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Democrat

Rep. Bruce Braley (D)

Bruce Braley Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-225-2911

Address: 2263 RHOB, DC 20515

Bruce Braley Biography
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  • Elected: 2006, 4th term.
  • District: Iowa 1
  • Born: Oct. 30, 1957, Grinnell
  • Home: Waterloo
  • Education:

    IA St. U., B.A. 1980, U. of IA, J.D. 1983

  • Professional Career:

    Practicing atty., 1983-2006.

  • Religion:

    Presbyterian

  • Family: Married (Carolyn); 3 children

Democrat Bruce Braley, elected in 2006, is an articulate and ambitious ex-trial lawyer who has sought to cultivate support both inside and outside his party. He is a favorite of Democratic leaders but works on issues with broad bipartisan constituencies, such as improving veterans’ quality of life, and in February 2013 announced that he would run for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Read More

Democrat Bruce Braley, elected in 2006, is an articulate and ambitious ex-trial lawyer who has sought to cultivate support both inside and outside his party. He is a favorite of Democratic leaders but works on issues with broad bipartisan constituencies, such as improving veterans’ quality of life, and in February 2013 announced that he would run for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Braley is a native of Brooklyn, Iowa. His mother was a teacher, and his father was a farmer who died of injuries sustained in a fall down a grain elevator. The family struggled financially for years as a result. Braley graduated from Iowa State University and got his law degree from the University of Iowa. He helped put himself through school by tending bar; he has joked that his claim to fame was once preparing 160 frozen strawberry daiquiris during a single shift. He was a trial lawyer and is a former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.

His candidacy for Congress drew considerable financial support from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and many of its members and officers. National Republicans disparaged him as “a trial lawyer’s trial lawyer.” In the June 2006 primary, Braley overcame two competitive opponents: former state Rep. Rick Dickinson, an economic development official in Dubuque, and Bill Gluba, a real estate agent in Davenport. Although Braley was making his first run for office, he had a distinct fundraising advantage and the support of the Iowa AFL-CIO. He won 36% to 34% for Dickinson and 26% for Gluba. Meanwhile, Republicans nominated Mike Whalen, a Harvard Law School graduate, wealthy entrepreneur, and owner of the Machine Shed Restaurant chain.

From the start, Republicans knew it would be a tough contest. In his eight terms, outgoing Rep. Jim Nussle, who vacated the seat to run for governor in 2006, never got more than 57% of the vote despite his prominence as the chairman of the House Budget Committee from 2001 to 2006.The candidates disagreed on many issues, including the Iraq war, tort reform, international trade deals, and abortion rights. Braley portrayed Whalen as an out-of-touch millionaire and attacked Whalen’s opposition to raising the hourly minimum wage. When Whalen insisted that all his employees were paid more than the federal minimum wage, Braley produced a Machine Shed waitress who claimed that, even with tips, she and her coworkers earned only the minimum wage. For his part, Whalen charged that Braley’s litigious occupation contributed to higher health care costs and the medical liability crisis. Although the National Republican Congressional Committee spent heavily on direct mail and television ads against Braley, he won surprisingly easily, 55%-43%. He won 10 of 12 counties, losing two rural counties.

Braley has been a loyal Democrat, especially on social issues. When Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., said in an email in August 2011 that Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “is not a Lady,” Braley handed out pink buttons on the House floor that said, “I support the Lady.” He joined the call among liberals in 2011 for a transaction tax on stock and bond trades, an idea that the financial industry adamantly opposed, and he sought a congressional investigation into controversial Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to hire campaign contributors with little actual experience. During the 2009 health care debate, Braley sharply rebuked what he called Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s “scare tactics” about end-of-life counseling provisions in the House bill.

As a vice chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Braley was in charge of the committee’s “Red to Blue” project in 2008 to retake Republican-held seats. He also founded the Populist Caucus, a group of about 30 House Democrats focusing on economic issues affecting the middle class. His efforts earned him a prized seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

At the same time, Braley has worked harder than most members to cultivate relationships across the aisle and to focus on issues that can avoid gridlock. He circulated a discharge petition in July 2012 demanding that the stalled farm bill come up for a vote; it drew support from 39 Republicans. He got into law in 2011 a bill to provide tax credits to businesses hiring veterans, and earlier, also had success with a bill to require federal agencies to write in plain English, a longtime interest from his days practicing law. He won House passage of a bill in 2010 requiring federally bought American flags to be entirely American-made.

Braley was reelected easily in 2008. He appeared headed for a similar fate in 2010 until an outside conservative group, the American Future Fund, put him in its sights. The group spent more than $570,000 on anti-Braley ads, including one that falsely accused him of “supporting” a mosque and Islamic cultural center proposed for construction two blocks from New York’s Ground Zero. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce chimed in with $250,000 of its own for attack ads, and as a result, Braley struggled to maintain his lead against Republican attorney Benjamin Lange. But unlike other endangered Democrats who distanced themselves from their votes on health care and other controversial topics, Braley gave a full-throated defense of his positions and managed to eke out a slim victory over Lange, 50%-48%.

Post-2010-census redistricting gave Braley a district in which more than half the voters were new to him. Lange returned for a rematch, and Braley took the threat seriously, raising $2.7 million— nearly three times that of his rival. He won by a considerably more comfortable 57%-42%.

When Harkin announced his retirement, Braley instantly was seen as the frontrunner. He cleared the field of any Democratic opposition and by mid-2014 had more than $2.7 million on hand. But he found himself locked in a tight head-to-head race with Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, as Republican ads hammered away at him. The most prominent attack came for his dismissive comment that Sen. Chuck Grassley, a towering figure on the state's political landscape and the Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican, was "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school."

As the GOP sought to depict him as an out-of-touch Washington elitist, several other stories inflicted further political damage. Braley was accused of answering a voter's cheer of "We're farmers!" with "So am I!" while appearing at a parade. His campaign said Braley thought the voter had said "We're for farmers." Another article dealt with Braley and his wife complaining to the local homeowners association about a neighbor's chickens. And a report showed that he had missed the majority of oversight hearings on the troubled Veterans' Affairs Department in 2011 and 2012.

Braley fought back by seeking to highlight his ties to the state and his working-class background. Meanwhile, Ernst had to fend off her own controversies: The Daily Beast reported that she appeared to have been a proponent of "nulllification," the idea that states can ignore federal laws with which they disagree. And in an interview with Iowa Public Radio, she said, "I do not support a federal minimum wage," which the Braley campaign said in an ad was an example of her "extreme ideas."

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Bruce Braley Election Results
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2012 General
Bruce Braley (D)
Votes: 222,422
Percent: 56.95%
Ben Lange (R)
Votes: 162,465
Percent: 41.59%
2012 Primary
Bruce Braley (D)
Votes: 11,912
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (50%), 2008 (65%), 2006 (55%)
Bruce Braley Votes and Bills
Back to top NJ Vote Ratings

National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 64 (L) : 35 (C) 73 (L) : 27 (C) 66 (L) : 34 (C)
Social 66 (L) : 32 (C) 72 (L) : 28 (C) 80 (L) : - (C)
Foreign 94 (L) : - (C) 87 (L) : 13 (C) 84 (L) : 12 (C)
Composite 76.2 (L) : 23.8 (C) 77.3 (L) : 22.7 (C) 80.7 (L) : 19.3 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC016
LCV8683
CFG617
ITIC-58
NTU2120
20112012
COC29-
ACLU-92
ACU40
ADA8085
AFSCME100-
Key House Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • Pass GOP budget
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Extend payroll tax cut
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Find AG in contempt
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Stop student loan hike
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Repeal health care
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass cut, cap, balance
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Defund Planned Parenthood
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Repeal lightbulb ban
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Add endangered listings
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Speed troop withdrawal
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop detainee transfers
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Limit campaign funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $820 billion stimulus
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Let guns in national parks
    • Vote:
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass cap-and-trade
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Bar federal abortion funds
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Bail out financial markets
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Repeal D.C. gun law
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Overhaul FISA
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Increase minimum wage
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Expand SCHIP
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Raise CAFE standards
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Share immigration data
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Foreign aid abortion ban
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Ban gay bias in workplace
    • Vote:
    • Year: 2007
    • Withdraw troops 8/08
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • No operations in Iran
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Free trade with Peru
    • Vote:
    • Year: 2007
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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