DC Dispatch: Senators Say NDAA Not Doing Enough On Sexual Assault Reform

A few long-awaited pieces of legislation were passed by Congress this week, including the defense financing bill and a compromise that will allow Democrats to raise the country’s debt ceiling.

In addition: Discussions continued on vaccine mandates, Iowa leaders celebrated the life of former Senator Bob Dole and Representative Ayanna Pressley – a member of “The Squad” – spoke to the Polk County Democrats.

House adopts NDAA, but Iowa senators say it does not go far enough in sexual assault reform

The House passed a $ 768 billion defense bill on Tuesday, sending the bipartisan proposal to the Senate for consideration.

All four of the Iowa House members voted to approve the package, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

“As a 24-year veteran of the military, I am delighted to see the final version of the NDAA passed overwhelmingly by the House to strengthen our military and its support system,” said Rep. Mariannette Miller- Meeks in a statement.

But Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, who have yet to vote on the compromise, say the bill does not go far enough to change the way the military handles sexual assault. They held a press conference on Wednesday with Senator Kristen Gillibrand, calling on Congress to pass the Better Military Justice and Increased Prevention Act, which would give commanders less authority when prosecuting a sexual assault case.

Ernst said she was “disappointed” that the NDAA did not include all of the MJIIPA, and she criticized the way the legislation was treated.

“We should have been on this bill much, much sooner, so that we could have a solid debate on the extremely important issues, particularly that of sexual assault and military justice reform,” Ernst said.

Congress clears way for Democrats to raise debt ceiling

Remember how Republicans said for months that Democrats should be the only ones to raise the nation’s debt limit and avoid default?

This week, leaders on both sides agreed to a compromise: Senate Republicans cooperated to pass a bill that delays cuts to medicare and creates a path for Democrats to approve an increase in health insurance. the debt limit without a Republican vote.

But Republican members in Iowa were not happy with the compromise. All three members of the Iowa Republican House and two Republican senators voted against the legislation, citing their opposition to increasing the debt ceiling.

“I don’t think the United States should default on our debts, but the solution isn’t to keep raising the debt limit, it’s [to] stop spending too much hard-earned money by the people of iowa, ”Rep. Ashley Hinson said in a statement.

Either way, the measure creaked across the House and the Senate. Democrats have yet to say by how much they will raise the country’s debt ceiling. The New York Times reported that party leaders try to prepare a budget so that the country does not approach debt limit again until after the 2022 midterm elections.

American Rescue Plan is offering $ 100 million. for Iowa water quality

Representative Cindy Axne touted her March vote in favor of the $ 350 billion US bailout this week, announcing the bill would provide Iowa with $ 100 million for quality improvement projects. the water.

“From these water infrastructure upgrades to other investments in broadband, manufacturing, housing and child care, the US bailout is making a difference in the lives of the people of Iowa,” Axne said in a statement.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said $ 75 million will go to the Water Infrastructure Fund and the remaining $ 25 million will go to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s conservation infrastructure project. Iowa.

Senate votes to block Biden vaccine mandate

The two Iowa senators voted on Wednesday for block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large private employers.

“(L) the Biden administration thinks Americans cannot be trusted to make an informed decision on their own,” Grassley said in a statement. “Heavy federal mandates erode freedom and impose undue burdens on businesses and workers at the worst possible time. “

The measure is expected to pass through the Democratic-controlled House and be enacted before it goes into effect. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Biden will veto the legislation, if it gets to his office.

House Republicans face conservative criticism for immunization system updates

The House passed a bill last week that would improve the Immunization information system, a federal service that consolidates immunization records and shares them with health providers or entities that require immunizations, such as schools or summer camps. The data can also be used by public health officials to track vaccination rates within a population.

Axne, Miller-Meeks and Hinson voted in favor of the bill to modernize the current system.

Some conservative commentators targeted Miller-Meeks and Hinson after the vote, alleging that the bill would allow the federal government to create a “federal immunization database” and target people who choose not to be immunized.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham slammed Republicans who voted for the bill last week.

“It’s so shocking that 80 Republicans voted for it. Looks like there are a lot of main challenges that are going to be going on just on this topic, ”Ingraham said.

Miller-Meeks tweeted an explanation of the legislation in response.

“This bill does NOT create a federal vaccine database, track COVID-19 vaccination status, and do NOT create access to electronic or paper private health records,” the tweet read.

Pressley speaks to women in Polk County, praises Axne

Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, spoke Thursday night at a virtual fundraiser for Democrats in Polk County. Pressley spoke about the importance of women in politics, both as organizers and candidates, and praised Axne’s performance in power.

“I hope you never take her leadership for granted and make her decisively because she is desperately needed, and we are all better at her advocacy,” Pressley told the Zoom Appeal, which addressed to women involved in the Polk County Democrats.

Pressley is a member of a group of progressive representatives known as “The Squad”. Republicans in Iowa criticized Axne for appearing at the fundraiser alongside Pressley.

“Cindy Axne is finally showing her true colors and campaigning with radical squad member Ayanna Pressley, leader of the national Defund the Police movement,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement.

Senate unanimously passes rural opioid bill

The Senate on Wednesday passed a Grassley-co-sponsored bill that would provide more resources to tackle opioid addictions in rural areas.

“We have made progress in tackling the opioid crisis, but with the increase in overdose deaths, Congress must act,” Grassley said in a press release. “Our bill will help communities in Iowa and across the country prevent and manage any increase in opioid overdoses.”

DC Executives Celebrate Bob Dole Legacy

Former Sen. Robert Dole, a Republican from Kansas, died Sunday. Leaders gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday to pay tribute to Dole, who was 98 years old.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Biden called Dole a “giant in our history” and recalled the senator’s willingness to work across the aisle.

“We really respected each other as colleagues, as fellow Americans,” Biden said. “It was real. It was not wrong. And we became great friends.

Members of the Iowa delegation also recalled Dole as a mentor and friend.

“He set a standard of leadership through selflessness and mutual respect that all public servants should strive to match,” Grassley said.

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