The World-Herald’s Washington Bureau rounds up news highlights from Capitol Hill and beyond.
President Donald Trump rode into Council Bluffs last week to brag about a new pro-ethanol rule even as critics complained about other aspects of his renewable fuels policy. The president spent the end of the week dealing with fallout from saying he’d listen to foreign powers offering him dirt on political opponents. And he also suggested members of Congress already do that (most Midlands lawmakers begged to differ with that part).
And Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, continued to stir the pot on illegal immigration, unveiling new legislation aimed at cracking down on sanctuary cities.
In other news:
No raise for Congress
An effort to raise congressional salaries for the first time in a decade has been shelved for now after running into extremely predictable backlash.
Lawmaker salaries have long been politically fraught, although House members might be forgiven for thinking they earned some kind of bonus after a week marked by late-night legislating.
That included a marathon all-night House Armed Services Committee session, during which the panel approved disaster funding to help Offutt Air Force Base recover from this year’s flooding.
Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate currently make $174,000 a year — the same salary they’ve received since 2009.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he would oppose the pay raise if it was brought to the floor.
The Omaha-area congressman said he didn’t want to trumpet his opposition too much because, unlike many of his colleagues, he has the benefit of being a retired Air Force brigadier general.
But he said it’s hard to imagine the public supporting a pay boost in light of Washington’s ongoing dysfunction.
“I think we’ve got a 15% favorable rating because we’re not getting stuff done,” Bacon said. “And I think a 15% favorable rating does not equal a raise.”
For what it’s worth, Gallup figures from last month show congressional approval ratings hovering around 20%.
Nebraskans with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were making the rounds on Capitol Hill last week urging lawmakers to support legislation putting a price on carbon pollution.
Mark Welsch, a leader of the group’s Omaha chapter, has been coming to Washington for the annual lobbying push for years.
The message is pretty straightforward: Loading the atmosphere with ever-more carbon will worsen climate change and the resulting extreme weather events.
Welsch cited the heavy floods that hit Nebraska and Iowa this year.
“They’re becoming more frequent and they’re going to continue to become more frequent, so we need really fast action by our members of Congress,” Welsch said.
The group’s specific proposal is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would impose an escalating fee on producers and importers of fuels that emit greenhouse gases.
There are exemptions for agriculture and rebates for facilities that capture carbon.
That money collected would be delivered back to American citizens in the form of dividend payments.
It’s intended to be a revenue-neutral way of pushing companies toward whichever renewable energy sources make the most sense without a government mandate.
Still, a number of conservative and anti-tax groups have said they oppose the approach as just more government intrusion.
Welsch said he’s a Republican who wants to see the job creation, economic growth and regulatory freeze the bill would bring.
“It’s got everything a Republican would want,” he said.
Thus far, no Iowan or Nebraskan has co-sponsored the bill but Welsch said they will keep working on them.
“I’m always optimistic,” he said.
Motorcycles and politics
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, held the kickoff for her reelection campaign Saturday at her fifth annual Roast and Ride.
Her special guest this year — Nikki Haley.
The former U.N. ambassador may well have national political ambitions for the future as evidenced by her playing the starring role at Saturday’s event.
A number of previous Republican presidential contenders have attended the fundraiser, which features a motorcycle ride and a cook-out.