It’s the season of political clogs

It seems as if we’re in a season of clogs.

Things are either moving slowly or not moving at all.

Take presidential politics. So far neither leader of the two main parties has declared whether he will be running in 2024. Usually by now, especially here in Iowa, we will have been visited by several presidential hopefuls. But not this cycle.

Donald Trump has been teasing Republicans about a possible rerun, but he has yet to pull the trigger. As a result, no other GOP possibility has been willing to make any kind of formal statement, for fear of antagonizing Trump, and because if Trump does decide to run, he will no doubt have the nomination by default. He will be 78 by Election Day 2024.

President Biden is also deferring a public decision on whether he will seek reelection in 2024. He’s already the oldest president in U.S. history, having been inaugurated last January at the age of 78. There’s no shortage of possible successors for Biden within the Democratic Party, but they’re not about to force his hand by declaring for the nomination before Biden states publicly what his plans are.

Another major clog halting political campaign activity in our state is the delay in redrawing Iowa congressional and legislative districts. In Iowa the redistricting maps are created by a nonpartisan government agency and then sent to the legislature for consideration.

There was a delay of several months in receipt of U.S. Census population numbers, so the first maps weren’t submitted to the lawmakers until late summer. And the legislature chose to reject them. So the agency is now busily drawing a second map set, which the legislature will then consider for acceptance or rejection. Lawmakers are not allowed to alter the first or the second set of maps.

Without knowing where the legislative and congressional boundaries are, incumbents and potential challengers naturally hold off on declaring what their plans are. They may find themselves in a new district that doesn’t bode well for their election. So they’re twiddling their thumbs pending release of the second set of maps, which may also be rejected by the lawmakers. Very little campaigning for those offices is going on at present. Stay tuned.

Even for major statewide elective office there’s not much movement. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated the likelihood that she will stand for re-election, but has yet to make a formal announcement. And because of the strength she shows in public opinion polls, potential Democratic challengers so far are few and far between. Party bigwigs seem to be waiting to see if State Auditor Rob Sand or Third District Congresswoman Cindy Axne decides to take on Reynolds, but so far neither has indicated their plans for the 2022 election.

The one exception is the U.S. Senate seat up in 2022. It’s currently held by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who recently announced he’s running for another six-year term. If elected it would be his eighth term; he was first elected to the Senate in 1980 after serving three two-year terms in the U.S. House and several terms in the Iowa Legislature. By Election Day 2022 he will be 89.

Several Democrats have announced their candidacy to replace Grassley, and he also has a Republican primary challenger. So the U.S. Senate campaign has escaped the clog situation.

But in Congress itself there’s little movement these days. With the parties nearly evenly divided in both the House and the Senate, it takes only a few holdouts to stall action on major bills. And that’s certainly the case with the Democratic Party, which technically controls both houses of Congress.

Two examples are the infrastructure bill and the “reconcilation” appropriation bill. The reconciliation bill started off upwards of $4 trillion, then was reduced to around $3.2 trillion, and now it appears that if it is approved at all, it will be in the range of $1.8 to $2.2 trillion. Even that amount might be too big a package for Arizona’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and/or West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin to support.

Progressive Democrats in the House so far have refused to approve the infrastructure bill unless the reconciliation bill is approved first. So Congress remains at a standstill on its two major money bills. Other Democratic priorities, like voting rights protection, police reform and climate change reduction, are also clogged up, mostly by Republican-threatened use of the Senate filibuster.

There’s no Drano-like solution for getting these things moving. Time appears to be the only answer, and even it feels slower these days.

Rick Morain is the retired editor and publisher of the Jefferson Bee and Herald.


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