First District Congressman, Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he didn’t push an amendment to the defense funding bill to help the family of a fallen Iowa soldier because he didn’t know about the amendment. The amendment from Congressman Tom Latham , a Republican from Alexander, would change the law to allow military death benefits to be paid to the grandparents of children whose parent had died in military service.
The amendment spurred by the death of Iowa Falls native Jaime Jaenke in Iraq, failed in the rules committee on a 9-4 party-line vote. Braley says he had received no contact from Latham requesting assistance on the change. Braley says it was never reported that the amendment was part of the package being considered by the rules committee, and when they vote, they only vote on the approved rules package.
Braley found out about the amendment only after reading that it wasn’t part of the vote."And I was quite frankly upset, because my office was never contacted by Congressman Latham’s to provide assistance, " Braley says, "And I certainly look forward to working with him to get the bill acted on in the future, because it is a bill that I believe in and it impacts real people back in Iowa. And I would hope that in the future that would be the way that our working relationship would move forward in important issues like this one."
Braley made his comments during a weekly conference call with reporters. Congressman Latham’s spokesperson, James Carstensen, issued a response to Braley. "Congressman Braley has every right to be embarrassed by the treatment the Jaenke family has received by his Democrat colleagues on the rules committee and by his party’s leadership, " Carstenson says, " I am certain that he would agree that this non-controversial amendment to help a ten year old Iowa girl who lost her mother in Iraq should not have been voted down by all nine Democrats on the rules committee. His frustration should not be directed at Congressman Latham who is working to correct the situation but with his party’s leadership – who acted with blind partisanship to block the solution."
Jaenke had wanted her $100,000 death benefit to go to her parents to help take care of her young daughter. But that can’t happen until the law is changed. The benefit goes into a trust that Jaenke’s daughter can’t access until she turns 18.