Iowa Press Debates: Third Congressional District

Oct 5, 2020  | 58 min  | Ep 606 | Podcast | Transcript

Podcast

What could be described as election month in Iowa starts now as Iowa absentee ballots arrive in mailboxes this week. Tonight, we sit down with Third Congressional District candidates Cindy Axne and republican David Young for this special live Iowa Press Debate.

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For decades Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Live from Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston, Iowa, this is a special Iowa Press Debate featuring candidates running for Iowa's Third Congressional District. Here is moderator David Yepsen.

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Yepsen: Tonight's debate may look like a repeat from two years ago. The same two candidates battling for the same congressional district. But while the geography and individuals may be the same, the role of incumbency was flipped in 2018 when Cindy Axne defeated 2-term Congressman David Young. While Axne pursues her second term, Young is back on the campaign trail seeking the seat in Congress. Tonight we'll focus on issues in a district that includes Iowa's largest metro in Des Moines and many rural towns stretching all the way to Council Bluffs in the southwest quadrant of Iowa. We're hosting this debate with increased public health precautions with minimal staff joining us inside an empty 300-person auditorium at Iowa PBS Studios. And candidate here on set are separated by Plexiglas barriers. Those candidates joining us are democrat Cindy Axne of West Des Moines and republican David Young of Van Meter. Welcome to you both. Thanks for doing this and being with us.

Thank you.

Masters: Let's first start, David Young, in 2018 when you were running for re-election at that point you did really well in the rural areas, not so much in Polk County. Why should somebody in Polk County vote for you and maybe why should some Biden supporters vote for you in this election?

Young: Well, first of all, it's a pleasure to be here. Congresswoman, Dave, Kay, Clay. 2018 was a different time and 2020 is a new year and a new election. And so I think what matters is leadership, leadership across the board and making sure that Iowa's priorities get over the finish line. Right now we're seeing Congress struggle right now trying to get a new coronavirus package over the finish line and Iowans need help right now. And the votes aren't there, there's a lot of partisanship. My opponent has tried, she campaigned as a middle of the road kind of common sense kind of problem solver but she gets in right away and votes with Nancy Pelosi 95% of the time in that agenda and also has been missing a lot of votes as well and even giving our vote away to somebody else who is not even from this district.

Masters: On the flip side of that question, in the 2018 election you did really well in Polk County. Why should a Trump supporter or rural voter vote for you in this election?

Axne: Clay, thank you for that and thank you for having me here tonight, I very much appreciate it. I would like to go back since my name was mentioned by the former Congressman, certainly I'm voting and standing up for Iowans every step of the way and that means I am out there, I was named the most accessible freshman member of Congress, I held more public events than any other member in the congressional house and just shy of 2 Senators who held more than me. My vote is my vote for Iowa, it never has been anything else and I will always consistently work for the people in this state. It's why I fought to secure funding for our farmers at the end of last year when the Speaker didn't include it in a package because Iowans will always come first. But I'm sure we'll have a chance, to talk more about that later. Listen, it's time that we continue to elect people who will stand up for Iowa and that is what I have done over these last couple of terms, things like getting a biodiesel tax extender through at the end of last year. It took me 11 months, something that my opponent couldn't do under two terms. I want to make sure that we're bringing things home for Iowa and I'm working incredibly hard to make that happen. I'm working on rural issues like health care, rural equal aid right now is a bill I just put through to allow businesses in our rural communities to have the opportunity of forgivable loans that we gave our urban businesses in the COVID bills, I have worked to keep the rural hospitals alive and certainly working on education and telehealth and I'm on the Whip's rural broadband task force to bring connectivity out to every single person in this district. So rural Iowa has been a key focus of mine since I started, it will continue to be. I don't care what zip code you come from in this district, you deserve to have a voice in Congress.

Henderson: Cindy Axne, this past week you voted no on a pandemic relief package that your House democratic colleagues passed. Why?

Axne: Because, Kay, we were at a point where we could have got the package done. And as a matter of fact, those discussions have now started to continue again with the Speaker and Secretary Mnuchin. We were well over 50% negotiated as far as what we needed to get done. There were some stumbling blocks. But here's the deal, Kay, when people's lives are at risk, when families can barely afford to put food on the table, when folks are wondering if they're going to get kicked out of their rental apartment, we need to sit at the table and get a deal done. I knew that that deal was going nowhere, it was just something to make people feel good about going home and saying they did something when the Senate wasn't even going to vote for it and they told us that. I'm out there to get things done, not to put in votes just to make people feel good, but to actually put forth policy that improves their lives.

Henderson: David Young, if you were in Congress would you vote for extending the $600 bump in unemployment benefits? Would you extend the paycheck protection program to more businesses?

Young: Yeah, I would have done that and a whole lot more, making sure that we're targeting that help to the small businesses that need it the most because the workers need it the most too. The unemployment I would have started at $600 and over a course of time, over months, maybe phased it down, made sure that our health care workers got the protections that they need, make sure that our schools get the protection that they need, our agriculture workers as well and some liability protections as well. So I'm at the table, so to speak, with ideas. My opponent says that she has the ear of Nancy Pelosi, but apparently she is not being heard.

Masters: Let's move onto something that the President tweeted today. He said that COVID is nothing to be afraid of. Do you agree with that?

Young: I think you should respect it, but not necessarily fear it. We have to tackle it head on and we're doing that with making sure that we are taking the precautions that we need as a country, making sure that we are getting out from under the hand of China when it comes to making sure that we, if we do have a crisis again that we are making those protective equipment here, our medicines, those kinds of things, making sure the CDC is funded to do the research that they need and the directions that they need as well. Listen, this is a real thing, it has killed a volunteer of mine, I know other people that is has killed, I've had former staffers get this as well, we have to open up this economy and grow the economy and make sure that we are taking the precautions that we need. And I'm glad that the President and the First Lady are getting better and my hope is that anybody who gets this as well, Iowans, anywhere across the country and the world, get better as well.

Masters: Cindy Axne, does the President's diagnosis change the conversation here? And is it something that people should be afraid of?

Axne: Well, I certainly hope so. Unfortunately the President hasn't done what he has needed to do to make sure that our country is safe and as a matter of fact, my former Congressman sitting next to me here is buying into that, he says it's a personal responsibility and that we, I think you said it's irresponsible to not take this seriously and that it killed one of your team members, but yet, you're out in public without wearing a mask. Science has proven that if you wear a mask we slow the transmission dramatically. Had we done this ages ago it would be a lot different place in this country, had we put social distancing in place in states like Iowa along with wearing masks we could have taken down the transmission dramatically, the economy could have opened more quickly, we certainly could have sent children back to school and the folks who are having so much difficulty right now, and again that's going back to our essential workers, it's always the people who have the hardest time to begin with, they are the ones being impacted by this most. We need to put things in place to make sure that we protect them and that means that we all need to take personal responsibility which means wearing a mask, social distancing and following CDC scientific guidelines.

Yepsen: David Young, what about her charge that you're not serious about this?

Young: I'm very serious about it. There are pictures of you out there, Cindy, excuse me, Congresswoman, not wearing a mask. I think you should wear a mask sometimes, not all the time, you may forget sometimes and that is just true of any Iowan. But we're more conscious every day that we need to take this seriously. I do. I want to make sure the funding is there to make sure that we have the essential protective equipment, we can get the vaccines going as well, the therapies, the important funding bills that fund the CDC, the NIH, some votes that you have missed. If you're going to do this job you've got to show up and you've got to make sure that you're voting for those bills that will help this and help cure this pandemic.

Henderson: You've mentioned her missing votes. If the Senate decides to allow Senators to vote by proxy would you tell your former boss, Senator Grassley, not to do that, to go vote?

Young: I wouldn't have to tell him, he would vote.

Axne: Kay, I'd like to mention that i haven't missed a vote. As a matter of fact, so much of what we have done in Congress is making sure that not only do we get the job done that needs to get done, but we do so in a way that keeps people healthy. I've been working incredibly hard for Iowa in these two terms, in the two years that I've been there, and as a matter of fact have been recognized as a result of it. So I've been there, my vote is my vote, and it's disgusting that my former Congressman over here who knows the rules of the House would never allow a vote to not be taken by anybody other than the Congressman, he's totally misconstruing that and actually not telling the truth.

Yepsen: Let's air this out a little bit and then I want to move onto some more issues. What is this proxy voting? A lot of people don't understand some of these, I don't, rules and procedures.

Young: Well, for the first time in the history of our country earlier this year Nancy Pelosi, who you voted for as Speaker, jammed through a House rule that was very partisan and said that any other member of Congress can vote for any other member of Congress. My opponent has taken advantage of that and missed votes and not shown up to work when virtually almost everybody else in Congress did show up to work. In Iowa if you hire somebody you expect them to show up to work. If they don't show up to work you should have a good excuse and if you don't there you shouldn't be serving.

Yepsen: Okay, Cindy Axne.

Axne: So, this is an opportunity for us to be able to conduct our work in a safe manner, just like we have done throughout all of COVID. We are doing Zoom meetings, we're having hearings online, I'm visiting with people in the different counties via Zoom and over many different platforms on the Internet. So just like every other organization that is doing what is right by the people that are working there, the House is trying to find ways to get things done so that we can conduct the people's business in Congress. The way that a proxy vote works in no way, shape or form allows anybody other than the member to make the vote for themselves. And so I've been there every step of the way doing my job just like every single person in this country to find new ways to get things done in a timeframe where sometimes that's difficult.

Henderson: David Young, you voted many times as a member of the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What would you replace it with if the Supreme Court knocks it down?

Young: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that the Supreme Court is going to knock it all down or just have a severability clause. But one thing is for sure is that Iowans are talking to me about health care and how the current Affordable Care Act, it doesn't work. We've tried partisan approaches on both sides. For me the number one thing is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions are taken care of, they are not discriminated by insurance companies. Also price transparency, you can buy anything out there and know what the price is first, but when it comes to health care you don't necessarily know that. As well, I'm tired of the insurance companies taking the subsidies and using them for those and taking care of those, they say, for those that are on the individual market. There's about 44,000 Iowans who are on the individual Obamacare market. I want those subsidies to go straight to the people, not to the insurance companies. When that money goes straight to the people they are empowered with their health care dollars, you demand price transparency, you're going to get affordability, better access and better quality of health care.

Henderson: Cindy Axne, what would you do if the Supreme Court knocks down the Affordable Care Act?

Axne: Let me just point out that my opponent voted to take people's health care coverage away. We had this same debate last time that we were here and as a matter of fact he told Iowans that he would vote to protect the ACA and when his party decided to pull funding for his campaign he turned around in the middle of the night and voted for it. And that was, I think we all remember what bill this was, it was the famous thumbs down by John McCain who did stand up for the people in this country. We had a representative who did not stand up for Iowans, it's one of the reasons why I decided to run for office. Not only did he vote to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, he also voted to privatize Medicare and to raise the cost of prescription drugs for folks. So he's not working for Iowans when it comes to health care.

Yepsen: David Young, your response.

Young: I have always supported those with pre-existing conditions. I've got two cousins who died of cancer. My uncle is missing two legs from diabetes. I have an aunt with MS. To think that I'm not going to act in their best interest and all of Iowans who are suffering the same is despicable. These charges that just because you have a criticism of a current law that is failing and even you agree that it needs fixed and replaced, maybe not replaced but repaired, it just goes to show how Iowans hate it when their health care is politicized and you did it in 2018, you're going it again, it's a broken record. It's not going to work.

Axne: It absolutely is a broken record because you vote to dismantle the ACA and you voted to increase premiums on older Iowans by as much as 5 times. All of these things would hurt Iowans. You voted to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, you voted to take away coverage for children who are on their parents' plans until they're 26. You can slice and dice this any way that you would want to but that is what you did. You voted against Iowans and there is no way to erase that history.

Young: There is one person on this stage who has introduced three pieces of legislation regarding protecting people's pre-existing conditions, one of them got passed, it wasn't you. It was me. But my opponent's health care plan, this public option, which is nothing more than government run health care, will close 52 of Iowa's 99 hospitals, it will increase taxes, it will decrease Medicare benefits, it's nothing but a slow drip to single payer health care where even private insurance is lost. That's not the way to go.

Yepsen: We have a lot of other issues to get to. Clay?

Masters: I want to turn here to something that is special to the Third Congressional District and that is the Missouri River. We're talking about floods regularly in this district, there are people still cleaning up from the floods last year. David Young, what needs to be done when it comes to flooding in this district?

Young: Well, we need to make sure that Iowans, their property, themselves, they are protected first. Recreation, protecting species is laudable, but it shouldn't be under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers and it should be taken out of that Army Corps of Engineers manual. As well, we need to give states more fast track and authority to help do these things on their own with the help of federal government help. Funding is very, very important. My opponent mentioned it though when it came to appropriation of Army Corps of Engineer funds, that's important, I never missed a vote in my four years serving Iowa's Third Congressional District any my opponent has.

Masters: Cindy Axne, how would you respond to that charge and also to the question at hand?

Axne: David Young seems to be thinking, I'm not sure what he's talking about, but I can tell you one thing, I know Iowans would have been happy if you missed a few votes, certainly the ones where you took away health care coverage from them and definitely the one where you raised taxes on middle class Americans at the expense of their hardworking families so that corporations and the wealthiest among us could have more put in their pockets. But you're talking about the flood on the Missouri and I'm very proud of the work that I was able to accomplish in getting $3 billion put into the disaster bill at the very last minute when it was moving forward and Iowa wasn't included in it because it was one that had been being worked on for quite a long time. That $3 billion that I got in was $1.4 billion more than our senior senators were able to get in on the Senate side and as a freshman I think that's pretty good. Not only was I able to do that, I was able to tag it for Midwest floods, so all the money goes to Iowa and at the same time I was able to put a new piece of policy in place that even Bill Northey, our former Secretary of Agriculture and who I work with at the USDA said, Cindy, I don't think we can get that in. It was to cover uninsured grain in bins. I said, Bill, this has got to get in. And in the end I made it happen. I called the head of appropriations at almost midnight and said, I need to meet you tomorrow morning as soon as possible because if we don't do this our farmers will suffer. We were able to make that happen. So, in addition to all of that I have a tracker up on my website tracking every single dollar that is coming into Iowa from a flood perspective. And then I'd like to mention that at the end of last year in conjunction with Joni Ernst in the Senate I put together the levee bill to address the Army Corps of Engineers issue with the fact that they can tear down a levee that was keeping a community safe like Hamburg because it didn't meet specific expectations, their qualifications, so we fixed that to make sure that a town never floods again because of bureaucratic red tape. In addition to that, I'm working with members of the House to fine tune how the Army Corps of Engineers communicates about disasters and I'm continuing to monitor the funding that goes to this community every single day. As a matter of fact, we just got a grant last week to help us with highway cleanup. That was an extra almost billion dollars that I got for the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund and Highway Transportation Fund.

Yepsen: Excuse me, David Young, the issue we hear about is that the Army Corps has so many things that they've got to take into consideration in raising or lowering the river. How do you balance that? They've got to protect farmers from flooding but they've got to protect endangered species. How do you balance that?

Young: I think you need to take the endangered species and recreation part out of the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction. I think that is what you need to do. And you need to have the community at the forefront making sure that they are part of the advisory panel, making sure that they are working very closely with the district commanders, as well the district commanders unfortunately they don't stay very long to see a program come in or a project come in and then see it go out. So they're always getting in there, just learning what is going on and then leaving. They need to really instill themselves in those communities to get the job done.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, how do you balance the tradeoff there that the Army Corps has? Do we have to choose between endangered species and the flooding?

Axne: No, we don't have to choose but we always have to put people first. As a matter of fact, there are dual responsibilities for the Corps of Engineers. Certainly people's livelihood and their health comes first. And so we do need to work with them to make sure that whatever practices that they have in place balances that. A lot of that comes to the fact that it is Congress' responsibility, we have the authority over the Army Corps of Engineers to make sure that we're properly putting policy together that allows them to make the right decisions for those communities.

Yepsen: David Young, we've sort of entered into this subject, climate change. Floods which we've mentioned, derechos, extreme weather, drought. Do you believe this is due to climate change?

Young: I believe -- sure. Farmers tell me that and so I believe that.

Yepsen: Experts say the way you do something about climate change is to get carbon out of our atmosphere. How do you do that?

Young: I will say that first and foremost I introduced a carbon sequestration bill in Congress, a bipartisan bill. And then I think the world needs to look to America and we're leading. In 2019 we reduced carbon emissions in America by 140 million metric tons, that's a lot, that's more than any other country. So they should be following our lead. It was done mostly on a voluntary basis with new technology. We're leading the way and when it comes to agriculture too, you know our farmers are just so innovative and they've got a lot of g5rit and they make it happen. We need to allow them the freedom to farm the way they need to, take advantage of conservation practices that they're leading and not mandate certain activities.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, how do you solve this problem with getting carbon out without penalizing production agriculture? I'm thinking of methane.

Axne: Listen, we absolutely need to address the issues of climate and certainly our farmers know that this has a huge impact on them. It impacts their revenue dramatically. The floods, the drought, the derecho, all of these things impact their opportunity to get their product to market. So certainly we have to address this. But our farmers do need to be at the table. So I've been working on multiple ways to address this. First and foremost I was able to get our farmers a seat at the table in the select task force on climate policy recommendations on any climate bills that we bring forward. There is specific language in there that says we will commit to having a farmer-led committee that will help us make decisions because that's one thing I would agree with the Congressman on, former Congressman, sorry, that we absolutely need to make sure that those who are most impacted and who know what they are doing are at the table. So that's issue number one. Number two, along with a couple of my colleagues within the agriculture committee I am a co-sponsor of a bill that creates new markets through carbon sequestration. ISU did a study that shows us things like a carbon tax can really hurt farmers, but they would love to see opportunity to open up new markets and expand opportunity for revenue, so my bill does exactly that. It creates a market for carbon that is sequestered and allows our farmers to have a new pathway to make money.

Henderson: There are folks in the third district who are weary of wind turbines and wind farms. David Young, should there be some federal intervention because their complaint is that they don't like the sound of them, number one, and number two, they don't like the fact that the energy is shipped out of the district?

Young: I believe that to be a local issue. I don't want somebody from New York or California voting on and mandating what is done on land in Adair County or Cass County. So that is a real local issue. What is pretty incredible though is how we are harnessing what the good Lord gave us, wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and how Iowa is leading the way when it comes to renewable energy.

Henderson: Cindy Axne?

Axne: Listen, we need to look at all aspects of opportunity to address climate change. That is continuing with wind, solar and certainly biofuels. And one of the things that I was able to get through at the end of last year was a biodiesel tax extender and a second generation biofuels. I got that done in 11 months, something that my opponent here couldn't get done in two terms. And this was in a divided Congress where I was able to get this done for Iowa.

Yepsen: Do you see a federal role in managing this controversy that Kay mentioned, this controversy over wind power? Do you see a federal role in that?

Axne: I think what we need to do is be working with our communities but we need to continue to push wind for states like Iowa, not only does it help us move forward with the energy that we need and help address climate change but it's an opportunity to help our farmers and people in our rural communities.

Masters: Another thing about this district, the Des Moines Water Works there was a lawsuit that was pending for a lot of years, there was this urban-rural divide about who is going to pay to clean Des Moines' water. What role does the federal government have in these kinds of decisions that need to be hammered out by rural parts of a district like the Third Congressional District in Iowa and Des Moines, a large metropolitan area? Cindy Axne?

Axne: Well, I think in this particular case that you're bringing up that that's something we should leave to local communities and the state of Iowa. I don't think that's a place where we would bring federal government into this place unless it is putting people in harm's way because of the water being dangerous. And so we've got to make sure that we're working together, rural and urban areas. When I am out visiting all of our counties, as I did every single month before COVID hit, folks know that we've got to work together. We benefit from each other when we understand that we're all in this together. So it's not a matter of pitting urban versus rural, we do better in urban areas because of the rural communities that support the businesses that we have here and we all benefit from our GDP here in the state of Iowa by working together on these issues.

Yepsen: David Young?

Young: Sitting on the house appropriations committee, specifically the agriculture subcommittee I was able to introduce a bill and beef up the EQUIP funds, the environmental quality incentive program and created a precision water program, conservation program which looked at whole watersheds instead of just streams. It was a pilot program. I got the endorsement of the Des Moines Water Works, Iowa Corn Growers, Iowa State University, a lot of other groups about this, and it's about empowering the localities, the interest groups, all Iowans to be a part of the solution urban and rural. We all want the same thing. Federal funds can be available and dictated here at the local level.

Henderson: President Trump has suggested that if he is re-elected he'll pursue more tax cuts. If you're elected to the House what tax cuts would you vote for?

Young: First of all, I want to get our economy just back where it was five months ago, one of the strongest economies in the world over the history of the United States. That was with low taxes, that was with low regulations as well and we need to make sure that is made permanent. My opponent has said that she wants to repeal the 2017 tax cuts. Now is not the time to raise taxes, I don't think any time to raise taxes on hardworking Iowans who are trying to get out of this economic malaise that we're in and strengthening our economy. I trust Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. I would specifically target tax relief though at individuals and small businesses.

Henderson: Cindy Axne?

Axne: I find it disingenuous that you say you care about middle class families and the taxes that they pay when the bill that you voted for 83% of the provisions within it gave greater opportunity to corporations and the wealthiest among us at the expense of middle class families. I have repeatedly said that there are a few provisions in the bill that I do support, some of the pieces around small businesses, not every single one of them though, it depends on how you're categorized. But we've got to make sure that the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. This tax bill that David Young voted for, the President's tax bill, increased our debt load dramatically. Now we're at a point in our country where we have to continue to infuse cash into our economy so we can keep it afloat. It's is exacerbating that and it didn't need to be this way. We didn't need that extra billions of dollars of debt that has been put on our country because of bad decisions made by the Trump administration, David Young and his colleagues that taxed middle class families so that the wealthiest among us could have more.

Yepsen: David Young, your response?

Young: Corporations had left America, they were going overseas. Why? Because we had some of the highest tax rates in the world. And what happened? We lowered the tax rates, those jobs came home, Iowans were having great opportunities and working in many different disciplines out there in industry and the economy. I don't want to raise taxes. I trust Iowans and we do not need to raise taxes. You specifically said and repeatedly said you wanted to repeal the whole tax bill.

Henderson: The gas tax there's less of it being collected because cars are getting better gas mileage. How do you repair roads and bridges in this country, find a new source of revenue, Cindy Axne?

Axne: Just to quickly go back, I think we can all see that the last tax bill hasn't worked when the President paid $750 in taxes when the average American pays close to $12,000. Our teachers are paying more in taxes than the President is. And this piece that he talks about in regard to offshoring the taxes, the loopholes were created within that tax bill, and as a matter of fact I wrote a bill and it passed through the House to make sure that we protected American jobs and that businesses couldn't offshore their revenues to pay less taxes. So we're addressing those issues.

Yepsen: The gas tax was the question.

Young: The highway user fee is probably the best way to fund our infrastructure.

Henderson: Per mileage?

Young: I'm not ready to go there. I want to make sure that everybody who is out there on the road are paying into the system. You've got to pay to play. There are new technologies out there, electric vehicles, propane fuel, natural gas, we have to make sure that they are paying into the system first before we look at increasing the gas tax.

Masters: Going on to another topic here. David Young, the solvency of Social Security is an issue that I hear from a lot of voters over the last couple of years in covering this election. What do you do for Social Security to make sure it remains solvent? Do you raise the retirement age? What is an idea?

Young: Well, we don't privatize it, I want to get that off the table first. We need to make sure that, first of all, it has to be done in a bipartisan way. This cannot be a partisan approach. It has to be done in a way that is very, very transparent, taken to the American people through the committee process, on the floor of the House and Senate, and also you have to get the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue invested in this to do this. It has happened before and we can do it again but it takes guts. I want to be at the table to help do that. But first of all we have to admit that there's a problem.

Masters: Cindy Axne, Social Security?

Axne: Well, unfortunately my opponent here has voted to take away opportunities for people who need it, that need the Social Security. As a matter of fact, the tax bill that we have been discussing that gave the biggest benefits to corporations and the wealthiest, the republican leadership said it would be paid for by cuts to Medicare and Social Security. So this is a bill that you voted for that your leadership said would be paid for by cuts to Social Security. I want to protect Social Security for every single person in this country. Those are hard-earned benefits that they deserve and every American, every Iowan, every person in this third district should be able to retire with dignity.

Yepsen: Let me follow up to both of you. How do you feel about raising the retirement age or lifting the cap, the limit to contributions to Social Security? One democratic candidate here in Iowa suggested that the cap just be completely eliminated, everybody pays the Social Security tax on everything that they make. Cindy Axne, how do you feel about those two issues?

Axne: Well, I don't think we should raise the age. Certainly people work long and hard for that benefit. I certainly think we can look at raising the salary cap so that the wealthiest pay their fair share.

Yepsen: And David Young, how do you feel?

Young: I'm not for raising the age and changing of the benefits right now for retirees and those coming into the system. But the cap is on the table, means testing as well. Those are probably the two things that people are going to look at and go for and those could be done in a very bipartisan way I imagine.

Henderson: Republicans have historically complained about the national debt but it has skyrocketed during President Donald Trump's presidency. If you're elected how will you address the national debt?

Young: Well, it has skyrocketed through every presidency and you can't blame one party over another. This is a dual problem and a dual responsibility and both sides are complicit in this debt. I believe in a balanced budget amendment. 49 states by state statute or state law, or state constitutional amendment, they have to balance their budgets and I believe that. And so I voted for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. My opponent doesn't believe in that. But I think it's really the only way to get some teeth into that and make sure that we get fiscally disciplined.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, what do you think we ought to do about the debt?

Axne: First of all, I'm not sure how you can say I don't believe in that when I said I wouldn't take a pay raise until we balanced our budget. So as somebody who forewent pay during the government shutdown last year and then said wouldn't take a pay raise until we get this budget under control you're absolutely wrong once again. So we absolutely need to address the debt and, as a matter of fact, it did skyrocket under the Trump administration because of the massive tax cuts. I'm part of a bipartisan group that we put together actually last year before COVID that recognized that we have to get a handle on the debt. Now, this is not the time to do it during a national emergency like this, when we had our recession about a decade ago one of the problems with getting back on our feet was that we came back too quickly and didn't continue to supply the national with the resources that it needed and we continued to see unemployment and missed opportunities for Americans. So this would be the worst time that we could look at it. But we do need to look at it in the future and I've already joined a bipartisan group to make that happen.

Henderson: David Young, there are people in the third district who just can't get broadband where they live. Is it time for the federal government to do something different? If so, what?

Young: I wouldn't have the government take it over and turn it into any kind of government utility. As part of the appropriations committee on the agriculture subcommittee the rural utility service I made sure that funds were beefed up there that provided loans and grants to rural Iowa. You have to have a public-private partnership I believe as well. There's no guarantee that when you expand the broadband that in the end somebody is going to subscribe to it so that's something that you really have to think about. We have a lot of great cooperatives here in Iowa who do some incredible work and make investments on their own at great risk to see if anybody at the other end is going to subscribe. I believe we can have a partnership with them and provide some tax incentives possibly to make sure that we get all of Iowa wired. And I was glad to be part of that on the agriculture subcommittee to make sure there was robust funding for those communities, those municipalities, cooperatives to borrow and sometimes get a free grant.

Henderson: Cindy Axne, what is the answer to resolving this broadband dilemma?

Axne: Kay, you're talking my language. I have been a part of the Whip's rural broadband task force and we have got to make sure that this happens for Iowa. Our children are sitting outside of McDonald's trying to get their homework done in parts of our community, especially in our rural areas. But right here in our urban areas there are families who can't even afford it. So anything that we put in place to expand broadband has to make sure that we've got the connectivity there, but it also has to be affordable. So as part of the rural broadband task force we put together a recent bill, $100 billion investment to make sure that we connected every single person in this country. It would be done through a reverse auction for a public-private partnership and allow us to be able to connect people as soon as we possibly can. I believe that this is going to get at the movement as quickly as we possibly can through this process and we're anxious to get this signed into law. The House has already passed it and we're hoping that the Senate takes it up.

Masters: On the topic of student debt, a lot of students, a lot of Iowans are crushed with student debt right now. They've gone to college, they're paying that off. What if anything do you think should be done to address that?

Axne: Clay, I certainly understand that. As a mom of two teenage boys I just took my first son to college recently and we've been saving for it since I think he was one. And I know that I'm luckier than a lot of people, I'm able to put some money aside to help save for that, but it's still not enough. Certainly kids in Iowa are facing some of the deepest debt in this country and we've got to address it. So first and foremost, we need to make sure that we can allow people to restructure their loans, to get a better interest rate so that they can lower the cost. Secondly, we need to cap student loan interest rates at a reasonable level so that our students aren't facing insurmountable burden. During COVID I voted to make sure that they could not have to pay their student loans off until we moved through this because many people do not have the funds to make that happen. And then in addition, we need to work on making sure that every single young person has an opportunity for a post-secondary education and it doesn't have to be a four year college. It can be a two year college or a trade school or apprenticeship program, all of which I've been working on in Congress.

Masters: David Young, what should be done if anything for student debt?

Young: Well, first of all, we need to make sure that we're educating students and families about what it means to take out a loan and how much do you really need. As well, when people take certain majors up in schools making sure that they know on the back end if they're going to find a good job in that area to make sure that they can repay those loans back. I support Pell Grants, Stafford loans, Perkins loans, making sure that those funds are available. I would like to see students really start questioning, some school administrations as well, looking at what they have set aside in their endowments to make sure that there's some money in there to help students because a lot of the times that money in there is just gaining interest and not really helping kids and I think it could. Looking at the interest rate is something that I'm open to as well. But skilled workforce, not everybody has to go to school. And those funds are very, very important to make sure that those grants are made out there and my opponent has missed votes on those appropriation measures to make sure kids can have access to those skilled workforce loans.

Yepsen: Specifically though, David Young, debt forgiveness?

Young: I think that's very, very unfair for those who have worked so hard and paid off their debts but I have opened the door and I have supported some measures where in unserved and underserved areas where there are doctors needed or law enforcement officers, that loan forgiveness can be done there.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, debt forgiveness?

Axne: I would first look at restructuring loans. I don't think that middle class families should be paying for the wealthiest school by giving them debt forgiveness. I have worked to expand the length of Pell Grants two 16 semesters as opposed to 14 because it does take working kids a longer time to get through school. So I think we have an opportunity to look at policy like that to help them make sure that they can make ends meet.

Henderson: If you're elected and the House brings up an immigration reform plan would you want it to include a pathway to citizenship, a pathway to legal residency status or would you be Steve King and vote against either option?

Young: So we had a vote while I was in Congress and it brought a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, for those who are DACA recipients, deferred action childhood arrivals. All they know is America, they are brought here as young children, they are a part of the American dream already, we need to make sure that they have citizenship as long as they're not felons or bad actors. We need to make sure that we secure the border as well, a multi-lateral approach to do that. I do support a physical structure. As well, for those who are here illegally allow them to come out and have some kind of legal status with background checks making sure they are right with the law. But a lot of people talk about a big comprehensive immigration bill, that can get 3,000, 4,000 pages big and people will find any kind of excuse to vote no on it. So I like targeted approaches, DACA, dreamers, those kind of things, and really make sure that the issue is the issue and it's not loaded with other things to give people an excuse to vote no.

Yepsen: We have a problem -- I'll let you answer this question -- here in Iowa with a rural economy that depends on immigrants, some of them here without documents, and yet at the same time you have Iowans, there's some examples of racism particularly against Latinos. Is there a problem we have, David Young, in this issue?

Young: Well, I think Iowans are pretty tolerant people and the farmers and those in the agriculture community that I've talked to, they don't care where the workers come from, whether they are home grown or if they come in over the border, they want to make sure that the job gets done and as long as you have a clean background and are right with the law then we should do that and I have voted for work programs for others.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne?

Axne: We need solid immigration reform, we've needed it for a heck of a long time, and I certainly believe that we need a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without a criminal background. This past year I was able to vote for the Dream Act for those DACA recipients, those young people in our community that have grown up here, that have gone to school here, that are now contributing back to the community to have them be able to become full-fledged citizens very quickly and I hope that we can get that bill passed. It came out of the House with flying colors and it's about time it was made into law. We also need to make sure that we're addressing issues at the border, but we need to look at it holistically. Sure, we need to keep our country safe, we need to have secure borders. We shouldn’t put up a wall, that is not an effective way to get things done. We should be looking at infrared technology, drones, more customs and borders inspections, but at the same time we need to make sure that, when refugees seek asylum and seek help here in the United States that we treat them with human dignity that they deserve and that we address all the issues that we have seen on the border over the last couple of years where the treatment has been inhumane and we need to make sure that we uphold the values that we believe here in the country which is treating everybody with respect and humanity.

Yepsen: On another issue, abortion is one of the more divisive issues in our society. Cindy Axne, pro-choice or pro-life?

Axne: I'm for a woman's opportunity to choose.

Yepsen: David Young?

Young: I'm pro-life, I believe God is the giver and taker of life, David.

Yepsen: So where is the middle ground on this issue? Where is it? How do we find a solution?

Young: One I think would be don't have taxpayers pay for abortions. This is a controversial and very sensitive issue. As well, late-term abortions into the ninth month and now you've seen some states and governors talking about if a baby is meant to be aborted and it doesn't get aborted and it survives the birth whether or not that baby could still be exterminated. And so I think there are some measures there, a lot of states are taking this up as well.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, how do you find a middle ground on this very divisive issue?

Axne: Well, first of all, taxpayers don't pay for abortions. We all know that. You can't use federally funded money through Planned Parenthood to pay that. You guys know that but you put out information that is incorrect about that. Listen, when a woman has a right to choose she has the right to determine when and how she starts a family and what the opportunities look like for her life. And so I will always stand by that.

Yepsen: What happens though when the Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade?

Axne: First and foremost, I hope that that time never comes. But certainly the first thing then that we would need to do is codify it. Roe versus Wade in my estimation is settled law, it happened when I was eight years old, so I believe that it is the law of the land and if the Supreme Court overturns it then we codify it.

Masters: I want to ask a question, you bring up the Supreme Court, certainly it has been the top of mind for many people following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Amy Coney Barrett now the President's pick. Cindy Axne, would you support a measure to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court?

Axne: First and foremost, thank you to Ruth Bader Ginsburg for everything that she has done for this country to create equity for so many people. And it's unfortunate that we haven't had the time to really honor her life. We've moved right into a political discussion which we never should have been there. And I find it very hypocritical that our two Senators in this state just four years ago prior to the election, Senator Grassley said, it's only right for the people who elect the next President allow that President to select the next Supreme Court Justice. I find it hypocritical that the republicans have made this political, that they are now using their own way that they went about getting things done directly opposite against them. And no, I don't believe that we should expand the court. I don't believe that we should be looking to do anything from an ideology perspective. That's not how this should be done.

Young: I would not expand the court.

Yepsen: Another issue that many people in your district care about is guns, gun ownership and gun violence. David Young, what do we do about the problem of gun violence in our society while at the same time protecting Second Amendment rights?

Young: Well, we need to make sure that we keep guns out of the hands of bad people and those who wish to do harm on others, expanding the national instant background check is very, very important. I worked with the Des Moines Police Department to get them a ballistics lab in house which has found great successes in tracking down guns and those who perpetrated crimes. I am a fierce defender of the Second Amendment. I think it is in the Constitution for a real good reason and I would defend it. And I hate to see sometimes law abiding citizens who are demonized and their guns are being sought after.

Yepsen: Cindy Axne, how do you balance the need to do something about gun violence with protecting Second Amendment rights?

Axne: I support the Second Amendment and certainly coming from Iowa my family grew up as hunters and I oversaw hunting and fishing licenses at the Department of Natural Resources. I know that for Iowans it's a part of the fabric for many people in this state. But certainly we need to keep the guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. When families in this country are scared to send their children to school because they are afraid they're going to be shot or you can't go to a movie or go to church because you're afraid that somebody will take out a gun and kill you, then we're in a bad spot. So we passed out of the House last year a big reform bill to make sure that we correct the issues within the background checks, those loopholes that allow people to not have the background checks that they need if they are doing a person-to-person sale. We also closed the Charleston loophole to make sure that the FBI had a proper amount of time to look into the people who were purchasing guns so that they weren't getting into the hands of the wrong people.

Henderson: David Young, in addition to crop subsidies, Iowa farmers have been receiving special payments from the USDA authorized by President Trump to sort of replace what was lost because of the trade disputes that the Trump administration has pursued. What happens in rural Iowa when those extra payments go away?

Young: Well, hopefully those extra payments do phase out with Phase 1 of the China agreement where China is importing pork, poultry, soybeans. And so that is up and running. We need to make sure that China sticks to it. Our farmers are resilient, they want markets, they want access to markets all over the world. Our President he doesn't like multi-lateral agreements, he likes bilateral agreements and I say that he should pursue those bilateral agreements. But I've always advocated for Iowa agriculture. I was endorsed by the Iowa Farm Bureau. They know that I have their back.

Henderson: Cindy Axne, by some estimates 36% of farm income this year will come from federal payments. What happens when that is greatly reduced?

Axne: That is something that I have fought to make sure that our farmers got because at the end of last year when we were coming together with our budget bills it was not included on the democratic House side and I stood up against our party and along with some of my Midwest colleagues demanded that we put aid in for our farmers. Our farmers should not be taking it on the chin for the bad practices of this current administration. The trade war with China has gone on too long. Phase 1 has not produced the outcome that it was expected to. We have lost 25% of our soybean market, corn is at an all-time low, those customers have gone on to purchase from other countries. China is now purchasing from Russia and Brazil for their agricultural products and we have lost those markets. When I talk to our soybean farmers they say we'll be lucky, Kay, to get 15% of our market back within a decade and they don't know where we're going to find the rest of it.

Yepsen: What do we do though -- excuse me, Clay -- what do you do to keep China from stealing our secrets?

Axne: We need to hold China accountable. I'm grateful that the President did decide that we need to make sure that that happens. But we've got to go into a negotiation understanding how we get things done and certainly the negotiation with China hasn't worked out. We need to hold China responsible for trade agreements, we need to make sure that they're not stealing intellectual property, and we need to put policy in place that keeps that from happening. So I'm glad to see that we're addressing it. We just need to get down to brass tax and make sure that this thing works for American farmers.

Yepsen: David Young, we've only got a couple of minutes left. How do we keep China from stealing our secrets?

Young: Well, the are an adversary. But they're a needed one because they need us and we need them. We need to make sure that we bring jobs back to the United States of America when it comes to those lifesaving personal protective equipment items and drugs and antibiotics, bring them here, that's a way to punish them, take away those jobs and bring that all back home. Economic sanctions on certain companies can work as well.

Masters: This is a big issue and we don't have a whole lot of time. But I'm curious, we've seen a movement for social justice following the death of George Floyd across this country including here in Iowa. What role do you play as a member of Congress, Cindy Axne, when addressing social justice in Congress?

Axne: Listen, I think that certainly the one thing that COVID has done has laid bare the inequities within our system whether it's with health care, with our economy, with education, you name it. And it's unfortunate that we've had to get to a point where we're, this is where we're at. So, what we did in the House is we passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. We have got to hold bad players accountable. The majority of officers in this country are doing a good job and I do not support defunding the police contrary to what my opponent has said I do. Let me make that very clear. I support our police, they play a vital service, but we have to make sure that we hold others accountable by putting in things like no chokeholds, making sure that we have a database so that they don't move from precinct to precinct.

Yepsen: We've got less than a minute left and I have to let you answer.

Young: Well, policing is very important. It needs to be the main stay of decision making done at the most local level. We saw what happened in the Iowa legislature, they came together republicans and democrats to get something done. I was proud to vote for the First Step Act that was advanced by President Trump that dealt with racial disparities in sentencing. The George Floyd Act was a piece of legislation that went through Congress. You didn't show up for that vote. You gave outsourced and proxied our vote away to somebody who wants to defund the police. I don't believe that you do. But why would you give your vote to somebody who wants to defund the police?

Yepsen: I wish I had time to let you respond but I don't. We're out of time. Thank you both for an excellent discussion.

Axne: Thank you.

Yepsen: Tonight was the last in a full slate of Iowa Press Debates on statewide Iowa PBS. We've finished debates in the U.S. Senate race as well as Iowa's 1st, 2nd and now 3rd Congressional District. Bu stay tuned over the coming months for Campaign 2020 coverage on our regular editions of Iowa Press. This week we'll devote our broadcast to a preview of the hard-fought battle for the Iowa legislature with our guests Pat Rynard of Iowa Starting Line and republican Craig Robinson. That's Iowa Press this Friday at 7:30 and Noon on Sunday. For our hardworking Iowa PBS crew here in Johnston, I'm David Yepsen. Thanks for joining us tonight.

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