Des Moines Register. June 11, 2021.

Editorial: Stop messing around with congressional bipartisanship and move on infrastructure

The U.S. Senate is controlled by Democrats. But Democrats are apparently controlled by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

He is on the record saying he will not join fellow members of his political party in supporting a broad voting reform bill that would, among other things, protect Americans from voter suppression tactics in GOP-led states. And Manchin will not vote “to weaken or eliminate” the filibuster, according to an essay he recently penned.

So — because Republicans are not on board and the Democratic majority is so slim — the country can say goodbye to those ideas for now.

Democrats should move on.

Forget about broad voting updates already passed by the U.S. House. Forget about ending the filibuster. Forget about a commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Forget about raising the federal minimum wage.

These should be priorities, but they are not going to move forward. That is the reality.

The goal of Democratic leaders now should be rallying the so-called “centrists” in their party and passing a huge, ambitious investment in the country’s infrastructure using the reconciliation process.

This budget rule allows legislation to pass with a simple majority — which Democrats have, with 50 votes and one from the vice president to break a tie. It also allows the Senate to avoid the threat of a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

Reconciliation has been used to pass significant pieces of legislation, including a welfare overhaul in 1996, tax cuts in 2017, and the American Rescue Plan this year.

Democrats may need to negotiate with Manchin, but they don’t need to spend more time compromising with Republicans. They should not risk watering down a bill to pacify a GOP whose members will likely refuse to support it in a final vote.

Remember the first two years of former President Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Congress? They negotiated the Affordable Care Act bill with Republicans for months, holding meetings, making concessions and considering amendments from across the aisle. The result was delayed legislation that did not include a public option for insurance and was still not supported by a single Republican.

That may be where the majority party is headed once again if its leaders keep trying to entice Republicans to join in the lawmaking process. Democrats are free to govern like the GOP did when it controlled Congress (or like Iowa Republicans do on their priority bills in the Legislature).

Congressional Republicans didn’t care about the minority party’s objections when they refused to move forward with Obama’s judicial nominees. Or when they voted to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act. Or when they rammed through Trump’s budget-busting tax cuts.

Like it or not, that is now how things work in Washington. Bipartisanship is largely dead. That means no point in concessions to Republicans. Move forward on an infrastructure plan all the Democrats support. Do it immediately.

If Republicans, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, refuse to support it, voters can hold them accountable at the ballot box.

Iowa’s senators voted against COVID-19 relief legislation earlier this year that has brought millions of dollars to Iowa families, local governments and businesses. Don’t thank them for your $1,400 stimulus check.

Are the Republicans representing Iowa in Congress also going to vote against an infrastructure plan providing money to repair our roads and bridges? Do they think drinking water should be delivered through lead pipes? Are they willing to refuse federal investments in domestic manufacturing, renewable energy, airports and other infrastructure that creates jobs?

Perhaps. And Iowans should respond accordingly.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. June 11, 2021.

Editorial: OK, zoomer, time to get a vaccine

Last week, on June 4, the TH published a story explaining that young adults were lagging behind other local demographic groups in the percentage of their cohort vaccinated for COVID-19.

Also on June 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reacted to a new study showing that nearly one-third of teenagers hospitalized with COVID-19 during a surge of cases early this year required intensive care, while 5% required mechanical ventilation.

While hospitalizations were leveling off for the 65 and older crowd in March and April, thanks to vaccines, there was an uptick in the rates of adolescents and teens getting extremely ill during that time. CDC and other experts are concerned about the potential for severe disease in young people, given what they saw this spring.

Last week’s data showed that just about 34% of people age 16 to 29 were vaccinated in Dubuque County. For the 65 and older crowd, the percentage is above 90. Here’s an instance where millennials and Gen Z really do need to listen to boomers — Get your shot.

Yes, the young and healthy typically have not been hit as hard by the virus. But the CDC warning is real, and the image of young people on ventilators ought to be enough to drive more of this demographic toward getting vaccinated. This is a generation of young people who, for the most part, were taken to the pediatrician by their parents and dutifully vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. It’s just one more shot. And it’s a really important one. Unlike polio, we aren’t to herd immunity yet for COVID-19.

Encourage the young people in your life to get a vaccine — for their own sake, and for the rest of us.

As the mercury rises, Iowans know the days of butter sculptures and deep-fried pickles can’t be far behind. Indeed, the Iowa State Fair is just two months away. Fair officials haven’t said yet just what the fair will look like this year, but plans are in the works for festivities to be unveiled in July.

We know already one tradition that will continue — choosing an “Iowan of the Day.” This could be the year someone from our neck of the woods gets the royal fair treatment by being honored with this designation. Once again this year, 10 Iowans will be honored for their strong work ethic, loyalty to helping others and outstanding sense of Iowa pride. The winning Hawkeyes will get overnight accommodations at the Des Moines Marriott, four tickets to that evening’s show in the Grandstand, introduction on the Bill and Anne Riley Stage, $200 and — perhaps the best perk of anyone who has trudged the huge campus — use of a golf cart all day.

The fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation has honored “Iowans of the Day” since 1997, and in that time, just two winners hailed from Dubuque — Jane Tornblom in 1999 and Donald Bries in 2017. In fact, northeast Iowa in general has been under-represented.

Here’s a chance to change that. For information about submitting a nomination, check out the foundation’s website at Don’t delay: The deadline is July 1.

A big frown and grimace for Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for 1) breaking his campaign pledge, and 2) perpetuating the unscrupulous approach that is the hallmark of Illinois (Chicago) politics.

Pritzker vowed multiple times as a candidate for governor that he would veto any partisan redistricting plan for the Legislature. Yet, guess what he signed into law last week?

The new maps comport partisan-drawn districts for the General Assembly and state Supreme Court designed to keep tight reins on Democrats’ control in Illinois. That Pritzker swears the maps are aligned with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts is a good indication that the federal and state Voting Rights Acts also need another look.

Thanks to the political maneuvering that went into the mapmaking, Republicans are nearly certain to lose representation. The new maps set up at least seven one-on-one contests between Republican incumbents in the General Assembly.

Thanks, Pritzker, for further enshrining Illinois as a place of shady politics.


Quad-City Times. June 13, 2021.

Editorial: An unfair threshold

Last week, Scott County Democrats failed to get enough signatures to force a special election for county auditor. The party said it was able to gather about 6,200 signatures in two weeks.

That was an impressive feat, but it was still far short of the nearly 9,300 necessary to hold an election.

We’re sorry the Democrats failed, but we’re not surprised. The bar that state law sets for special elections is far too high; it’s almost as if it’s designed to prevent the people from providing a check on the power of politicians to use their appointment authority to fill vacancies.

Two weeks ago, Republicans on the Scott County Board of Supervisors appointed Kerri Tompkins to replace Roxanna Moritz. Tompkins, a former member of the Davenport City Council, seems like a solid choice to us. We don’t know her well, but we want to extend a welcome to her as our new county auditor. We wish her well, too. Those who administer elections have the glare of the political spotlight on them these days, and so we know it won’t be easy.

Our preference for a special election isn’t partisan, nor is it a reflection on Tompkins’ qualifications.

We tend to think that people holding elected office, as the auditor’s post is, should be elected — even when there is a vacancy, except in rare circumstances, such as if a vacancy occurs fairly close to a regularly scheduled election.

In this case, the next election is 17 months away.

Unfortunately, the state requires petitioners for special elections to get the signatures of 10% of the number of people who voted in the previous presidential or gubernatorial election; thus, the nearly 9,300 signature threshold.

We understand why the effort failed. Most county parties are volunteer organizations. They don’t have paid staff waiting in the wings for this kind of endeavor. And in this case, the Iowa Legislature’s new elections bill made it even harder to reach that threshold. Lawmakers narrowed the time in which signatures could be gathered for such an election.

We can think of no valid reason for this, other than to consolidate the power of the people who make appointments. And make no mistake, both parties have benefited. In 2008, it was Scott County Democrats who filled a vacancy on the Scott County Board. Back then the county GOP tried, and failed, to meet that 10% bar. (This editorial board also objected back then to the failure to hold an election).

In other counties in Iowa, it’s Democrats who control the levers. We think voters in those counties ought to have a realistic possibility of calling special elections if their leaders make appointments to fill vacancies.

State lawmakers ought to take a look at this issue.

Republicans who control the Legislature recently left session, saying that they had advanced the cause of individual freedom on a number of fronts. But when it comes to the ability of the electorate to actually elect their chief of elections, lawmakers narrowed that freedom. And by maintaining such a high threshold to enable a special election, which has been in state law for years, the politicians continue to keep the power to themselves, rather than sharing it with you.

We think state legislators in both parties ought to agree to share this power; to ensure that when vacancies occur, it is not impossible for the people of the county to petition so that they may have a voice in the successor. That’s what real freedom looks like.