Weekly News Roundup: Dems Up Pressure on Grassley, State Senate Approves Medicaid Oversight Bill

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Adrián de la Natividad/Noun Project

Dems turn up the heat on Grassley over vow to block Obama SCOTUS nominee: As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley continues his stand against allowing confirmation hearings for the person President Obama picks to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Democrats are doing all they can to take advantage, with former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge announcing a Senate bid this year against Grassley and Obama reportedly considering an Iowan as his nominee. Recent polls have shown conflicting results about the effect Grassley’s position is having on his approval rating and re-election chances.

Iowa Christie backers weigh in on Trump endorsement: Two of the six prominent Iowans (but not Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter) who flew out to New Jersey in an effort to talk Gov. Chris Christie into running for president and later backed him when he did last year shared their thoughts with the Informer on Christie’s surprise endorsement of Donald Trump. As Trump continued to rack up victories on Super Tuesday March 1, Christie was widely mocked for being “held hostage” at one event at which he stood behind Trump with a blank stare on his face. Christie later shot down suggestions that he had already come to regret his endorsement, telling CNN, “All these armchair psychiatrists should give it a break.”

State Senate approves bill for additional oversight of Medicaid privatization: On Wednesday by a bipartisan vote that included six Republicans, the state Senate approved a bill that would increase oversight of Gov. Terry Branstad’s controversial decision to privatize Medicaid. The federal government has approved an April 1 transition date; the transition was already delayed from the beginning of the year, and Democrats, worried about continued quality of care for the disabled and low-income residents the program assists, have argued that the governor is acting too hastily.

UI police leader interfered with hit-and-run investigation: Documents previously withheld from the public but recently obtained by the AP’s Ryan Foley revealed that the University of Iowa’s interim public safety director, David Visin, last June interfered with a hit-and-run accident investigation to protect his stepson. Visin later blamed his actions on diabetes. The incident could spell more headaches for the new, embattled president of the university, Bruce Harreld, who arrived at the university pledging transparency. After the AP report broke, he told Radio Iowa that he had decided not to pursue the issue after a review.

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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.