Constituents Versus Conscience

Congresswoman Miller-Meeks Claims To Be In Favor Of Renewable Energy Climate Solutions, But Refuses to Listen to Her Constituents


Students hold signs advocating for climate education legislation outside the US Capital.

Matisse Arnone, Reporter

For most residents of Iowa City, it comes as somewhat of a shock to learn that the widely disliked Republican Congresswoman Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks claims to be a champion for renewable energy in the state. Specifically, she has shown interest in Biochar use in Iowa Agriculture and recently introduced legislation to create a National Biochar Research Network. She has been quoted on how she supports an “all of the above” approach to solving challenges posed by climate change and attended COP this year as one of the 76 Republicans currently listed on the Conservative Climate Caucus. However, the bipartisanship that Miller Meeks portrays as a Republican working on Climate Solutions is not quite what it seems. The Conservative Climate caucus was formed with fossil fuel industry support and the Conservative Climate Foundation does not disclose its tax information publicly. I recently got experience with this environmental shadiness firsthand after an attempt to work on climate issues with Miller-Meeks staff.

A few weeks ago, I and other City High students had the opportunity to work closely with other teens from California as a part of the organization Schools For Climate Action. We were working on a draft of a Climate Education Resolution that was to be introduced into the US House by Representative Barbara Lee. They already had plenty of Democratic support in their initiative, but the Iowa kids were brought on to try and appeal the draft to Miller-Meeks because of her interest in climate change. What could be more bi-partisan when it comes to climate legislation than an Education Resolution? We knew that the bill was very left-leaning going into it- it was written by Democrats- but we thought because the environment was something Miller-Meeks cared about, we would be able to work to find a compromise and turn it into something she could get behind. When we got her staffer on a call, she seemed optimistic about finding a way to work together on our Resolution. I was finally starting to get excited. Maybe it was possible to have politicians work across the aisle on common sense climate reform. Then Miller-Meeks staffer’s response came through and I was hit with shock and disappointment like a freight train.

“Sorry- not interested.” All of our care, time, consideration, and planning came down to that three-word response. That was all that we got back in an email from the Miller-Meeks staffer after our meeting where I had thought it had gone so well. The words cut as deep as a knife for me. Could she not see how much had gone into creating the proposal for her to not even try and work with us? We were trying to do something that would make our entire state and nation better. She was showing that her claims of being climate-friendly only came into play when it suited her. Going into the meeting with her staffer, we all thought it had real potential because we were Iowans and her constituents. People from her district sharing a policy interest that came about as a result of our lived experience had to result in something special, right? But the message came back clearly about how “not interested” she was. It was so easy to cast us aside and ignore us because of our “Iowa City liberal” ideology. Where we were from, which we had thought was a point of strength going into the meeting, ended up biting us on the tail.

This is not the way that politics has to work. Politicians are elected to serve the people they represent- all of the people they represent. We expected to have the resolution tweaked by Miller-Meeks staff, but there were policies we were willing to give up because that is what it means to compromise. We were not going to get everything we wanted from the resolution and we had accepted that because to us, working with a diverse base on such a broad issue was more important. Miller-Meeks had other ideas. She showed us her marked line in the sand that we should not cross with her and her like-minded “Conservative Climate Caucus” on one side and anyone who didn’t agree on the other. Even ideas that come from her constituents. When an elected official wins that you didn’t vote for, you still have a right to tell them how you feel about all issues on the table. They are in Washington representing you. I will always hold firm to this idea, no matter how impactful the things I do are because that is how we maintain a fundamental part of our democracy. We all have the right and the responsibility to tell the people representing us how they feel about issues that impact us or vote them out of office.