By Senator Tom Harkin

A growing number of governors, including many Republicans, are choosing to expand Medicaid in their states, taking advantage of the extremely generous terms in the Affordable Care Act.

Under the Affordable Care Act, if states expand Medicaid to everyone up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, the federal government pays the full cost of those newly eligible beneficiaries for the first three years and no less than 90 percent of the costs after that.  That is a great deal for our state, or for any state - which is exactly why so many governors are signing on.

There is no question that Medicaid expansion is the right choice for Iowa.  It would provide coverage for tens of thousands of uninsured Iowans.  And the more than 60,000 Iowans currently covered by IowaCare would get much better benefits and improved access to doctors and hospitals.

One Iowan told me in a letter how Medicaid enabled her to receive many mental health and rehabilitative services for a disability, and that this helped her to go to school, obtain a degree, and rejoin the workforce.  Another Iowan told me that IowaCare is not sufficient because the program does not cover mental health services.

Iowa's hospitals and providers, which are eager to save untold millions in uncompensated care, are also encouraged by an expansion of Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid is also the right choice for our state's fiscal health.  Under the expansion, independent analysts project that Iowa Medicaid spending would decrease by 2.6 percent, and state and local governments would save more than $530 million over the next decade.

No wonder so many governors are signing up for Medicaid expansion.  Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said, "While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost, I cannot in good conscience deny Floridians that needed access to health care."  Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona argued that the savings to her state from expanding Medicaid would free up general-fund money for higher education.

Last November, Iowans voted to reelect President Obama and rejected the candidate who would have repealed the Affordable Care Act.  Since then, a growing number of governors have said that Medicaid expansion is not about "liberal" or "conservative," it's about common sense.

I could not agree more.  It's time to bring the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act to all Iowans.

For more information, please visit or follow Senator Harkin on Facebook and Twitter.

A PDF version of this article is available by clicking here.


By Senator Tom Harkin

On February 5th, our country marked the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - a groundbreaking law that provides American workers with 12 weeks of protected ? albeit unpaid ? leave to recover from a serious illness or care for a new child or seriously ill family member. A recent update provides 26 weeks of family leave to families of injured service members and recent veterans.

The FMLA changed the landscape for hardworking Americans.  While we celebrate this progress, we realize there is still work to be done when it comes to helping working families, and that includes guaranteeing paid sick time to individuals that work hard, earn it, and deserve it.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would allow workers to earn up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick time per year.  Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.  Employers that already provide paid sick time will not have to change their current policies, as long as their existing time can be used for the same purposes. Employers can also require workers to provide documentation supporting any request for leave longer than three consecutive days.

The United States is the only developed nation that does not guarantee paid sick days to its workers, and our economy and productivity suffer as a result. Contrary to popular belief, not absenteeism, but "presenteeism"? when a sick employee shows up to the workplace, infects other employees or customers, and is unproductive because they are not feeling well ? is the greatest cause of lost productivity due to illness. One study found that a lack of paid sick days ? and thus the inability to distance oneself from co-workers ? contributed to an additional 5 million cases of the H1N1 flu during the 2009 outbreak.

Seventy percent of low-wage workers ? those least likely to be able to afford a lost paycheck or lost job ? have no paid sick days. This group is largely workers in jobs that have frequent contact with members of the public, including food service, hospitality, nursing home care, and child care. Their lack of paid sick leave poses a public health threat to all of us and our loved ones. Shockingly, nearly two-thirds of restaurant workers have reported cooking or serving food while sick. Workers' rights should matter to everyone, but they matter even more when you consider that your next turkey sandwich might be served with a side of the flu.

But perhaps most important, under the Healthy Families Act, workers would have the security of knowing that when illness strikes ? as it undoubtedly will ? they will be able to tend to their families and themselves without losing their jobs or their income. This bill will provide health, peace of mind and security for America's workers and their families ? and that's something that everyone deserves.

For more information, please visit or follow Senator Harkin on Facebook and Twitter.

A PDF version of this article is available by clicking here.



WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Roy Blunt (Mo.) announced the launch of the bipartisan Mississippi River Caucus today, an initiative to focus and collaborate congressional efforts on important river management goals such as flood mitigation, commerce along the Mississippi River, and to generally assist river communities with concerns.

"We learned a vital lesson this past fall when a potential disruption in navigation along the Mississippi threatened everything from increasing the cost to move goods to potential job losses.  The river and its communities play an important role in commerce and the local economy," said Harkin.  "The Mississippi River Caucus will look at ways that the Congress can be helpful to the cities and towns along the River to improve their economies and their quality of life, and to better respond to floods and other threats.  I am pleased to work with Senator Blunt in this effort and I look forward to the work ahead."

"The Mississippi River is a vital artery of commerce for hundreds of millions of tons of agriculture goods and other products that are important to our national economy," said Blunt. "We must work to maintain the river channel, which has a critical impact on jobs, income to many businesses and farmers, and the economy of the region as a whole. This bipartisan caucus will provide a platform to bring  together those states along the Mississippi River so that we can encourage navigation, promote commerce, and prevent destructive floods."

The 2012 droughts leading to dangerously low-water levels on the Mississippi River showed the need for states along the river to work together. The Mississippi River Caucus will provide an open forum for the various issues that affect the entire reach of the Mississippi River, like aging infrastructure.

In November 2012, Harkin and Blunt worked to bring together a bipartisan group of Senators to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately address water levels and ask President Obama to issue an emergency directive to support response efforts.

The Mississippi River has the third largest drainage basin in the world, and stretches approximately 2,350 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a thriving economic thoroughfare in the United States with hundreds of billions of tons of cargo being transported up and down the river each year, including grain and other agriculture products, coal, iron, steel, and petroleum products.



Thanks Iowans for dedication during his nearly 40 years in public service

Outlines full HELP Committee agenda for next two years

CUMMING, Iowa - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement on his plans for the future, including his decision not to seek reelection for his U.S. Senate term expiring in 2014.  In doing so, he thanked Iowans for their dedication over the course of his career in public service and outlined his agenda for the HELP Committee over the next two years:

"I have been thinking hard about the decision whether to run for a sixth term in the United States Senate for a number of months - even more these last few weeks.  I've reached a decision, and what I've decided really boils down to two things," said Harkin. "First, I'm going to fulfill a promise that I made to my wife Ruth, and that I also made to myself.  It's a promise that we're going to do certain things together - and that we're going to live together in a way we've often talked about - before it gets too late.  That's a decision I believe many Iowans can relate to, either because of their own circumstances, or perhaps those of their parents.  I have the privilege to be able to make this decision on my own terms, which not everyone can, and I'm deeply grateful to the people of Iowa that I do have that opportunity.  I've been extremely fortunate. I was born here in Cumming in modest circumstances. My father was a coal-miner with just an 8th-grade education. My mother arrived to this country as an immigrant with virtually no earthly possessions. This state and this country have allowed me to enjoy a life and career beyond anything I imagined as a boy or young man.

"Second, I'm 73 years old right now.  At the end of this term I'll be 75.  When the current Congress is over, I will have served in the United States House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for a total of 40 years.  After 40 years, I just feel it's somebody else's turn.  I can't put into words what an honor it is to serve Iowa.  And I don't by any means plan to retire completely from public life at the end of this Congress.  But I am going to make way for someone new in this Senate seat.  I think that is right not just for me, but for Iowa, as well."

In announcing his plans, Harkin said that over the next two years in Congress, he would continue to advance a policy agenda that benefits Iowa.  Among his priorities:

• Moving forward with bills to ensure that all Americans are able to achieve the promise of a quality education - beginning in early childhood, continuing through elementary and high school, and culminating with higher education. 
• Working to significantly increase the employment of individuals with disabilities, in order to continue to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Advancing his proposal of a new type of pension plan, the USA Retirement Fund, to provide Americans with a secure source of retirement income for life. 
• Ensuring the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

As an appropriator and as chair of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds health, education, and labor, Harkin would ensure these initiatives have the funding necessary for implementation.  So too would he continue to advance farm policy that improves, and strengthens a number of initiatives that we included in previous farm bills to assist and promote opportunities for farmers and good nutrition for consumers through farmers markets and increased local production and marketing of food.

"More than 40 years ago, I came to Washington with a simple goal: help people.  It was that goal that has inspired me throughout my career and one that will continue to inspire my work.  Iowans entrusted me with a great responsibility when they first elected me to public office in 1974.  It is a responsibility I have never forgotten as I represented them in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate," Harkin concluded.

Tom Harkin has represented Iowa in Congress for 38 years.  First winning election to the U.S. House in 1974, he represented Iowa's Fifth Congressional District until 1984, when he challenged an incumbent Senator and won.  Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.  He is the first Iowa Democrat to win as many consecutives terms in the U.S. Senate.

Harkin has a lengthy record of achievements, among the highlights of his career:

• Advancing the Rights of Individuals with Disabilities;
• Strengthening the Middle Class through Health, Education, and Retirement Security Policies and Investments;
• Promoting a Strong Agriculture Economy, Sound Conservation, and Renewable Energy;
• Protecting Human Rights and Combatting the Worst Forms of Child Labor;
• Providing Funding to Maintain Modern Schools & Access to Healthier Communities;
• Ensuring Iowans have access to Disaster Relief and Flood Prevention and Mitigation;
• In Iowa, his office holds a record of strong constituent services, having logged its 100,000th constituent case earlier this year.


Information available for Iowa attendees, local groups seeking information on parade

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that Iowans seeking information about the 2013 Presidential Inauguration scheduled for Monday, January 21, 2013 can visit his website at for information.  Included in this link is information on requesting tickets for the event as well as a page for local groups interested in participating in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade.  In addition, the site links to official information from The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), which has recently launched a new website for the inauguration as well as the ceremonies' first-ever page on the social networking site Facebook.  Both sites are designed to be authoritative and comprehensive sources of Inaugural history and provide up-to-date Inaugural information.

"The inauguration is a historic occasion - one marked by ceremony and celebration," said Harkin.  "Iowans looking to attend can find a one-stop source of information, request tickets, or find information about performing in the parade by visiting my website."  

In addition to Senator Harkin's website, the JCCIC Inauguration website, which provides historical information, can found at Its Facebook page can be found at


By Senator Tom Harkin

November 11th is Veterans Day, a time to celebrate and thank those who have served in The United States Armed Forces - some 22.6 million veterans around the country, more than 240,000 of whom are Iowans.   As a veteran and member of American Legion Post 562 in Cumming, I know the profound love a veteran has for this country.  All veterans showed their patriotism by defending this country when their service was needed.  Honoring that sacrifice is something we all have a stake in.

To that end, my office is working to ensure veterans have access to education benefits, health care, and other services to ensure they are successful both on and off the battlefield.

As a member of the Veterans Jobs Caucus, I supported the Veterans' Jobs Bill, which would have provided $1 billion over five years to help veterans find work in their communities.  Passage of this legislation is critical not only to the economic security of our veterans, but also to the communities across Iowa and the country that stand to benefit from their contributions to the economy.

As a recipient of the original GI Bill benefits, I understand how critical this assistance is for returning veterans' success.  For that reason, I am working to protect these benefits against low-quality for-profit colleges that overpromise, overcharge, and under-deliver to our veterans, using slick marketing campaigns to recruit them in order to profit off their education benefits.  In fact, data collected by the Senate HELP Committee shows that these benefits may be aiding some schools that otherwise would struggle to meet federal rules.

Legislation I have introduced will ensure that taxpayers' investment in federal assistance for college students is used to educate and support students, rather than being wasted on advertising, marketing, and recruitment.  The Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act will maximize federal student aid by prohibiting the use of Pell Grants, federal student loans, the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and other federal education funds for such practices, similar to a current law that bans the use of federal higher education dollars for lobbying.  In addition, I have worked on a bipartisan basis on legislation aimed at providing every veteran who receives educational assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the counseling services needed to make informed decisions about their education.

I also continue to hear from veterans about service medals that have not been awarded.  My office has helped countless veterans and their families obtain medals.  Please contact any of my offices in Iowa or Washington, D.C. to inquire about this service.  My staff is happy to assist any constituent to receive the recognition they have rightly earned.

We only accomplish our mission by working together.  This lesson is as applicable now as it was during my years of service.  And I join my fellow Americans in honoring the brave men and woman who have served our country and in pledging to do all that I can to ensure their success both on the battlefield, but also in their civilian life.

For more information, please visit

A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here.

Improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities is one of my top priorities.  In 2011, at a disability employment summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Business Leadership Network, I challenged the employer representatives in the room to work to increase the size of the disability workforce from under five million to six million by 2015.  This goal was quickly endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Employment is one of the most pressing issues facing the disability community today.  While the recent recession has had a negative impact on most Americans, it has hit Americans with disabilities particularly hard.  And while employment numbers are rising overall, people with disabilities have been slow to see the benefits of our nation's economic recovery.  Moreover, workers with disabilities left the labor force during the recent recession at a rate five times the rate for workers without disabilities.

This October, as we observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it is time to celebrate the very real progress we have made in opening doors of opportunity thanks to laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  But it is also time to acknowledge that when a majority of people with disabilities are not employed, we still have a long way to go to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans.  Individuals with disabilities represent one of the largest untapped pools of skills and talents in our country.

In July, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, I released a report urging Congress, the Administration, the business community, and society at large to make the issue of disability employment a national priority.  I hope that this report encourages bipartisan leadership in the public and private sectors that will bring more Americans with disabilities into competitive employment, where they can earn a good living and contribute to the economy.

This month, as we recognize that people with disabilities - like all people - have unique abilities, talents, and aptitudes, I encourage you to think about this year's theme:  "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"

We must continue to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to make their mark on the world, and help employers learn the benefits of hiring these workers.  Learn more about how to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month by visiting the Department of Labor's website:

A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here.

Early voting has started, and here in Iowa, every day from now through November 6th is Election Day.

That means you can vote right away in person at early voting locations, or with a vote-by-mail ballot.

Find out how.

I cast my ballot early for President Obama because of what he has done to make quality, affordable health care accessible, to increase college affordability, to promote clean energy jobs and an extension of the wind production tax credit, and to show his commitment to our troops and their families -- all of which are so important here in Iowa and around the country.

With so much at stake for our country, you shouldn't wait to vote for President Obama and Iowa Democrats, either.

Every ballot cast early builds our momentum towards celebrating a victory on Election Night, so let's keep moving forward with President Obama and Iowa Democrats who are fighting for all of us.

The best way to do that is to join the tens of thousands of Iowans who, like me, have already voted in this election.

Take a moment to find out where to vote early in your neighborhood:

DES MOINES - Today, OFA Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Leonard Boswell will hold a media conference call about Mitt Romney, Congressman Paul Ryan  and Congressional Republican's failure to move the farm bill and their opposition to the Wind Production Tax Credit, which are so vital to Iowa's economy.  Last week, Congressional Republicans gave Americans a preview of the future Iowa would see under a Romney-Ryan Administration.  House Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner and Paul Ryan, left town without extending the wind production tax credit or reauthorizing the farm bill, allowing it to expire and leaving Iowans without the necessary reforms to give rural communities long-term certainty.

Since day one, President Obama has worked to build stronger and more diverse rural economies through investments in renewable energy, manufacturing, education and agriculture. Today, he is standing by farmers during the drought, advocating for a strong safety net and urging Congress to pass the farm bill so that U.S. agriculture continues to experience one of its most productive periods in American history.

By Senator Tom Harkin

On Labor Day, as we honor the contributions that generations of workers have made to the strength and prosperity of our great country, I am reminded of the struggles facing families in Iowa and around the country. America's middle class is the backbone of our economy, and yet, these families have not shared in the prosperity of the last thirty years. Today, they are not feeling the effects of the economic recovery that is in full swing on Wall Street. I have always believed that to grow our economy, we must strengthen the middle class by promoting the creation of good jobs, helping workers save for a secure retirement, making college affordable, and doing what we can to help families balance their budgets.

For these reasons, I introduced the Rebuild America Act earlier this year. This sweeping piece of legislation lays out what I believe our priorities must be in order to grow our economy and help more families achieve the American Dream. These proposals are not radical or revolutionary - they are the bold, forward-thinking policies of the mid-20th century, when America experienced an unprecedented expansion of the middle class. In fact, some of the investments made during that time were so forward-thinking that we still rely on their results today: the interstate highway system, Social Security, and federal student aid for higher education are some examples of investments that are critical to our lives today.

With this history in mind, I included many provisions in the Rebuild America Act that will return these priorities to the forefront. Firstly, we must invest in America to create good jobs and lasting growth. Targeted investments to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and outdated schools; investments in teaching, manufacturing, and job training; improved trade policies; and funds for local governments to hire critical personnel like teachers, police, and firefighters will provide near-term stability and growth in our economy, and pay lasting dividends for future generations.

While economic recovery will undoubtedly help families' budgets, my plan also calls for new policies that will help families achieve financial stability. It would make child care more affordable, protect overtime pay, give workers the chance to earn paid sick days, update the minimum wage, and increase job opportunities for Americans with disabilities.  It would also protect the right to form and join a union - historically one of the most important paths for working Americans to join the middle class.  Additionally, the Rebuild America Act strengthens Social Security and the private pension system, to help workers save enough to enjoy their Golden Years in retirement.

All of these changes are important, but until we restore some fundamental fairness to our tax code, middle class families will continue to lose out. The Rebuild America Act would institute a rule to ensure that the very wealthiest Americans pay at least as much in taxes as middle class families.  It would also impose a transaction tax on Wall Street speculators and end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, among other things.  Combined, these measures would fully fund all of the other policies included in the Rebuild America Act, making it deficit-neutral.

I know that this plan sounds ambitious. But Americans have never been content to sit idly by.  Throughout our history, we have risen to every challenge that our great nation has faced. Our current challenges may be a little harder to define, but Iowa families feel them every day. This Labor Day, it is time to prioritize the middle class. It is time to put workers and their families first. It is time to Rebuild America.

A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here