D.C. Dispatch: Sustainable aviation fuel, forced labor and infrastructure grants
D.C. Dispatch: Sustainable aviation fuel, forced labor and infrastructure grants

U.S. Capitol (Photo by Jane Norman/States Newsroom)

As congressional majority and minority leaders continue negotiations to reach long-term agreements on appropriations bills, Iowa’s delegates introduced legislation this week surrounding sustainable aviation fuel and forced labor. 

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Sen. Chuck Grassley posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “On the way 2 vote on more nominations.  WISH WE WERE VOTING ON APPROPRIATION BILLS TO PROPERLY FUND GOVT.”

While Grassley waits for appropriation bills, immigration talks and criticism of border policies headlined many congressional communications this week, including those from Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, who said the House would hold a vote to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. 

Here’s what Iowa’s congressional delegation was up to this week:

Bill on sustainable aviation fuel wins bipartisan introduction

A bill to encourage the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) was introduced with bipartisan support, including both Iowa senators and Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. 

The bill, a companion to a November House of Representatives bill, would clarify the eligibility of SAF in U.S. Department of Education bio-energy programs, provide greater collaboration on SAF in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and establish a common definition of SAF for USDA purposes, according to the Iowa senators. 

“Embracing biofuels is positive for Iowa farmers and the environment,” Grassley said in a news release. “By expanding opportunities for investment in sustainable aviation fuels at the USDA, our bill aims to diversify and onshore American energy production while encouraging economic activity.”

The Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model was permitted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a model to calculate SAF credits in December, which Sen. Joni Ernst, Grassley and Rep. Ashley Hinson applauded

“As we work toward energy independence, the GREET model will play a key role in allowing homegrown, Iowa biofuel to meet the needs of the U.S. aviation industry, while also creating new markets for biofuel producers,” Ernst said in a news release. “An investment in the development of sustainable aviation fuel is an investment in our national security, our environment, and our farmers.”

The companion legislation in the House was cosponsored by all four of Iowa’s Representatives. It was introduced in November and has been free of updates since being introduced in the House Committee on Agriculture. 

SAF is made with non-petroleum feedstocks, including corn stover and soybean oil, and has reduced emissions compared to traditional jet fuel. 

Feenstra’s foster family bill forwarded to Senate

The Recruiting Families Using Data Act of 2023, originally cosponsored by Rep. Randy Feenstra, passed the House on Jan. 18 and is now up for consideration by the Senate. 

The legislation aims to improve the foster care system by updating processes for identifying, recruiting and retaining qualified foster homes, according to Feenstra’s office. 

The bill would mandate increased reporting on foster families via an annual collection of data related to the demographics and characteristics of licensed families, foster family capacity and more. 

“As a father of four and a Christian, it is my firm belief that every child deserves a safe, loving home in our country,” Feenstra said in a news release. “Unfortunately, many vulnerable children in our foster care system lack a family that they can call their own due to a shortage of foster families and a nationwide inability to retain generous families willing to foster. That must change.”

Grassley, Ernst: Follow up on FAFSA

A new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form was approved in 2020 and was recently released behind schedule. 

According to studentaid.gov, the FAFSA form for the upcoming school year was set to be launched Dec. 31. 

The form launched briefly on Dec. 30, and was open for partial days during the following week, and the U.S. Department of Education reported there were “minor issues” discovered leading up to and during the soft launch. 

The application was fully available on Jan. 6. 

The delay in the launch has contributed to high school counselors “scrambling to connect with students and families to help navigate the new FAFSA process,” according to Grassley’s office. 

Grassley and Ernst requested the Government Accountability Office to investigate the “failure to properly implement the updated FAFSA program.”

The Iowa senators, along with 26 other legislators, wrote to the GAO, stating the delays could prevent students from attending an institute of higher education. 

“All these challenges and delays may cause some students—particularly low-income students who are most dependent on federal aid—to give up and not pursue postsecondary education,” the senators stated. 

The senators also claimed the Department of Education has fallen short in outreach efforts to students and schools looking for guidance on the new process. 

The change was made to make the form more accessible and is meant to feature, at full functionality, more flexibility in enrollment as well as a different formula to determine whether financial aid eligibility will  change for applicants.

Iowa collects Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds 

Both Grassley and Rep. Zach Nunn applauded the $34 million grant from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, authorized by bipartisan legislation that saw varying levels of support from Iowa lawmakers. 

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was supported by Grassley and former Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, while the rest of the Iowa delegation was opposed to the measure. 

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Nunn, who replaced Axne in 2023, applauded the grant, saying he championed the City of Des Moines’ application for the grant to complete one of the projects, the Southeast Connector Project from SE 30th Street in Des Moines to U.S. Highway 65 in Pleasant Hill. 

“I am proud to have championed bringing crucial federal investment to the Southeast Connector project to support connectivity, accessibility and safety for our community,” Nunn said in a news release.

Grassley, the only GOP delegate from Iowa to vote in favor of the bill, said the bipartisan bill continues to support investments in Iowa’s future. Grassley added that he is “glad to see even more of Iowans’ hard-earned tax dollars return to our state.”

The project includes a bridge over Fourmile Creek, a shared-use path, flood mitigation infrastructure, which ultimately leads to direct and continuous travel route between SE 30th Street in Des Moines and U.S. Highway 65 in Pleasant Hill. 

A July 2022 report from the White House stated that over five years Iowa can expect to receive $3.9 billion from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

EV mandate opposition

Iowa’s two senators and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks joined a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), asking for a withdrawal of efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks. 

The lawmakers specifically pointed out the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tailpipe emissions proposal. 

“NHTSA’s proposed CAFE standards, when coupled with the EPA’s distinct, extreme tailpipe emissions proposal, amount to a de facto mandate for EVs that threatens to raise costs and restrict consumer choice, harm U.S. businesses, degrade our energy and national security and hand the keys of our automotive industry over to our adversaries, especially China,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Iowa awmakers asked instead for what they called a “workable” proposal that complies with the law and better serves Americans. 

The standards of automakers’ fleets average fuel economies of 58 milers per gallon by 2032 are unrealistic and could strain manufacturers and weaken U.S. energy independence, according to Grassley’s office

On the border

Delegates are responding to a Supreme Court ruling that sided with the Department of Homeland Security. The department demands immediate access to part of the U.S.-Mexico border now blocked with razor wire and fencing, while the state of Texas is fighting the ruling. 

To defend Texas’ stance, Feenstra was helped introduce a bill that would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from removing the fencing and barriers. 

“President Biden’s open-border policies have created the worst crisis at our southern border in generations,” Feenstra said in a news release. “Terrorists, drug traffickers, illegal immigrants and foreign nationals with ties to China have broken our laws, crossed our border, and been released into our country with no vetting at all. The lack of leadership from the Biden administration infuriates me.” 

Feenstra said the legislation would, in effect, overturn the Supreme Court decision and confirm “Texas’ right to defend itself and its borders.”

Hinson also made a statement, saying it is Texas’ right to access the border. “The crisis at our Southern Border is far beyond a breaking point, it is a full-scale invasion invited by the Biden Administration’s open border policies. Governor Abbott has the authority to protect Texans, and Americans, from the ever-worsening national security crisis at our Southern Border, and he should continue working to do so.”

Grassley looks to clean up laundering of dirty money

Calling for increased accountability for those who launder money, Grassley introduced a bipartisan bill that would result in steeper penalties for bulk cash smuggling, update counterfeiting laws, enable wiretapping authorities to investigate currency reporting, and give the Secret Service permission to investigate ransomware crimes. 

The Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Finance and Counterfeiting Act is intended to equip law enforcement with new tools to stop criminal money schemes, according to Grassley’s office. 

“As money laundering methods have evolved over time, so must the government’s efforts to exact justice,” Grassley said in a news release. “Our legislation would enhance enforcement measures and penalties, providing better tools to root out money launderers and hold them accountable.”

The bill, which is also intended to fight sexual trafficking, is supported by multiple law enforcement agencies and cosponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Klobuchar. 

Nunn: No forced labor

The No Funds for Forced Labor Act, a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Treasury to oppose requests for loans from international financial institutions, was introduced this week by Nunn. 

“The American taxpayer should never be funding or support corporations that exploit forced labor,” Nunn said in a news release. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation will close loopholes and allow the United States to crack down on support for Chinese companies complicit in forced labor and forced labor across the world.”

Nunn’s office cited a motivation for the legislation: Chinese companies’ ability to access loans funded by U.S. tax dollars, benefitting companies that are complicit in the “Chinese government’s brutal forced labor of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.”

Ernst asks agency heads to report attendance

Ernst called on the White House Office of Management and Budget to audit and post the schedule of executive agency heads during a news conference this week, stating, “Yes, agency heads, we want to know what you’re doing and where you’re working from. Taxpayers deserve to know who is showing up to work and who is not.”

The call comes after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was admitted to the Walter Reed Medical Center intensive care unit at the beginning of the year, and President Joe Biden was reportedly unaware of the hospitalization for multiple days. Austin later said he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.”

“Unlike most Americans, Biden bureaucrats follow the president’s example of doing business: when, where, how and if they want to,” Ernst said in a news release. “With wars raging and Americans hurting, this administration needs to be all hands on deck.”

The post D.C. Dispatch: Sustainable aviation fuel, forced labor and infrastructure grants appeared first on Iowa Capital Dispatch.


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