Braley asks Hayward about the “slush fund”

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) is a member of the House Energy Committee which at this hour is hosting a hearing featuring British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward.  Earlier this morning, during opening statements, Braley spoke about the “oil disaster.”  This afternoon, Braley just got done having a discussion with Hayward about a Texas congressman’s apology to Hayward, delivered at the start of the hearing.  The congressman, who represents the Houston area, said BP had been the target of a White House “shakedown” — a reference to the $20 billion BP has set aside to compensate victims of the oil spill in the Gulf.

Read the exchange between Braley and Hayward below:

“Do you think that BP was shaken down by the Obama administration to come up with this $20 billion compensation fund?” Braley asked Hayward.

Hayward responded: “We attended the White House at the invitation of the government to form a way forward and try and work together to deal with the leak, the response to the leak, and to make — to return the Gulf Coast to its past and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Braley:  “And I realize that we speak the same language, but it’s not always the same language when we speak English in the United States and English in Great Britian so I want to be sure I’m clear on this.  Here in this country, the word ‘shaken-down’ means somebody in a position of disadvantage is forced to do something against their will.  Is that how you viewed these negotiations at the White House yesterday?”

Hayward:  “As I said, we came together to figure out a way of working together to resolve what is clearly a very, very serious situation.”

Braley:  “And the reason you came together, sir, is because it was not only in the best interests of the United States taxpayers and the citizens of this country, it’s also in the best interest of BP to try to get this problem solved so that it can move forward. Isn’t that true?”

Hayward:  “It is undoubtedly true that we would like to resolve the issue as would everyone else here and, more broadly, in this country.”

Braley:  “When the ranking member referred to this compensation fund — which I applaud as a positive step forward — as a slush fund, I want you to know that in this country that implies a very negative connotation as something illegal, below the surface of what’s acceptable.  Did you consider this compensation fund…to be a slush fund?”

Hayward:  “As we said yesterday, the fund is a signal of our commitment to do right, to ensure that individuals, fishermen, charter boat captains, small hotel owners — every one who’s been impacted by this is kept whole.  That is what I have said from the very beginning of this and that is what we intend to do and, as I said in my testimony, I hope people will now see that we are good for our word.”

Braley:  “And can we take that as a, ‘No,’ in response to my question, sir, that you did not consider this to be a slush fund?”

Hayward: “I certainly didn’t think it was a slush fund, congressman.”

Iowa Delegation splits 3-2 on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal

The U.S. House has voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that allows homosexuals to serve in the military only if they don’t “tell” anyone they’re gay or lesbian.  The three Iowa Democrats — Congressmen Bruce Braley of Waterloo, Dave Loebsack of Mt Vernon and Leonard Boswell of Des Moines — voted for the repeal of DADT.  The two Iowa Republicans — Congressmen Tom Latham of Ames and Steve King of Kiron — voted to keep the 1993 DADT policy in place.

Boswell is the only veteran among the five Iowans who currently serve in congress.  He issued the following statement:

Boswell Releases Statement on Support for the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy in Defense Authorization Act

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Leonard Boswell released this statement following his vote to repeal the Department of Defense’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy after the Department has completed their ongoing internal review; prepared policies and regulations, and repeal is consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruitment and retention.

“After serving 20 years in the military, including two tours of combat in Vietnam, I support the repeal of the ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy. During my Army career, I served alongside great men and women who, regardless of sexual orientation, were courageous military leaders that I trusted with my life and the lives of the troops under my command. The character and strength of a solider is reliant on their courage, loyalty, honor, and ability to do their job – not their sexuality.”

King (the Republican from Kiron in western Iowa) issued a statement earlier today on the topic.

King: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Repeal.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Steve King (R-IA) today released the following statement following his participation in a Capitol Hill press conference in which he urged Congress to reject efforts to repeal the legislative prohibition on military service by openly homosexual men and women. King was joined at the press conference by: U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA); Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council; Douglas Lee, Chaplain, (Brigadier General, Ret); Kevin Theriot, Senior Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund; and a delegation of Pastors and Rabbis representing congregations throughout America.

“One of the few things President Clinton got right was his decision to sign the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy into law,” said King. “To Clinton’s credit, he put the nation’s interests in military readiness and unit cohesion ahead of the political interests of so-called ‘gay-rights’ activists. Regrettably, it appears that the ruling troika of Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid and President Obama want to reverse these priorities.

“The nation’s military is currently fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not the time to subject our fighting forces to a rushed and risky experiment in social engineering. As lawmakers, our responsibility to our troops could not be clearer: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Repeal.”

Braley, Loebsack & “Populist Caucus” criticise Geithner

China has been undervaluing its currency for years, and we cannot afford to wait any longer to address this problem.” — U.S. House Populist Caucus, April 7, 2010.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) is a co-founder of the “Populist Caucus” in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The group today penned a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, complaining the Chinese are manipulating their currency — and the group charges Geithner isn’t addressing the problem.  Geithner is visiting China.

Populist Caucus Statement on Treasury Department’s Refusal to Address Chinese Currency Manipulation in Report
Washington, DC – In advance of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s visit to China tomorrow, members of the House Populist Caucus today issued the following statement urging him to release a determination on Chinese currency manipulation. Reps. Bruce Braley (IA-01), Peter Welch (VT-AL), DeFazio (OR-04), Michael Arcuri (NY-24), Betty Sutton (OH-13), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Steve Kagen (WI-08), Phil Hare (IL-17), Dan Lipinski (IL-03), Brad Sherman (CA-27), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) believe it is critical for Geithner to issue the report and address the issue of Chinese currency manipulation as quickly as possible.

“Secretary Geithner’s recent announcement that the Treasury Department is delaying the release of its bi-annual report on international exchange rate policies and delaying making a determination on Chinese currency manipulation is completely unacceptable and needs immediate corrective action.  It is clear that China is maintaining its currency at a devalued exchange rate by pegging the renminbi to the U.S. dollar at a fixed exchange rate, and that this unfair policy is having a detrimental impact on American workers and companies.  China’s undervalued currency lowers the price of Chinese exports, makes U.S. exports to China more expensive, and makes it impossible for U.S. producers and workers to compete on a level playing field.  Additionally, China’s devaluation of its currency exacerbates the already staggering U.S.-China trade deficit and threatens the stability of the global financial system. 

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Obama in Iowa City, the 2010 edition

Barack Obama in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 25, 2010:  “This is the place where change began.”

“…Yes we can,” the crowd chanted, interrupting Obama’s a few minutes into his speech.

Obama replied:  “Yes we did.”

Read the text of the president’s speech is below.  Watch the live stream on Iowa Public Television.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was at the microphone at exactly 1 p.m. in the Field House in Iowa City.

“My beloved Jayhawks were on their way to St. Louis and ran into Northern Iowa,” the former Kansas governor said, to open, referring to last weekend’s big NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game. “So when the president asked me to come here, I felt just a little bit bitter.”

There’s was a problem with the audio, so Sebelius talked about the Kansas/UNI game while the audio problem was resolved.  “It’s never about the pundits.  It’s never about the polls.  It’s what happens when you play the game,” she said, drawing a comparison with the health care debate.

Obama and his entourage landed at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids at about a quarter ’til one and drove south into Iowa City. Some protesters held signs along the road from the airport to Interstate 380.  One of the signs read simply: “Repeal.”

At 1:08 p.m., Sebelius uttered the “Yes, we can” phrase and she introduced Obama to the crowd.  He ran up a few steps, waved to people in the crowd and walked toward the lectern.

“Hello Iowa,” he yelled at 1:09 p.m.  “Are you fired up?  Ah, it is good to be back in Iowa.  I’ve got to take off my jacket while I’m in Iowa.”

As Obama started rolling up his sleeves, Obama told the crowd: ” I can feel spring coming.”   A few moments later, as Obama acknowledged people in the crowd, he referred to a former Iowa governor, telling the crowd:  “Tom Vilsack’s in the house.”  Obama also introduced the former University of Iowa football player who carries the “big briefcase” that goes wherever the president goes.

At 1:31 p.m., somebody in the crowd yelled out criticism of the plan, but it’s difficult to hear what was said in the cavernous gym.   Obama directly responded, calling the shouter a “young man” twice, then moving back to the text of his speech.   The speech ended at 1:38 p.m.

Here is the text of Obama’s speech:

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Newsweek story on Braley’s negotiating

Newsweek has an article about the behind-the-scenes negotiations late Friday into Saturday morning that involved Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa).

Iowa delegation splits, 3-2, on health care bill

The three Democrats in Iowa’s congressional delegation — Bruce Braley of Waterloo, Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon & Leonard Boswell of Des Moines — just voted for the senate bill.  The two Republicans in the congressional delegation — Tom Latham of Ames & Steve King of Kiron — voted against it.  Here’s the roll call on the 219-212 vote.

Four of the five congressmen from Iowa spoke with Radio Iowa this weekend about the vote.  Read the Radio Iowa story. Congressman Loebsack was the only one of the five who did not.  Loebsack’s spokeswoman said: “We are not planning on doing press calls.”

UPDATE:  Here are all the statements (after the jump) sent via email from members of congress, their challengers, the two political parties & other groups involved in the health care debate:

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Four Iowa Democrats in congress issue statement

This is what Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) was referring to this morning — a deal on Medicare reimbursement rates for Iowa doctors & hospitals.  Read the joint news release from the four Iowa Democrats who serve in congress below:

Loebsack, Harkin, Boswell, Braley Finalize Major Breakthrough on Medicare Payment Reform
Provision will end unfair geographic disparities, change Medicare to a quality-based reimbursement system

Washington, DC – Rep. Dave Loebsack, Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. Leonard Boswell and Rep. Bruce Braley announced a major breakthrough today on the issue of Medicare payment reform in the final health care reform bill.  Loebsack, Harkin, Boswell and Braley have been outspoken advocates for changing the way Medicare pays health care providers for services, from its current fee-for-service system into a quality and value-based system.

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Braley a “yes” on health care bill

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) just held a conference call at 10:10 central; 11:10 eastern with three Iowa reporters to announce he will vote for the health care bill when the vote is held in the House tomorrow (Sunday).

“Throughout this week I have been working very hard…to try to continue to improve the language of the bill to satisfy my concerns,” Braley said.  “…As of right now, we have made substantial progress…and I am in a position where I will be supporting the health care bill when it comes to the floor for a vote tomorrow.”

The “geographic disparities” in Medicare were the issue he was seeking to include in the final package.   He and a group of House members who’d been active on this issue met this morning with the H.H.S. secretary.  Sebelius has promised a national summit later this year, sometime in September, to address this issue and she’s agreed to launch an Institute of Medicine study in April to come up with a new payment system that bases Medicare payments not on geography but on quality.

“(Sebelius) met with us this morning at about 9:30 to reaffirm her strong commitment. We have also received a letter from her dated today that outlines her commitment to moving forward on these key provisions,” Braley told reporters from Radio Iowa, The Des Moines Register and The Quad City Times.

“…We were at the capitol in the speaker’s office from 10 o’clock last night ’til three o’clock this morning, hammering through the tough requirements of getting language that would pass the strict requirements of the senate parliamentarian for implementation,” Braley said.  “…It’s been a very long night.  It’s been a very tough period of negotiations, but based on these significant improvements…it’s a bill I can support with great pride.”

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Braley leading “Red to Blue program”

Announcement from House leadership:

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen today announced the leadership for the Red to Blue program and additional assistance with incumbent protection.

DCCC Vice Chair Bruce Braley (IA) will join Representatives Allyson Schwartz (PA), Patrick Murphy (PA), and Donna Edwards (MD) as chairs of the Red to Blue Program for the 2010 cycle. The Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns across the country, and offers them financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support.  The very successful fundraising effort helped raise more than $26 million for Red to Blue candidates last cycle.   

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Braley, Marisa Tomei, leaking faucets

I’ve been absent from the blog for a few days.  (No, I did not escape the cold in Jamaica, where it is currently 78 degrees.  I was sick at home, in Iowa, where it is currently 11 degrees but when you factor in the wind it seems like -5 degrees. Ever so grateful for central heating right about now.)  I return to the blog tonight with a few items.

Last weekend’s Iowa Press featured 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Gross and Iowa Christian Alliance president Steve Scheffler who is the Republican National Committeeman from Iowa.  I think there were references during the show to Governor Erbe and Governor Lightfoot — and to lightning rods.

The three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate went to the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO conference in Altoona yesterday.  Read Beaumont’s story.

Sad news this week that State Representative Roger Wendt has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Two state senators — Pat Ward of West Des Moines and David Johnson of Ocheyedan — have been undergoing cancer treatment, as is Representative Paul Bell of Newton. 

Lots of other stuff happened in the world of Iowa politics, but you’ve probably kept up with it better than I over the past five days.  BTW: did Tiger Woods have a news conference? 

Oh, that headline?  It’s a reference to Congressman Bruce Braley’s testimony/questioning today during a House subcommmittee hearing about the Toyota “problem.”  Braley said he wanted to talk with two of the experts on the panel about the 1992 movie “My Cousin Vinnie” which starred Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei.

“It’s probably once of the best movies on trial advocacy and engineering I’ve ever seen and one of the scenes, a classic scene in that movie is when they’re sitting in this run-down hotel room arguing over who is responsible for a leaking faucet and Marisa Tomei — Mona Lisa Vito, the character (she played) in that movie — says to Joe Pesci that she turned off the faucet.

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