Iowa’s congressional delegation responded to the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas with sorrow and proposed legislative responses.
Also this week, members of Iowa’s congressional delegation raised concerns about Trinity Health’s upcoming acquisition of the MercyOne health care system and asked when veterans will be able to access lifetime park passes.
School shooting responses
Sen. Chuck Grassley called the shooting “sickening and heartbreaking” and said he would continue pushing for the passage of the EAGLES Act. Grassley reintroduced the act in February 2021. He said it would expand research on school violence and allow “the Secret Service to directly equip communities and schools with training and best practices on recognizing and preventing school violence.”
“My EAGLES Act is a critical step that we can take now to address school shootings,” Grassley said during a conference call with Iowa reporters. “We have got to keep our schools safe, we can’t waste another day and there just seems to be a handful of senators, or maybe even less than a handful of senators, that have held up this bill when I have asked to get it passed on unanimous consent.”
The EAGLES Act was named after the mascot of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed and 17 were injured by a 19-year-old gunman in February 2018.
Introduced in 2021 by a Florida representative, the EAGLE act gives expanded authority to the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. The EAGLE Act also has approval from 40 state attorney generals.
The center uses conducts research and gives guidance to the Secret Services on school violence and national threats. Under the proposal, Grassley said the center could effectively identify and manage the threats before they occur.
Sen. Joni Ernst:
A senseless, horrendous act of evil. My heart is with all those in Texas right now.
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) May 24, 2022
Rep. Cindy Axne stated her support for bills passed by the House of Representatives that would expand background checks for licensed gun sales.
“We have gone another day where children in this country are being murdered because we are allowing assault-style rifles to legally be put into the wrong hands without appropriate background checks,” Axne said in part in a statement.
Rep. Ashley Hinson:
“We need to focus on legislation that will actually keep guns out of the wrong hands without infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens, without violating due process, or without violating our 2nd amendment right to self-defense,” Hinson said, according to KCCI.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks:
Please pray for the safety of everyone in Uvalde
— Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, M.D. (@RepMMM) May 24, 2022
Rep. Randy Feenstra:
As a dad, my heart breaks for the tragic and senseless loss of innocent life in Uvalde, Texas today. Lynette and I are praying for the victims, their families, and their community as they begin to grieve this unspeakable tragedy.
— Rep. Randy Feenstra (@RepFeenstra) May 25, 2022
Axne raises concerns about Trinity Health merger
In a letter sent Thursday, Axne posed questions to the CEOs of Trinity Health and MercyOne about an upcoming merger. Trinity Health has said that it is set to acquire the facilities and assets of the MercyOne health care system, which is headquartered in central Iowa. The company expects to complete the transaction in summer 2022.
Axne noted that Trinity CEO Mike Slubowski told the Des Moines Register that “the integration is expected to create long-term financial ‘efficiencies’ for both health systems, though patients should not expect lower costs as a result of the merger.”
“I encourage Trinity Health to use any cost savings it should realize as the sole parent of MercyOne to improve patient care, lower patient costs, and make health care more accessible for underserved Iowans,” Axne wrote.
Axne also questioned how Trinity Health intends to protect private medical information, prevent billing errors, and ensure compliance with consumer protections as it shifts to using a single electronic health record. She asked how Trinity will prevent harm caused by potential facility closures.
Humanitarian organizations support Ernst’s food-export resolution
Humanitarian organizations say that a resolution sponsored by Ernst and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would help those suffering from extreme hunger around the world.
The resolution would temporarily waive current law that requires 50% of U.S. food aid exports to be shipped on U.S. flagged vessels. A similar resolution has been introduced in the House, which would declare a state of emergency due the Russian invasion of Ukraine and allow Congress to bypass the rule until February 2025.
Ernst said Thursday the resolution has received support in a joint statement from over a dozen humanitarian organizations, such as Action Against Hunger.
“In these unprecedented conditions, we request that Congress urgently consider and pass S.Con.Res.38 to help ease the increasing burden of rising shipping costs on lifesaving, hunger-reducing programs by temporarily waiving the U.S. cargo preference mandate on food aid,” the organizations said in part.
Miller-Meeks asks for veteran lifetime park passes
As Memorial Day approaches, Miller-Meeks and five other members of Congress are asking the Biden administration to implement the Veterans in Parks Act. The act, which became law on Dec. 27, allows veterans and qualifying members of Gold Star families to receive lifetime passes for national parks and federal recreation areas.
“It is imperative that the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture work together to immediately ensure that the new America the Beautiful lifetime passes are made available by Memorial Day so our nation’s heroes can access the lands that they fought and sacrificed to protect,” the letter reads.
The National Park Service website says that in recent years, veterans and Gold Star families could receive free annual passes, and still can. The new free lifetime passses will become available “later in 2022.”
Grassley-sponsored bill to decrease secret foreign lobbying passes committee
Grassley introduced a bill last week that “closes a loophole that the Chinese Communist Party frequently exploits to conceal its role in lobbying efforts,” the senator said in statements. Grassley said the bill unanimously passed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“We’ve learned that the Chinese Communist Party has used other organizations as proxies to secretly push their agenda in the United States,” Grassley said. “This bill builds on existing lobbying and foreign agent laws to shine a light on that behavior so we know exactly where influence campaigns are coming from to ensure policy decisions are in the best interest of the American people.”
— Kate Kealey contributed to this report.