Iowa delegates navigate mixed-control in Congress

With mixed control of Congress, Iowa’s all-Republican delegation still finds a way to work for Iowans.

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

WASHINGTON  — Despite increases in perceived political polarization across the country, Iowa’s six Congressional delegates are forced to engage in bipartisanship to pass legislation and navigate the slim margins in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

The midterm elections flipped control of the U.S. House of Representatives, giving Iowans four representatives in the majority party. In the Senate, however, Iowa’s Republican Senators remained in the minority. Both sides are continuing to fight for Iowans.

Sen. Chuck Grassley said that representative democracy is intended to work through variations in party control. He said whether he is in the majority or minority, it’s important to keep in touch with Iowans.

“We get daily reports on the phone calls that come into my office. I get a daily report on the emails and the postal mails coming into my office … So you just live with what the situation is,” Grassley said. “But that mail is very important for keeping in touch with what your constituents are telling you and then the best way to do it.”

According to a March 10 statement from Grassley, the Senate had only passed six bills, as of March 28. All six of the bills were written by Republicans, and half were sponsored by Grassley.

Bipartisanship is extremely important in the Senate, Grassley said, because legislation that only follows party lines is less likely to pass. While in the House, the majority party can ignore the minority party as long as representatives vote along party lines, he said.

Grassley said one of the most beneficial pieces of bipartisan legislation is the farm bill. Every five years, Congress passes legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy — known as the farm bill.

Regardless of which party is in the majority, Grassley said, farm bills are overwhelmingly bipartisan because protections and resources for the 2 percent of Americans who grow the food for the remaining 98 percent of Americans are important.

“Pretty important part of the segment, but it doesn’t get much attention when you’re the 2 percent of the population,” Grassley said.

Sen. Joni Ernst emphasized the importance of the farm bill and how this piece of bipartisan legislation will benefit Iowans.

One of the greatest parts about working with the majority party, Ernst said, is being able to educate urban delegates about issues that rural Americans are interested in. Through committee work, both parties come together to voice constituents’ concerns.

“There are other partners that are willing to listen, like Cory Booker, who is from New Jersey. He is a Jersey guy who grew up in the city, but he’s on the Ag Committee.” Ernst said. “And so, when he wants to know about rural issues in Iowa, we have that avenue of serving on the committee together.”

Grassley has also co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, that aims to address drug prices. The bill would ban deceptive unfair pricing schemes, prohibit arbitrary payments made to pharmacies, and require Pharmacy Benefit Managers to report to the Federal Trade Commission how much money they make through spread pricing and pharmacy fees.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and is using her position on the committee as a member of the majority party to work for Iowans.

Miller-Meeks was appointed to the committee following the 2022 election when Republicans gained control of the House.

“We will be at the forefront of House Republicans’ efforts to restore public trust in representative government. Americans have elected us to hold the line against Biden’s agenda,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “They want a different path, one that promotes free markets, innovation, free speech, and individual freedom. We stand ready to plow the hard ground necessary to legislate, hold the Biden administration accountable, and restore American leadership.”

Miller-Meeks said some of her legislative priorities on the committee have been broadband and telecom access, renewable energy, and lowering prescription drug prices.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee has a very vast reach and type of areas, so it does have health, it also has energy, it has environment, it has innovation, and then it has oversight functions as well and telecommunications, which includes broadband, so it has a very big reach,” Miller-Meeks said.

Ernst is serving her second term in the U.S. Senate, and she said that she has built great relationships with Democrats.

Ernst said maintaining these relationships across the aisle is important for an efficient legislature because the minority party needs to have friends in the majority party to get bills passed.

“It’s all of these relationships that we work on and we develop that help us get our legislation over the finish line,” Ernst said. “So, regardless of what state we’re in, we all should have really strong relationships. And so that’s what I like to work on.”

A major priority Ernst focuses on is child care availability and affordability. As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, child care is important to families with small businesses, she said.

Ernst said one piece of bipartisan legislation she is working on is in collaboration with Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-NV, where nonprofit and religious organizations can get access to loans from the Small Business Administration to help minimize child care deserts.

“So, there are a lot of different bipartisan pieces of legislation that we have that address issues that Iowans have raised as I travel, of course, every year from river to river and covering all these counties and I’m just hearing about those challenges. And then I found really great partners here that helped me with those initiatives,” Ernst said.

Iowa is currently entirely represented in Congress by Republicans for the first time since the 1950s. Ernst said this is beneficial to the Republican agenda because they all have mutual goals that they are working on.

If there is a bill she is working on, Ernst said, it’s easy for her to turn to her colleagues in the house to suggest running a companion bill rather than making compromises.

“Now that we have an all-Republican delegation, you have four more members in the House, you know of those members, you can shop different pieces of legislation and find the right appropriate committees that they might be on to support those initiatives,” Ernst said. “And it’s been pretty rewarding.”

Rep. Ashley Hinson said she uses her spot in the majority party to advocate for Iowans by emphasizing the importance of not wasting taxpayer money.

Hinson said it’s crucial to ask questions and get answers for Iowans.

“That’s my number one job here – standing up for taxpayers, focused on rural America and making sure they continue to have a seat at the table and fighting for safety and security, because those are the issues that I hear from my friends about,” Hinson said.