The World-Herald’s Washington Bureau rounds up news highlights from Capitol Hill and beyond.

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon accept public comments on proposed new ethanol rules, but it might need a bleep function for the statements coming out of Nebraska and Iowa.

“No more Iowa nice — now it’s Iowa pissed.”

That was how Iowa Corn Growers Association CEO Craig Floss summarized his folks’ response to the EPA’s draft rule. Floss said he was quoting a longtime Iowa farmer who normally wouldn’t dream of using such inappropriate language.

Ethanol supporters have been complaining bitterly that the EPA has been doling out Renewable Fuel Standard exemptions to small refineries like candy during President Donald Trump’s tenure.

They say those exemptions, known as SREs, undermine the federal RFS, which requires the blending of billions of gallons of ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply every year. The result, they say, has been lower crop prices and idled ethanol plants.

That’s why there was so much rejoicing in the ethanol sector when the administration announced earlier this month that it would re-allocate gallons lost to future exemptions.

But jubilation turned to despair after the proposed rule was released last week with details that differed from what was promised.

Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said he’s heard from farmers and ethanol shareholders who were anticipating some certainty but instead got a rule that simply asks them to trust the EPA to do the right thing.

“They stood by Trump on the trade issues even though it was hurting their pocketbook, and then got repaid with an SRE knife between their shoulder blades,” Shaw said of farmers and ethanol backers. “I will say this though — I don’t think it’s too late to get this back on track and to restore some of that confidence.”

Several Midlands lawmakers told The World-Herald that they understand why farm and ethanol groups are suspicious of the EPA and urged constituents to register their thoughts through the 30-day public comment process that will follow an Oct. 30 public hearing.

“I’m extremely disappointed in where we are, and we’ll see how the comment period goes,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb, said.

On the international front, Capitol Hill lawmakers spent last week wrestling with the ongoing crisis in Syria.

The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning the president’s pullback of troops there. The three members of Nebraska’s all-GOP House delegation voted in favor of that resolution, along with Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was one of only 60 House Republicans to oppose the resolution, saying that he stands with the president on his decision.

As the 2020 election ramps up, campaigns’ third-quarter fundraising reports were due last week. They show that Republican incumbents in Nebraska, including Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Don Bacon, start with a significant fundraising edge over their challengers.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on the nomination of Vice Admiral Charles Richard as the new head of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal and is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha.

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In other news:

Outsourcing bill OK’d

The House voted to approve Axne’s legislation on corporate outsourcing on a largely party-line vote of 226-184. No Democrats opposed it, while just two Republicans supported it.

Axne said the bill would increase transparency by requiring publicly traded companies to disclose where their workers are located.

“I’ve heard from dozens of Iowans in my district who are wondering how they’re going to pay their bills because they’ve been laid off due to ‘technological advances,’ only to then be asked to train their replacement overseas,” Axne said in a press release.

Eliminating presidential perks

The House also approved Sen. Joni Ernst’s legislation limiting taxpayer-funded benefits for former U.S. presidents.

The Iowa Republican said former presidents are pulling in millions of dollars through speaking engagements, Netflix deals and other avenues, but they still get significant taxpayer-funded perks such as travel, personal staff and office space.

Her bill would apply to future ex-presidents — those who have already left 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would continue receiving benefits under the current system. And it would not affect security or protection of former presidents.

The legislation must still be passed by the Senate to reach Trump’s desk. When Ernst introduced the bill in a previous session of Congress, it passed both chambers but was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama.

Basketball in China

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., continues to share his thoughts on the conflict between China and the NBA.

Sasse recently issued a press release about China asking the NBA to fire Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for a tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

“It’s good that Morey still has his job and the NBA deserves credit there,” Sasse said. “Let’s put this in perspective though: When an American citizen stands for basic human rights, the Chinese Communist Party tries to get him fired. But when a Chinese citizen stands for basic human rights, the Chinese Communist Party has a way of making them disappear.”

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