The utter failings of one-party control were on display Wednesday night in the Iowa Senate. And, like a good Republican soldier, Sen. Roby Smith did as he was told.
In two truly shameful party-line votes, Iowa's GOP-run Senate abandoned any oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and then, hours later, made an orphan of reason and fiscal responsibility.
Wednesday night's tragic double-feature began with Senate File 2281, lovingly dubbed by its defenders as "the heartbeat bill." In actuality, it's an unconstitutional attempt to criminalize most abortions in Iowa.
Under the heartbeat bill, any physician who performs an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected would be subject to criminal charges. In practice, it means all abortions must be performed within the first six weeks of pregnancy, well before many women know they're pregnant, experts said. The cruel lording over women's bodies and sexuality didn't end there. No, lawmakers didn't even exempt instances of rape or incest. Only a mother's life could justify an abortion after the state-imposed deadline, should this sham become law.
Detractors, supporters and analysts alike admit the heartbeat bill violates the U.S. Constitution. In fact, that's the whole point and, on its own, a viable basis for righteous outrage.
Of course, conservatives held their noses in 2016 and voted for President Donald Trump precisely for a moment such as this. Stock the courts, they said. Kill Roe v. Wade, they screamed. Do so even if it costs Iowa's premier medical school its gynecological accreditation, they urged. The intentional destruction of constitutional rights, and an appearance in U.S. Supreme Court, is the play here. Nothing else, no matter how pragmatic, can get in the way.
And so, typically reasonable and reserved Iowa — at least its Senate — has decided to hop on that train with Deep South culture warriors, even if it means stomping on the rights of half the state.
And the cult-like devotion to dogma over sense or reason didn't end there.
Hours later, the Senate then passed an inexcusably irresponsible tax overhaul that, in every practical term, would bankrupt the state.
The Legislature's own research division said SF 2383 would bleed more than $200 million from state coffers this coming fiscal year. That number would jump to more than $1 billion when it's fully enacted in a state with a $7 billion budget.
Consider that — the bill the Iowa Senate passed would annually slash 14 percent of state revenue once fully implemented. And, as if Iowa didn't already dole out enough gifts to multinationals and well-heeled, that's where the bulk of tax cuts would end up.
Wednesday's tax bill vote was a clear statement of priorities for the GOP Senate majority: School funding, Medicaid nor mental health really matter. The tax bill's sponsor, Sen. Randy Feenstra, couldn't even say how that $200 million hole would get plugged, as if the state isn't already axing services to make up for shortfalls.
The very erosion of government — and the necessary services it provides — trumps all else. Any claim from GOP senators to the contrary is a flat-out falsehood. The tax bill vote was a particularly curious move from Sen. Smith. He's spent a full year fighting for funding equity for Davenport Community School. And then he votes for a package that would all but guarantee the movement's demise.
Ultimately, it's the average Iowan who was targeted Wednesday night by state Senate Republicans. These senators make lofty commitments about rights and freedom and then vote to take them away. They say they care about health care and, just like last year, vote to limits a woman's access to it. They claim to be committed to funding schools and hand out an annual increase well below inflation. They pledge fiscal responsibility and than ram through — before anyone can fully understand the issue — tax policy that would render the state unable to function.
Both bills should die a loud, unceremonious death in the House, where lawmakers are instead riffing on Gov. Kim Reynolds's substantially less insane tax proposal. Reynolds should finally show some leadership and, at the very least, lambaste the complete and utter fiscal irresponsibility that senators called tax reform.
Iowa's Republican Senate majority laid bare its true priorities. And neither the U.S. Constitution nor good fiscal sense could to get in the way.