforts in the past weeks trying to agree on a speaker and Iowa’s lawmakers shared their thoughts, including Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Iowa’s delegates also issued responses to President Joe Biden’s Oval Office address and voiced support for Israel this week, demanding the release of hostages. 

Check out what Iowa delegates were up to this week:

Biden plan not clear enough, Iowa Republicans say

Biden announced a request for more aid to Israel and Ukraine from the Oval Office Thursday night.

On the strategy Israel should take moving forward, Grassley said the U.S. government should not set the plan. 

“The United States should not be putting any pressure on Israel to do what it needs to do to defend the safety of the 9 million Israelis that live there… Our government should not be telling Israel how to defend itself and protect its people,” Grassley said. 

On Biden’s Thursday address, Grassley and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks responded on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying the plan was not clear enough. 

Rep. Randy Feenstra signed a letter earlier this week to urge Biden to expedite military aid to Israel. 

“While brave Israelis fight to defend their homeland and protect their families, the United States must deliver humanitarian and military aid as quickly as possible,” Feenstra said in a news release.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, Iowa’s delegates have voiced support for Israel, including Sen. Joni Ernst and Miller-Meeks visiting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Iowa’s representatives have formally taken a stance, having introduced and supported resolutions in support of Israel. 

Ernst made several calls to “defund these terrorists” in a news conference this week. 

Ernst said the first focus must be on the release of hostages. Ernst said she spoke with Israelis and Americans on her recent mission to the Middle East, including family members of those who have been taken hostage. 

In a Tuesday news conference, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said more than 20 Americans are missing, and he could not say how many of those were being held hostage. 

Ernst, Grassley and Miller-Meeks released a letter this week urging Biden to exercise everything in his power to rescue American hostages. 

The bipartisan and bicameral letter signed by more than 45 delegates stated “…we urge the United States to continue supporting Israel’s urgent efforts to dismantle the threat of Hamas, provide the necessary resources for Israel’s defense, and continue offering whatever support necessary to immediately and safely rescue kidnapped Americans, with particular attention to those who require urgent medical care.”

On the Senate floor, Ernst addressed the body for nearly 10 minutes, recapping her mission to the Middle East and stating the stance she believes the U.S. should take. 

“Now is the time for strong American leadership, one that understands the threat of war waged by Iran-backed proxies is to our own national security here in the homeland,” Ernst said.

Speakership votes

After House GOP members spent Thursday debating a nominee for speaker, the House convened Friday to vote for a third time. 

The third vote for Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for Speaker of the House failed Friday, with the GOP planning a conference for Friday afternoon. 

With a government shutdown looming, Grassley said, “It’s a bad situation under even normal circumstances. Right now is a busy time in Congress, got to pass the appropriation bills between now and Nov. 17 and the House is not doing anything.”

The open speakership is shutting down House at the worst time, Grassley said.

“With the war in Israel going on, that even makes it worse. You can’t have a government shutdown and we don’t have a government shutdown, we got a shutdown of the House of Representatives; it’s just the poorest time for it to happen and I just hope to get it behind us,” Grassley said this week during a call with reporters.

Rep. Zach Nunn shared a similar point of view on X: the House has work to get done. 

Nunn said the “broken status quo” in Washington needs to be fixed. 

Miller-Meeks said she received death threats after voting for Jordan for speaker, and voted against Jordan’s third try for speaker Friday morning. Instead, Miller-Meeks voted for Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, Feensta and Nunn have supported Jordan in all three votes. 

On X, Hinson said Tuesday after announcing she would support Jordan: “There is much more that unites us as Republicans than divides us. The country needs us to come together, govern, & defeat the Biden agenda.”

Nunn bill would include drug prices in ads

While proposing a new bill, Nunn said drug prices should be required to be included in advertisements. 

“Iowa families are struggling to afford necessary health care due to out-of-control prescription drug prices,” Nunn said in a news release. “Iowans deserve to know what they’re paying before they agree to a plan of care and right now, the lack of transparency doesn’t make it easy.

Banned in most countries, Nunn said direct-to-consumer drug advertisements encourage Americans to purchase more expensive drugs when generic alternatives are often available. 

The bill would require the price of a 30-day supply or typical course of treatment to be included in the advertisement. Failure to comply would result in a $100,000 fine for the advertiser for each violation under the proposed law. 

Grassley reintroduces GREET act

Last introduced in June, the GREET Act was reintroduced by Grassley, a renewed call for updating federal standards for sustainable aviation fuel and the adoption of a model to analyze the environmental impact of fuels. 

The Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation model examines technologies, fuels, products and energy systems and the life-cycle impacts of their use. 

“The biofuel industry is a boon for domestic energy, but its full potential is largely untapped,” Grassley said in a news release. “Embracing alternative energy sources like corn-based ethanol is environmentally responsible and creates jobs in Iowa and across the Midwest.”

Iowans reintroduce EATS act

Another summer bill brought back to the conversation, the EATS Act, is a counter to California’s Proposition 12, a regulation on what pork is sold in the state based on how the hog is produced.

The bill was reintroduced this week in the House by Hinson and Senate by Grassley and Ernst.

In May, Iowa lawmakers spoke against the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a challenge to the law. Feenstra said he was outraged by the decision. 

The restriction on pork sales in California challenge could hurt the economy of Iowa, Grassley said in a news release

Buddy check

Friday marked the end of the first Veteran Affairs Buddy Check Week, an initiative started in part by Ernst last year. 

The event encourages veterans to reconnect or connect with other veterans and provides nonprofit services to veterans to provide opportunities to learn how to conduct peer wellness checks, according to Ernst’s office. 

“As a combat veteran, I know the transition from service to civilian life can be filled with mental health challenges,” Ernst said in a news release.

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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.