Fischer and Grassley pack schedules

It’s the slow days of Congress’ August recess here in the nation’s capital.

The president heads off to Martha’s Vineyard and lawmakers return to their home states for town halls, business roundtables and coffee shop chats with constituents.

The Washington-based newspaper Roll Call has been tracking which members are holding the most town halls.

The top ten list includes Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

The two tied for fifth on the most recent rankings with 11 events.

The lead position is held by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, with 26 scheduled events.

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King focuses on Bud Day

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is typically more than happy to stop and chat with reporters in the lobby just off the House floor.

And Washington scribes love to seek out the colorful conservative for his pot-stirring quotes on immigration, the Obama administration and every other hot-button topic possible.

But King was waving off reporters Friday, saying he didn’t want to talk about anything but the life of Col. Bud Day, the Medal of Honor recipient and native of Sioux City, Iowa.

Day, 88, died Sunday.

King attended Thursday’s funeral service for Day, an event King described as “glorious and amazing.”

He talked of the thousands who showed up to pay their respects, of the families lining the roads saluting or placing their hands over hearts.

“I’ve never seen so many flags,” King said.

An Associated Press reporter sought to get his thoughts on an immigration forum Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was hosting Friday in Ames, Iowa, in King’s district.

King brushed off the question, reiterating that the only comments he’d be making were to honor Day, an American hero.

“I’m not going to discuss certain things outside of that until such time as my flag is raised back up again,” King said. “It’s at half-staff now and it’ll stay there until tomorrow night.”

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Grassley runs for cancer research

Sen. Chuck Grassley will be at the Washington Monument at 6 a.m. Wednesday to jog a mile as part of a run to increase public awareness of cancer and raise funding for medical research.

It actually represents an easy morning for the Iowa Republican, who typically rises at 4:30 a.m. to run three miles.

Grassley noted that his wife is a breast cancer survivor herself and he has run in similar events back in Iowa.

He said he was invited to participate in the Million Dollar Marathon, a coast-to-coast relay run, by former Iowa state legislator Steve Falck.

He was planning to skip his regular 3-mile run to ensure he’s at the Monument on time in the morning.

“I don’t think I’ll get in the other two (miles) tomorrow,” he said. “I can do that on the weekend when I get back to Iowa.”

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Reid compares John McCain to Bob Kerrey

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor Tuesday praising Sen. John McCain’s work on brokering a deal to avert the so-called “nuclear option” when he compared the Arizona Republican to a Democrat who used to represent Nebraska in the Senate.

Reid talked up McCain’s persuasive, persistent advocacy and said he was struggling to come up with just the right words to describe his colleague.

“You know who he reminds me of? Bob Kerrey,” Reid said. “I hope that’s not a, doesn’t disparage John McCain, but John McCain is the reason we’re at the point we are.”

You can see the video here.

Kerrey represented Nebraska in the Senate for two terms before leaving in 2001.

Kerrey’s bid to reclaim his old seat last year fell short when he was solidly defeated by Republican Deb Fischer.

McCain flew into Omaha shortly before the election – to endorse Fischer.

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Bradley touts background

The World-Herald reported this week on potential challengers for Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., in the 2014 midterm election, including Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen and state Sen. Bob Krist.

Omaha Democrat Larry Bradley is another one mulling a bid against Terry.

Bradley said he would be motivated by issues that include the need for immigration legislation and keeping food stamps in the farm bill.

Bradley holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Nebraska. He describes himself as “half Mexican-American, half Irish” and said he’s able to relate well to a diverse community.

He was in the army for four years and is now a commander of the American GI Forum in Omaha, a Hispanic veterans group.

He was elected to the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District board in 2008 and made an unsuccessful bid for the District 4 seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents last year.

Bradley said he expects to decide this fall whether to actually run for Congress, but said he would have a few things going for him, including the name recognition he established with his run for the Board of Regents in in 2012.

“Do not underestimate me,” he said.

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New D.C. digs for Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer has a new office in Washington.

The Nebraska Republican has moved into 383 Russell Senate Office Building. That’s in the same building and just one floor below the office of Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.

Fischer was elected last year to succeed Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat who decided to retire after two terms.

It typically takes months for new senators to receive their long-term office assignments and then move into the new space.

In the meantime, Fischer had been operating out of temporary quarters in a different office building.

While that location was somewhat cramped, it still was preferable to what Johanns faced when he arrived on Capitol Hill.

He and his aides were initially parked in one of the double-wide trailers located in an office building courtyard.

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Keystone Kardashian

According to the Hill, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has found a colorful way to describe the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It’s the Kim Kardashian of energy,” the Hill quotes pipeline supporter Heitkamp saying at a tax policy conference. “I don’t know why we care.”

Kardashian, of course, is the quintessential not-sure-why-she’s-famous reality television personality.

Pipeline supporters say the project would create jobs, promote energy independence and pose little environmental risk based on various State Department studies.

Opponents of the pipeline say those studies are fundamentally flawed and the project’s potential benefits overstated.

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Around the world in seven days

The notebook is currently traveling with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

We’ll be back with coverage of Congress soon but in the meantime see our coverage of the secretary’s trip to Hawaii, Singapore and Brussels at

Our story on his tour of a fast new warship in Singapore is here.

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Johanns wants hearings into IRS actions

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., wants hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee to on reports that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting conservative groups for review of tax documents.

Johanns is the top Republican on the committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which oversees IRS spending.

Johanns wrote to Appropriations Chairman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., on Monday asking for the hearings. He noted that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller gave no indication this news was about to break when they appeared before the subcommittee recently to testify on the administration’s budget requests.

“Every Member of Congress, regardless of party, owes it to the American people to demand answers about this disturbing practice – including who knew about it and when, who authorized it, and why it was allowed to continue in secrecy for so long. The first step in getting those answers is calling a hearing, which is what I’m doing today,” Johanns said.

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Tom Vilsack: King’s last race prevented Senate bid

Did Rep. Steve King pass up a bid for the U.S. Senate because he was too damaged by last year’s campaign?

That’s apparently what U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack thinks.

The former Iowa governor spoke with the World-Herald this week about his ideas for the farm bill’s conservation title – story here.

But we also asked the former Iowa governor what he made of the hesitation by several top Republicans to run for his home state’s open Senate seat.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, already is raising money and campaigning to replace Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who is not seeking re-election.

But across the aisle, many top contenders have taken a pass on the race.

The latest to say he’s not running is Rep. Steve King, the outspoken conservative Republican from northwest Iowa.

“I know why Congressman King didn’t run,” Vilsack told the World-Herald. “Because I think he was defined in the last congressional race and I think that made it very difficult for him to be a strong statewide candidate.”

King’s Democratic challenger in last year’s election was the secretary’s wife, Christie Vilsack.

It was one of the more expensive house races in the country, with millions pouring in from outside groups.

Still, King won re-election by defeating the state’s former first lady by 8 percentage points.

Vilsack said that even with King and other potential Republican candidates opting out of a bid, he has no doubt Braley will have to work hard to win the seat.

“I’m sure that someone will come to the fore and there will be a strong candidate and, as Iowa always is, it’ll be a very competitive race,” Vilsack said.

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