116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When she enlisted in the U.S. Army, Mariannette Miller-Meeks swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Never in her 24 years as a military nurse and physician did she think that would involve voting to certify the results of a presidential election.
However, three days after being sworn in as a member of the U.S. House, on a day a violent mob ransacked the Capitol, Miller-Meeks bucked her party by voting to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over former President Donald Trump.
“Given that I’m a military veteran, and I swore an oath to defend the Constitution, I felt that my duty was to have respect for the Constitution as a rule of law,” the Iowa 2nd District congresswoman said during a forum with three other veterans — Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, and Republican Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan — about working in a nonpartisan way to create a more productive government. The Monday evening forum was sponsored by the National Constitution Center and With Honor Action. The participants are part of the bipartisan For Country Caucus of military veterans in Congress.
There was a lot of pressure on members to vote with their party, “but nonetheless, I felt calm that I was doing the right thing,” Miller-Meeks said about her vote.
In making her decision, Miller-Meeks thought about Congress’ role in the electoral process versus the role states play in conducting elections. As a representative from a smaller state, she said, the Electoral College is important to her. As a state senator, she had defended the Electoral College in discussions about converting to a national popular vote.
More recently, Miller-Meeks split from most of her GOP colleagues to vote to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. She knew that would be unpopular with some of her constituents. However, Miller-Meeks thinks that if she can explain her vote and how she reached that conclusion, constituents will accept the decision even if they disagree.
Miller-Meeks and the other veterans shared two common concerns with how Congress functions — the seniority system and putting politics over policy.
Reforming the seniority system would empower individual members, create turnover in leadership and allow new thoughts and ideas to be considered, the veterans said. In the military, they said they were taught that everyone has leadership to bring to the table, and everyone brings value to the team.
Miller-Meeks noted House Republicans have term limits on committee chairs, “and I think that helps bring new blood in whether that’s from an older person or from a young person,” said the 65-year-old freshman. “We all have a perspective that we bring to Congress, and I think that that’s helpful.”
The veterans agreed that the emphasis on being seen and quoted in the media gets in the way of doing good policy work and, again, runs counter to their military experiences.
“When you’re in the military, you focus on a mission,” Miller-Meeks said. “So I’m here to execute and to achieve a mission. I’m not here for sound bites. I’m not here for TV time. We have a job to do.”
To see the entire forum, go to https://youtu.be/PEpikzIXxh8.
Comments: (319) 398-8375; email@example.com