D.C. Dispatch: Iowa representatives fit immigration, homelessness policy into defense spending bill

Posted at 1:25 PM, Jul 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 14:25:16-04

Iowa’s representatives in the U.S. House were able to get some of their own policy goals on issues like immigration and homelessness aid passed in this year’s military defense spending package.

The House of Representatives passed this year’s National Defense Authorization Act in a 329-101 vote Thursday, providing $839 billion in Pentagon funding.

The amendments Iowa’s delegation passed through the NDAA were not all defense policies. U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks was able to get in language to protect Dreamers, or people who entered the country as children with undocumented parents.

While there are some protections for people who came to the U.S. as minors, the pathway to citizenship is still difficult. Miller-Meeks said her amendment would protect minors from deportation if they entered the U.S. with a guardian under a temporary visa but do not have permanent residence.

Today the House passed my amendment which will protect over 200,000 documented dreamers. These dreamers grew up in the United States and call this place home. Sadly, due to a broken immigration system, many of them are forced to leave. This amendment will alleviate this issue.

— Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, M.D. (@RepMMM) July 15, 2022

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne successfully added measures to provide skills training and employment assistance to National Guard members transitioning to civilian life. The legislation also includes her proposed change to a rural homelessness assistance act, which she said gives communities more flexibility in how they spend federal funding to help people find housing.

“Homelessness in rural areas looks different than it does in urban communities because there’s oftentimes few or no places to seek shelter,” Axne said in a news release. “My legislation will give rural communities more flexibility in how homelessness funding can be used to ensure the money is being used in ways that make the most sense for each individual community.”

U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra also added measures to the package, providing funding for research on weather radar detection and biofuel cell development.

He praised the NDAA for increasing both service member pay and overall military funding – steps necessary for maintaining national security an “increasingly unstable” world.

“China and Russia will stop at nothing to usurp our position as the world’s strongest economic and military superpower,” Feenstra said in a release. “For the sake of our national security and economic vitality, we can never let that happen.”

The NDAA now awaits a debate and approval in the Senate.

Grassley calls for general to submit to questioning

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley called on Gen. Mark Milley to answer questions on allegedly breaking the chain of command during former President Donald Trump’s tenure. (Screen shot from Grassley’s YouTube channel)

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley called for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to answer questions on whether he interrupted the statutory line of command at the end of former President Donald Trump’s tenure.

In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Grassley called on Milley to answer questions about his actions. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican, asked for the same in the House.

Milley was a primary military advisor to Trump. The book “Peril,” authored by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on the Trump presidency, alleged Milley told high-ranking military officials to check in with him first before carrying out any orders directly from the president.

“These brazen words and actions, if accurate, strike at the heart of our democracy — civilian control of the military — and show utter contempt for the commander-in-chief,” Grassley said in a Thursday speech.

It’s not the first time Grassley has tried to bring in Milley for additional questioning. In January, he and fellow Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to Milley about another passage in “Peril” that alleged he told members of the Chinese military that he would contact them if the president planned on attacking China.

Milley was questioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee on his actions during the Trump administration in September 2021. During the hearing, he said he was instructed by then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to make calls to China.

Outside of this hearing, the general has not confirmed or denied the accuracy of these reports. Milley has said he was interviewed by some journalists for books on the Trump administration, but has not read any books like “Peril” that make these accusations.

Grassley said Milley has a duty to clarify whether the book’s allegations are true.

“General Milley, honor your word,” Grassley said. “Answer the questions. Come clean with the American people. We are all ears.”

Ernst joins border wall visit

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst talks to a service member during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border the night of July 14. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s office)

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst visited the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley this week with a delegation of Republican colleagues.

She spent Thursday night with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the National Border Patrol Council performing a night tour. A news release said the senator spent Friday meeting with landowners along the border, law enforcement and border security officials to discuss what actions Congress should take.

“Month after month, we continue to see complete chaos at the Southern border under this administration,” Ernst said in a news release. “With our Border Patrol agents more overwhelmed than ever, we need serious action to restore law and order at the border. I’m looking forward to meeting with the men and women on the front lines of this crisis and bringing back potential solutions to my colleagues in the Senate.”

Ernst supports building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Earlier this month, she sponsored legislation which would require the federal government to provide construction material to states along the southern border. Miller-Meeks proposed a companion bill to the Border’s Unused Idle and Lying Dormant Inventory Transfer (BUILD IT) Act in the House.

Biden issued an executive order to cease border barrier construction early in his presidency.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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