Grassley on “Weinergate”

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is one of the most prolific and popular Tweeters on Capitol Hill.  He was asked this morning about New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s explicit tweets, and Grassley suggested Weiner should resign.  Grassley also said the fiasco wouldn’t change the way he tweets, “because I don’t send pictures.”

Iowa senators react to bin Laden’s death

Iowa’s two U.S. Senators have issued statements about Osama bin Laden’s death.

From Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA):  “On a sunny September 11, 2001 our nation learned of Osama bin Laden and the organization he lead which killed 3000 innocent people on that fateful day. His death is a symbolic victory and a significant achievement in the war against terror, but it isn’t an end. Al Qaeda and radical terrorists around the globe remain a grave threat to our country and its people. We must remain vigilant in our fight to maintain the security of the United States. As the memories of 9/11 come flooding back with the death of Osama bin Laden, we remember and honor the families of those who lost their lives that day, and we pay special tribute to the men and women of our military and national security teams who continue to protect this nation and have led the effort over the last 10 years to bring justice to bin Laden. More work remains and we must remain vigilant against possible retaliatory attacks.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement upon learning that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“Just a few months short of the tenth anniversary of the worst attack in our nation’s history, U.S. forces brought to justice the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  This victory is a testament to the quality of our intelligence service and the courage and precision of the Navy SEALs.  I commend the Obama Administration and thank the servicemen and women who carried out this operation.”

Christie Vilsack seems “in” for fourth district showdown

Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack and her husband, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (the current U.S. Agriculture Secretary), are moving to Ames, Iowa, and Vilsack has formed an “exploratory committee” to run for congress, in Iowa’s fourth congressional district.  That means she’d be running to unseat Congressman Sreve King, a Republican from Kiron.  Here is her statement:

Serving Iowa is both a privilege and a responsibility.  The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration.  Next month, I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the US House of Representatives.  It’s important to listen to Iowa families about the issues they want addressed in Congress.  Hearing directly from citizens about their concerns and ideas is very important to me.  Too often in campaigns, it’s the other way around.  More than anything, this should be a discussion about Iowa values-the value of work, the value of opportunity and the value of community.   Input from fellow Iowans will help me make the best decision and will give our state a campaign focused on collaboration and results, encouraging a new way to do business in Washington.”  

Technically, she has formed an “exploratory committee” for congress, the ramping-up “toe-dipping” phrase with which you’ve become familiar because of all the presidential hopefuls who form exploratory committees enroute to a real, bona fide campaign aparatus. 

Yesterday, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said Christie Vilsack would be a “fish out of water” in the fourth district.  Last summer at the Iowa State Fair, Christie Vilsack talked about running for congress.

…Vilsack announced (in the fall of 2009) she had decided against running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Grassley. Vilsack said during an interview at the Iowa State Fair that she is considering “other options” like running for congress.

“I just turned 60, so timing is important — political timing as well as personal timing,” she said.  “It’ll be a whole new ballgame after the election and after redistricting, where we see the districts line up.”

The Iowa Legislature will redraw the congressional district lines in Iowa for the 2012 election and it’s likely Iowa will lose one of it’s five congressional seats due to population gains in other states.

“Nobody will actually have a claim on any particular district, I think, because it’ll be a whole new set of voters and a whole new set of constituents,” she said.

Being a first-time grandparent is one factor that’s pulling Vilsack in one direction. But Vilsack said women like her, who are in “the third part of their lives” are being recruited to run for office and she feels the tug toward putting her own name on the ballot after working a lifetime to elect others.

According to Vilsack, she’d enter a race with her “eyes open” to what it takes to run and win. “I know, which maybe makes the decision harder. If you have illusions or thinking that it’s glamorous — it’s not that I’m not optimistic, I just understand. I know how much hard work (is required),” Vilsack said.  “I know what the personal sacrifice is.”

 In December, Tom Vilsack indicated he would not step down as a caibnet secretary if his wife were to seek a seat in congress.  (He cited other examples of spouses who’ve worked in the two branches of the federal government at the same time.)

Iowa Democrats first to release pairings

Democratic staff in the Iowa House and Senate have analyzed the redistricting maps.  Their conclusions:  14 senators will be forced to run against another senator in 2012 and 27 representatives will be forced to run in a district where one (if not two) representatives are also situated.

Here are the Senate pairings:

Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) versus Johnson (R-Ocheyedan)

Boettger (R-Harlan) versus Seymour (R-Woodbine)

Ward (R-West Des Moines) versus McCoy (D-Des Moines)

Bacon (R-Maxwell) versus Dix (D-Waterloo)

Bartz (R-Grafton) versus Wilhelm (D-Cresco)

Hancock (D-Epworth) versus Bowan (D-Maquoketa)

Hamerlinck (R-Dixon) versus Hahn (R-Muscatine)

I’ll be back in a minute with pairings in the Iowa House.

Here are the House pairings.

Huseman (R-Aurelia) versus Chambers (R-Sheldon)

Iverson (R-Clarion) versus Upmeyer (R-Garner) versus Rayhons (R-Garner)

Shaw (R-Laurens) versus Tjepkes (R-Gowrie)

Jeremy Taylor (R-Sioux City) versus Hall (D-Sioux City)

Brandenburg (R-Council Bluffs) versus Hanusa (R-Council Bluffs) 

Anderson (R-Clarinda) versus Dolecheck (R-Mount Ayr)

Sweeney (R-Alden) versus Pat Grassley(R-New Hartford) 

Wenthe (D-Hawkeye) versus Thomas (D-Elkader)

Hein (R-Monticell) versus Moore (R-Zwingle)

Mascher (D-Iowa City) versus Jacoby (D-Coralville)

DeBoef (R-What Cheer) versus Klein (R-Keota)

Van Englenhoven (R-Pella) versus Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa)

Swain (D-Bloomfield) versus Hanson (D-Fairfield)

Iowa delegation reacts to Obama’s speech on Libya

Three of the seven members of Iowa’s congressional delegation emailed me responses to President Obama’s speech last night.  Read them below, in the order they were received.

Braley Responds to President’s Speech on Libya

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement following President Obama’s speech on the conflict in Libya:
“I’m concerned, and I know many Americans are concerned, that tonight we didn’t get a clear and accurate accounting from the President on how much this conflict in Libya is going to cost American taxpayers. We’ve got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and Americans deserve to hear from our President what this third conflict is going to cost us. I look forward to meeting with Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton later this week and hearing their explanation of the costs of this operation and their strategy for moving forward in Libya.”
Last week Rep. Braley sent a letter to President Obama asking for a full accounting of the Libyan conflict and the costs to taxpayers. Speaker Boehner sent a similar letter to the President. Rep. Braley has previously called for a full accounting of the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A copy of Rep. Braley’s letter is available here:
Below is a statement from Senator Chuck Grassley regarding the President’s speech tonight about U.S. military involvement in Libya.

“I was an early advocate of a no-fly zone.  Today, despite the President’s delay in offering this help, the Libyan opposition has made progress in defending itself against the brutality of Gadhafi, thanks to the strength and capability of U.S. military forces.

“The burden remains on the President to convey how he sees the mission of the United States going forward.  What is the long-term commitment of the United States in supporting the effort that now is NATO led?  If America’s armed forces are put in harm’s way, what is the objective, if not regime change?  How long does President Obama envision our involvement, should Gadhafi hold on?

“It’s unclear when our involvement will end and under what terms.  Debate in our system of government is necessary.  Congress needs to be involved regarding the way that the United States is to continue making a commitment to this military action.  The President needs to speak with the kind of passion that shows that America is credible as a world leader, and the speech didn’t go as far as it should have to do that.”

Harkin Statement on the Situation in Libya

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement on the situation in Libya and the President’s national address this evening.

“It is tragic to see Colonel Gaddafi continuing to ignore the will of his people and continue his brutal crackdown.  Based on those humanitarian atrocities, I was supportive of the initial UN-backed military strikes.  But with the U.S. ongoing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have concerns about an open-ended engagement in Libya. 

“Tonight, President Obama rightly addressed a skeptical public about this mission.  I believe that while there is merit in handing over operations to NATO, ultimately, a political solution is needed to end the conflict in Libya. 

“As we move toward that goal, I would like to commend and thank all of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been carrying out this operation.” 

Chief of Huckabee ’08 in Iowa a T-Pawer in ’12

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee chose a rent street level space in downtown Des Moines for his 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign headquarters.  I often drove by at night and through the large windows that faced Locust Street I could see a solitary figure — Eric Woolson — sitting inside, banging away on a keyboard or talking on the phone.  Woolson did communications and coordination, organizing and strategizing — and he is generally referred to as the “manager” of Huckabee’s Caucus effort. 

Woolson had worked on George W. Bush’s Iowa campaign.  And he was press secretary for Governor Terry Branstad in the final phases of Branstad’s fourth term in office.  In 2010, Woolson did not work for Branstad, however.  He was with BVP2010 (Bob Vander Plaats, the second place finisher in the GOP gubernatorial primary), then Woolson worked on Senator Chuck Grassley’s general election campaign. 

Now, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports Woolson will back former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2012.  Pawlenty has already drawn some key McCainiacs & Bushies and now adds a Huckabee-er to the mix.

New Iowa GOP staff

New names & faces at the Iowa GOP headquarters in Des Moines.  Details in news release below.

DES MOINES- Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn today announced the hiring of additional staff and the promotion of two current staff members as the party begins preparation for the straw poll and 2012 caucus. In addition to Executive Director Chad Olsen who was hired in November and formally confirmed late last month, Strawn has hired Communications Director, Casey Mills, Organization Director, Ryan Gough and Data Director, Patrick Stewart.
            “We continue to build upon our successes since the November midterms by assembling a professional, experienced and committed staff in advance of the Ames Straw Poll and First in the Nation Iowa Caucuses. I am confident these additions to our team will make our grassroots activists, elected officials and donors proud,” Strawn said. “Collectively, this group brings a wealth of experience in political organization and communications and most importantly, they understand Iowa politics.”
            Chad Olsen was first hired to serve as Executive Director in November and was formally confirmed by the State Central Committee last month. Olsen, a Harlan native, most recently served as the director of the 2010 Iowa GOP Voter Program which set records for voter contacts and returned Republican absentee ballots. He brings vast caucus experience, working every contested caucus since 1996.
            Casey Mills has assumed the role of Communications Director.  Mills served as the Organization Director for Senator Chuck Grassley’s successful re-elect. Prior to returning to Iowa, he spent four years working for Grassley in Washington, most recently as his Deputy Press Secretary. Mills is originally from Sioux City.
            Ryan Gough and Patrick Stewart come to the Republican Party of Iowa following roles as field director and data director respectively for the 2010 Iowa GOP Voter Program. Both Gough and Stewart worked at the Republican National Committee in the political department before coming to Iowa in 2010.
            In addition to the new personnel at the Iowa GOP, both Kari Putney and Vonna Hall have been promoted to new roles within the organization. Putney, an Elgin native and Iowa State University graduate with extensive event and fundraising experience, was recently named the Iowa GOP’s finance coordinator. Hall, who joined the party during the 2010 cycle, will serve as office manager.

Boswell’s buddy for SOTU

Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines) has a date for tonight’s State of the Union address.   From Jane Slusak, Boswell’s press secretary:

He has made plans to sit with Congressman Mike Conaway from Texas. He is the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, which the Congressman serves on as Ranking Member.

In case you haven’t been following the saga, some members of congress are literally trying to mix it up tonight, sitting with someone of the opposing party. It means there won’t be Republicans on one side of the room and Democrats on the other when the president gives his speech in less than an hour.  Senator Grassley (R-New Hartford) has a date. Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) does not.  Here’s a bit more about the whole “prom night without the corsages” atmosphere, with details about Congressman Tom Latham (R-Ames) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Mt Vernon).  UPDATE:  Loebsack will sit with Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Gingrich speaks to Iowa Renewable Fuels group

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is just now taking the stage to speak to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association gathering in Des Moines, Iowa.  State Representative Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from the small rural town of Garner, delivered the introduction. telling the crowd Gingrich supported ethanol before it was cool.

Gingrich said he’d been talking with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad earlier today about the beginnings of the ethanol iindustry 27 years ago, when “they were talking about it as gasahol.”

Gingrich then mentioned two well-known Iowa politicians — Senator Grassley and former Congressman Jim Nussle — who were on a conference committee in 1998 when he was speaker and congress and the bill which passed “dramatically extended and strengthened the incentives” for ethanol.

“I taught environmental studies…so I had a real interest…in finding renewable fuels….to increase American energy production,” Gingrich said of his interest in gasahol/ethanol 27 years ago,.adding the energy crisis of the 1970s convinced him there’s a national security interest in developing home-grown fuels.

“If we kept $400 billion a year at home that is currently going out of the United States to buy energy, we would be dramatically better off,” Gingrich said. “And, frankly, I would rather have the next building boom in Des Moines than in Dubqi so I think we ought to have a policy that focuses on it.”

Gingrich told the crowd there’s a need to change the “attitude and psychology” of the U.S. govt…in order to “accelerate new ideas.”

Gingrich addressed the charge that ethanol is siphoning corn away from the food chain.  He said that was “just plain flat wrong.  It is factually untrue,” Gingrich said, to applause.

Gingrich said if anybody has created a problem with food on the planet, it is the European’s opposition to GMOs.  He suggested the Europeans “feel superior while poor people suffer.”

Gingrich told the crowd that “every time farmers start to do well (financially), somebody attacks them and it makes no sense…Why are we attacking the farmers for being productive?…We’re going to be able to meet the world’s food and fuel needs” by using modern science and technology.

The crowd applauded.  One man nearby the press riser said, “That’s right.”

Gingrich said he “big city attacks” of the ethanol industry are “nfuriating” because ethanol plans brings high-skill, high-paid jobs to rural communities.

“This matters in Georgia, too,” he said, mentioning the pine trees grown in his state for biofuel.

Gingrich called for new federal rules for automakers “to maximize development of flex-fuel cars. There is zero reason for the auto manufacturers not to produce flex-fuel cars…That ought to be the minimum demand for national security reasons…and consumer choice.”

He said the total extra cost per car is $100 for flex-fuel capability, and he wondered aloud why there was resistance to that modest cost. 

“There are powerful interests on the other side who are afraid of competition,” Gingrich said, answering his pondering.

Next up:  Gingrich said he had a “pretty bold” idea.  He proposed an ” Environmental Solutions Agency” to replace the Environmental Protection Agency.  The EPA is “really in many ways hostile to all new technology…hostile to the business community, hostile to the marketplace.”

Gingrich next mentioned the president’s State of the Union address tonight. “I wrote a book called, ‘Winning the Future,'” Gingrich said, mentioning that is to be a theme of Obama’s speech tonight.  “…I was hoping he had read my book.”  Gingrich said his newsletter tomorrow will compare what he said in the book with what Obama says tonight.  Gingrich said he hopes Obama will embrace “some cool things” tonight.

Gingrich, during a brief Q&A session, attacked a recent Wall Street Journal editorial which rapped ethanol as “just flat out wrong.”

“I don’t mind people having an honest argument about ideology, but they ought to at least use facts that are accurate,” Gingrich said. “…This is an interest group fight in which a number of very sophisticated, big interest groups have set up a myth and are busy actively propagating the myth, but the truth is it hurts the farmer.  It hurts rural America and it’s fundamentally unfair to America’s future.” Gingrich facts that are accurate.” 

After Gingrich finished, Upmeyer gave him what sounded like an endorsement for president.

UPDATE: During Q&A with reporters, Gingrich said he’ll announce his decision on a presidential race by March 1.  He also said if congress passes the flex-fuel requirement in all vehicles, there’s no need to maintain the federal tax credit for ethanol.

Who’s their date?

As you may have heard, all the collest kids in the U.S. Senate and Househave been landing dates for tonight’s State of the Union address.  Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted about it yestserday:

My date for State of Union is Sen Wyden. My partner in fight agst secret holds. He invited

So Grassley got asked to go.  I’ve been checking with the rest of the Iowa delegation, but none of the others seem to have landed a buddy from the other party to sit with tonight.   Here’s a bit about the angst-ridden leiglsators who don’t have a “date” for tonight, with a reference to Congressman Steve King.