Iowa lawmakers call for Russian reparations, border security, Senate neckties

Headed into another extended weekend, Iowa’s congressional delegates addressed Chinese “shell companies,” stillbirth prevention, prosthetic affordability and more. Additionally, one of Iowa’s senators celebrated a birthday.

Check out what Iowa’s lawmakers were up to this week:

Nunn national security bill makes it to floor

Rep. Zach Nunn’s legislation aimed at strengthening regulations on foreign businesses registered in the U.S. passed the House Financial Services Committee. 

The legislation, introduced in August, is co-sponsored by Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio. It aims to prevent foreign businesses from operating through “shell companies.” It amends the Corporate Transparency Act, passed in 2020. 

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The 2020 act attempted to prevent shell companies, but according to Nunn’s office, implementation deviated from the initial intention of the legislation. 

Nunn’s legislation, which the House will now consider, would strengthen regulations on foreign businesses registering in the U.S. by requiring a submitted report within 90 days of registration and preventing companies from omitting information.

“The Chinese Communist Party will do anything to jeopardize our national security, steal our intellectual property and undermine our economy,” Nunn said in a news release. “Passing this bipartisan bill is a critical step towards ending their ability to operate shell companies that harm national security and real American businesses.”

Grassley introduces Secure the Border Act

A border security bill, which passed the House in May, has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Grassley.

The Secure the Border Act passed the House along party lines, with all four Iowa representatives voting in favor and two Republicans voting against. 

According to Grassley’s office, it is “the most comprehensive border security legislation in decades.” The bill would resume border wall construction, increase border patrol agents, criminalize those who stay in the country past their visa, ensure U.S. Customs and Border Protection has criminal databases of all countries of origin and transit and more. 

“The first obligation of government is to protect our national security,” Grassley said in a news release. “… Simply put, border security is national security. Our bill presents commonsense solutions that will protect Americans by putting a stop to the border crisis.”

Grassley and Hinson promote stillbirth awareness

In proposed resolutions, Grassley and Rep. Ashley Hinson asked Congress to make Sept. 19 National Stillbirth Prevention Day. 

“The stillbirth rate in the United States is unacceptably high, especially for low-income and rural moms, and we must do more to help them have healthy pregnancies,” Hinson said in a news release. “We can and must do better by these moms and their babies.”

Hinson also spoke on the House floor regarding the matter. 

Both Hinson and Grassley have authored legislation to improve maternal care, including a bicameral effort in July to increase research funding for stillbirth prevention. 

“We can and should be doing more to save babies’ lives and improve pre-natal care – that’s what this resolution is all about,” Grassley said in a news release. “Too many families know the heartbreak of stillbirths, yet such tragic losses are often avoidable.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 175 births are stillborn, and Black and Pacific Islander Americans are affected at more than double the rate of white Americans.  

Nunn looking for Russia to repair Ukraine

Nunn, saying “actions have consequences,” is calling for frozen Russian assets to be used to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine. He announced the proposal this week ahead of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, D.C.

“Putin and his oppressive regime alone are responsible for the murderous destruction in Ukraine,” Nunn said in a news release. “Actions have consequences, so they alone should likewise be responsible for the costs of their unprovoked war.”

The funds Nunn referenced are $300 billion in assets frozen by the U.S., the European Union and Japan in February 2022. 

In a resolution by Nunn, he calls for Russia to “immediately cease all hostilities, withdraw forces from Ukrainian territory and engage in diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict.” 

The resolution also states that the United States expresses its commitment to provide humanitarian assistance and to help rebuild and stabilize the region. 

Miller-Meeks asks for medical equipment affordability

Legislation to adjust Medicare payments for medical equipment such as prosthetics and orthotics was introduced this week by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

The legislation, if passed, would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adjust both competitive and noncompetitive bid rates for medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies until the end of 2024. 

The bill has the support of Democrat Rep. Paul Tonko of New York and two Republicans, Hinson and Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana. 

The legislation would direct HHS to make adjustments to make Medicare payments consistent with payments in 2021’s competitive bidding program. 

“Supply chain issues and rising costs extend far beyond the production line,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “The Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies Relief Act of 2023 works to ensure that essential products like ankle orthotics, wheelchairs and walkers, are not delayed by supply chain issues and that they are still affordable and available for patients to use.”

GOP senators want dress code enforcement

A decision by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, which Grassley said stinks, may lead to fewer ties on the Senate floor. 

The majority leader instructed the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms this week to stop enforcing the unwritten business casual dress code.

“This rule change stinks and it’s unprecedented,” Grassley said in a news release. “I’ll be wearing a suit and necktie on the Senate floor as I’ve always done and has been expected of senators for nearly 240 years. If you can’t count on the Majority Leader of the United States Senate to uphold decorum, who can you count on?”

Forty-six Republican senators, including Sen. Joni Ernst and Grassley, sent a letter to urge Schumer to “immediately reverse this misguided action” regarding the clothes worn in a place “of honor and tradition.”

“The Senate floor is where we conduct the business of the American people,” the letter states. “It is where we debate the policies which impact every American family and, when necessary, it is where we must make the gravest decision imaginable – whether to send our fellow Americans into battle to defend the freedoms we all hold dear. The world watches us on that floor and we must protect the sanctity of that place at all costs.”

Ernst, Hinson take aim at federal work-from-home jobs

In a months-long effort by multiple Iowa lawmakers to change the way federal employees have managed work-from-home policies since the COVID-19 pandemic, Hinson and Ernst have introduced companion legislation to address their grievances. 

“It’s no secret that Washington is broken and deeply dysfunctional, and Iowans are sick of it,” Hinson said in a statement. “Serious reforms are needed to clean this place up and root out corruption, shrink the ever-growing administrative state, and take power from bureaucrats and give it to people. My Make Washington Work Again package will restore integrity to public service, cut burdensome regulations and ensure Washington is accountable to Iowans.”

A package of bicameral legislation would move federal agency headquarters outside of Washington, ban senior administration officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, require agencies to implement pre-pandemic telework policies and more. 

Ernst posted this photo illustration of the White House on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday.

Ernst has made several statements, including on the Senate floor and in the New York Post on the topic and has requested an investigation into the effect on delivery and response times of services due to telework. 

According to a July report from the Government Accountability Office during a three-week period in early 2023 saw 17 out of 24 federal agencies’ buildings were at 25% or less capacity.

Grassley’s birthday

Grassley, the second oldest serving senator, turned 90 years old on Sunday. The senator received surprise Dairy Queen blizzards and birthday wishes from politicians representing Iowa, including congressional delegates, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. 

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