Weekly News Roundup: Grassley Vows No SCOTUS Hearings, Contractor Sues Egyptian Fertilizer Company

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Grassley indicates he won’t even hold hearings for Scalia’s replacement: As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley holds a powerful position over the fate of President Obama’s eventual nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia. On Tuesday, he signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell along with 10 other Senate Republicans to make clear he wouldn’t even hold hearings to strike down the nominee, not “until after our next President is sworn in.” Joni Ernst, who did not sign the letter, also supports Grassley’s position. The two recently joined colleagues in dodging questions from Capitol Hill reporters about it, Ernst saying she was on her way to a vote while walking to an elevator in silence and Grassley shielding his face with a binder. The reports led to this mocking response from liberal dark money group Americans United for Change:

There’s been lots of talk about how the partisan blockade might affect the races of GOP senators up for re-election — those include Grassley, although he’s blown away every challenger he’s faced in the past. In Iowa, a group called Justice Not Politics, chaired by Joy Corning and Sally Pederson — former Republican and Democratic lieutenant governors of the state, respectively — has popped up and is airing TV ads featuring a clip of the Reagan-nominated former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner criticizing the GOP’s hardline stance.

Will Patty Judge take on Grassley?: Another former Democratic lieutenant governor, Patty Judge is considering a Senate bid against Grassley this year, according to a report in the Des Moines Register. As things stand now, Grassley’s only serious challenger is state Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat.

Feds approve Medicaid privatization, with another delay: Gov. Terry Branstad announced earlier this week that his controversial push to privatize Medicaid in Iowa gained federal approval for the switch on April 1. Initially, Branstad wanted to make the switch on the first of the year.

“We do not need a militia of toddlers”: That quote’s from Democratic state Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, to a local TV station about a bill that recently passed Iowa’s GOP-controlled House to allow kids under the age of 14 to use handguns with parental supervision. The controversial bill got some national news coverage, catching the eye of Washington Post reporter Lindsey Bever on Wednesday.

Egyptian company sued over controversial fertilizer plant project: Three years after Branstad’s eyebrow-raising, $1.4 billion deal to bring Cairo-based Orascom Construction Industries to Fort Madison to build a 320-acre fertilizer plant, the company has been sued in U.S. district court for allegedly stiffing a contractor. Check out the complaint, filed by Louisiana-based Maintenance Enterprises Inc., right here:

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.