Congresswoman Ashley Hinson

Sep 17, 2021  | 27 min  | Ep 4905 | Podcast | Transcript

Podcast

On this edition of Iowa Press, United States Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) discusses her work in Congress and her plans for re-election in 2022.

Joining moderator Kay Henderson at the Iowa Press table are James Lynch, political reporter for The Gazette and Clay Masters, politics reporter and Morning Edition host for Iowa Public Radio.

Program support for Iowa Press is provided by Associated General Contractors of Iowa and Iowa Bankers Association.

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Henderson:

Fall 2021 is full of political developments as policy debates in Washington and redistricting in Iowa grab the headlines. We sit down with first district Congresswoman Ashley Hinson on this edition of Iowa Press

Voiceover:

Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. Fuel Iowa is a voice and a resource for Iowa's fuel industry. Our members offer a diverse range of products, including fuel, grocery, and convenience items. They help keep Iowans on the move in rural and urban communities. Together, we fuel Iowa. Small businesses are the backbone of Iowa's communities, and they are backed by Iowa banks. With advice, loans and financial services, banks across Iowa are committed to showing small businesses the way to a stronger tomorrow. Learn more at iowabankers.com.

Music:

[Music]

Voiceover:

For decades, Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Celebrating 50 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa PBS, this is the Friday, September 17 edition of Iowa Press. Here is Kay Henderson.

Henderson:

Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Marion, was a television journalist before she served two terms in the Iowa House. Last November, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Key votes are ahead this fall in the House, and she's here to talk about her work. Congresswoman Hinson. Welcome to Iowa Press.

Hinson:

Thanks for having me. It's good to be on your first show, Kay. Congratulations.

Henderson:

Thanks for saying, thanks for saying that. And thanks for being here. Also joining us today, Clay Masters from Iowa Public Radio and James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Lynch:

Representative Hinson, the state released its first redistricting plan this week, it would mean quite a change for you. Only two of the districts that you currently represent are in the new first district that includes Linn county and Marion, where you live. Are all options on the table for your future? All options, including moving into the district that you currently the most of those counties you represent?

Hinson:

Well, I think, the number one thing I would say is I'm focused on the 20 counties that I do represent right now. And I think that's evident by the work I've been doing in the district this week. Just wrapped up my third 20 county tour. So I've been in all 20 counties in the district three times since I took office, but I'm interested in serving my district, not drawing my district and the state legislators are gonna do their job and I'm going to continue to do mine. And I'm not focused on any of these hypotheticals right now. I'm focused on getting out and hearing from Iowans.

Lynch:

Are you whispering in those legislators ears about what you would like to see?

Hinson:

No. I'm focused again on doing my job and again, they have their job to do and they're meeting and they're talking. I can tell you what I'm focused on is hearing from Iowans and again, three town halls this week. The number one issue I've heard about is taxing and spending. We're hearing from farmers. We're hearing from small business owners about workforce challenges. And that's what I'm focused on right now.

Masters:

Let's get to some policy issues. The bipartisan infrastructure bill. Senator Grassley, a Republican, voted for it, Senator Ernst, also a Republican, voted against it. Where do you come down on the bipartisan infrastructure bill?

Hinson:

Yeah. I think based on my conversations with Iowans, Iowans want targeted infrastructure spending. And I want to make sure that whatever bill comes forward on infrastructure really respects taxpayers in the long-term and also meets that need of targeted infrastructure. And the way I see the bill as it's written right now, it's more than 2000 pages long. I don't think there's enough in there for actual roads and bridges, which we know is crucial to Iowa. I served as transportation chair here in the Iowa House before I got to Congress. And I understand how crucial that need is, but we need to make sure we're being targeted in that spending. So that's what I've been advocating for. I think you've seen that in the community project funding requests I've put in from our office for targeted infrastructure for various projects throughout the district. Targeted infrastructure investment in our lock and dam system. I helped secure money for Lock and Dam 10 in Guttenberg to get new miter doors. So that's really my focus as far as infrastructure is considered. I want to make sure it's targeted, not bloated. Especially in a time when we are seeing record inflation, record spending. The spending spigot has been turned on in Washington. And I'm very conscious of that.

Henderson:

I just want to be clear. You are not in favor of the bill that Chuck Grassley voted for in the Senate.

Hinson:

Yeah. As it stands right now, again, more than 2,700 pages long, I don't think it does enough for roads and bridges in Iowa. And so that's why I'm, I'm not planning to support it at this time. But we'll see what happens on the floor.

Henderson:

There's a separate bill that house Democrats are drafting that at present is estimated to be about $3.5 trillion. Would you vote for some other level of infrastructure spending if that bill has changed?

Hinson:

Well, the three and a half trillion dollar spending package is the wrong spending at the wrong time. And it is the biggest dive towards socialism that we've seen in this country. It really is, is changing fundamentally the role of government. So that bill for me is a non-starter. You don't and speaker Pelosi did this, she set an artificial date target this week. She set an artificial spending target of three and a half trillion dollars, and then said to all the committees, go ahead and figure out how to spend this money. I think that's reckless and irresponsible. So I think we need to come back to center, hit pause on all this spending. We know at the end of July, there was already a trillion dollars documented that hadn't been spent from all of the other previous spending packages. So until we get a proper accounting of that and a proper understanding of what the inflation situation is in our country, I think this is the wrong spending at the wrong time with the wrong policy.

Henderson:

So what is socialism in that package? The universal preschool rather the childcare infrastructure?

Hinson:

Unlimited unlimited drawdowns from the treasury for community college. And they're portraying it, and we've, we've seen Bernie Sanders in Iowa talking about it. Bernie Sanders is a socialist and he is not hidden on that. And I think it's very clear in the policy that he's projected, that that's what they want. Unlimited taxpayer spending on on community college. Drastic expansion of Medicare policy. And they don't have ways to pay for that. And you've seen a lot of the infighting happening in the Democrat party right now because they understand fundamentally these policies are unsustainable in the longterm. And that's where the criticism has come.

Henderson:

And to be clear, cause there may be some people who are on Medicare who watch this program, you're talking about, I think dental care, glasses, hearing aids. That's not something you think Medicare should cover.

Hinson:

Well, right now we need to be focusing on the sustainability of the program as it stands right now to make sure seniors have the benefits that they can count on. What I think we need to be focusing on in these discussions about pharmaceuticals, for instance, you know. We talk a lot about lowering drug prices and how we can actually do that. I think the number one thing we can do is move policies like HR 19 forward, which focuses on innovation. So it doesn't stifle innovation for new development of drugs and new treatments, but it also does provide transparency for our pharmaceutical companies, which I think everybody understands. That's where the true battle is, right, in lowering prices for consumers. So that's what I want to see us move toward is forcing some more transparency. Let's find out what they're spending on advertising. Let's put some caps on part D out-of-pocket costs because that helps us control the variable that everybody's most concerned about, which is how much money am I going to be spending on my prescription drugs this month. And I think that's where the conversation should be going.

Lynch:

Congresswoman. You talked about targeted spending and you mentioned your community funded community, project funding. What people often refer to as earmarks. What's the status...you requested about $26 million in earmarks. What's the status of those projects? Are they going to get funded? And is that something that you'll actually vote for?

Hinson:

Yeah, so I was able to get all 10 that I submitted for the district, all 20 counties, but I submitted 10 included in our appropriations bills which I think is a big win for Iowa. You know, I would spotlight a couple of those specifically in Linn County, the Tower Terrace Road project. You know, we had a pretty strict criteria for the projects that we wanted to submit. I obviously want to make sure as many Iowa tax dollars come back to Iowa as possible. So, you know, I wanted to see big community buy in, a lot of community support, and a lot of community need. So the fact that we got those in the appropriations bills was a great win, and we have a lot of work to do to make sure that those are the bills that come to the floor. The bills, I think, again, you talk about the budgeting process. It was broken from the start in Washington DC. So I'm hopeful some of these elements will be included. But ultimately, again, when we go back to the budget proposal from the Biden administration, I had a chance to question the acting director of Office of Management and Budget. Specifically, did you actually account for inflation in any of these budget proposals? And they did not. So that's, I think the biggest concern for me. I'll continue to advocate for those projects because I think that they're important for the district. And that's my job again, to make sure that money that's going to be spent as much of that comes back to Iowa.

Masters:

There's been money coming into families' homes through the childcare tax credit parents of children. Been helping out with bills at an uncertain time with the pandemic ongoing. Would you vote to extend the childcare tax credit?

Hinson:

Well, and you know, it's interesting that came up actually at my town hall yesterday. I think that the process that that went through to go out I'm supportive of the tax credit. But the process that that went through to go out in checks I think was flawed. And in fact, we actually had a lady yesterday say she had been trying to figure out how to return her childcare tax credit. They want it as an actual tax credit next year. It was easier, she said, for her to try to get free money for her freshman in college than it was to return money to the government. So that's a big concern for me and literally heard that at my town hall and Waukon yesterday from a constituent. So I think we need to be focused on policies that work to support working families. I'm a mom to a 10- and eight-year-old myself. So I understand that. But even I'm getting that check in the mail. And I think that you know, it's, it was the wrong policy in terms of how it was the mechanism for delivering that.

Henderson:

One other fiscal policy that faces Congress. Will you vote to raise the debt limit?

Hinson:

I think unfortunately what we're seeing is our credit cards in this country are maxed out. Our bill is due. And Democrats want to spend every single penny that is stuck in the couch cushions right now. So unfortunately they seem to be rolling full steam ahead with three and a half trillion dollars in spending on top of 1.9 trillion on top of, I mean, it's just adding up exponentially. So I don't think the, the, the move forward has been responsible. And as we look at that looming crisis you know, they're responsible for all the spending, if they want to continue to, to push forward with a three and a half trillion dollar spending package.

Henderson:

So is that no?

Hinson:

That's a no.

Henderson:

Moving on. Uh this past week you criticized President Biden's vaccine mandate. Are you against all vaccine mandates or just the COVID mandate? Because there are mandates for instance, for us service members. They have to get a whole host of vaccines to be in the military.

Hinson:

Yeah. And I think, you know what I would say about vaccines, I was very public about how I went and got the COVID vaccine. I got both shots in April, posted a lot about it because I believe that getting our society back to normal is what we need. Back to work, back to health, back to normal. And so I've been encouraging people to get their vaccine. So pro vaccine, pro privacy. And I'm against mandates like this. That's not to say, I don't think vaccines are safe and effective. I know I've vaccinated my children for a number of things and I believe in vaccines. But in this case I don't think it was the right move. Especially at a time when our employers are already struggling. I've heard a lot about this at my town halls this week. And my office actually, I would say last Thursday into Friday, we received probably more calls on this issue than almost any other issue we've had in the first nine months in office. So it's something people feel very passionately about. And what I've been talking to my constituents about is I believe it should be your choice to get vaccinated, Um with the COVID 19 vaccine. We are seeing more of them get FDA approved. And if, if we get the approval for children, for example, my kids will be getting it. So that's the story I'm out there telling, but I think that that was a, a gross overstep by the administration.

Henderson:

Do you have any concerns about the administration and the FDA moving forward with a booster?

Hinson:

Well, I think, you know, when you look at some of the competing viewpoints on that, maybe it's too soon. I mean, we're learning a lot about this virus. It seems like every month there's new information and new data. So I would just encourage the CDC to take pause of all that. There's already a lot of hesitancy in this country anyway. And, and we need to go back to basics. Let's focus on you know, making sure that our communication is coherent on all of these things. That's another piece of feedback I've gotten a lot of my town halls. The trust in the CDC has been eroded. And so I think we need to get back to basics there.

Lynch:

You've been very critical of the Biden administration's handling of border security. You went down there and observed it firsthand. If Republicans gain control of the House in 2022, will they pass immigration reform? And what will that look like?

Hinson:

Yeah, well, I certainly hope so because ultimately we have a, a situation at the border that is a direct result of President Biden's policies. And, you know, you saw on January that policy change and the surge at the border continue. Just, you know, we just got the numbers for August. It's the third straight month where we've had over 200,000 illegal immigrants crossing our country. So I think the solution needs to be twofold. I think we need to go back to policies that worked to secure our border first and foremost, because this is a safety and security issue for, for Iowa families and American families. We need to build the wall. We need to have Title 42, be permanent. This is something that customs and border patrol agents on the ground were asking us for. It allows quicker processing of migrants to be returned. Single men to return to Mexico. And then I think as we're having that conversation about immigration, I hope we have a serious conversation about how to incentivize legal immigration and disincentivize illegal immigration. A prime example of that, I, I had a great conversation with a dentist in my district in Cedar Rapids. They just got their green card. They've waited years and years to do that. And the process was broken for them. But they also were very cognizant of the fact that they don't want to see others get a free pass. So I think there's a lot of middle ground there, especially on our guest worker visa programs. Looking at those opportunities. You know, we have a lot of arbitrary caps on programs. And so that's what I've been advocating for as far as a win-win for workforce here in Iowa. We need people and we need workers. But we need to do it the right way and do it legally. So that's why I'm hopeful we go that direction.

Lynch:

From both a philosophical and a policy standpoint, is it a bad thing that people want to come to this country? And do we just, is it a matter of ramping up the immigration process to accommodate all the people who want to come here?

Hinson:

I think absolutely, that's something we should, we should talk about. Because as we've talked about Iowa, our population isn't growing very quickly, but our employers want to and need to. Those help wanted signs are everywhere. So I think there is an opportunity there, to get workers to Iowa. Get workers to states that need workers and have literally been holding back on growing their businesses and their jobs because of that. So I think there is a good conversation to be had there about how we do that. And again, I'd like to see it done through legal channels, not incentivizing this, this surge at the border. Like we saw yesterday with 8,000 in Del Rio sector alone. I mean, that's just unsustainable and it's unsafe.

Henderson:

Governor Reynolds and under the leadership of Senator Ernst, have been talking about resettling Afghan refugees in Iowa. What role are you playing in that conversation?

Hinson:

Yeah, I actually just put in a call last week to the Catherine McAuley Center's refugee coordinator, because they do a great job in Cedar Rapids, for example, of locating refugees, getting them jobs helping them. You know, there's a lot who work for our hospital systems, for example, which need workers right now to help deal with the pandemic. So I've been putting in those calls and trying to make sure that we're ready. I do think that it's important to have conversations about what that vetting process has looked like. And I sit on the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. So we are following up with Department of Homeland Security to make sure that people who come here have been properly vetted. We know we have decades of information on people over in Afghanistan. But the, the people who, you know, stepped up and helped us fight that war for 20 years we can't abandon them. So we have some serious questions that need answered about what happened in Afghanistan. And obviously there's going to be time to do that in the next few months. But we need to know how many Americans are still there, how many of our Afghan partners are still there. What's the plan? We need a coherent plan to not only get them out, but figure out what's next, whether that means they're coming to Iowa or elsewhere.

Masters:

There's a good share of the Republican party we're seeing in recent polls that do not believe that Joe Biden is the legitimate president. You voted to certify that election. What kind of concerns do you have about that having an impact on the 2022 midterm election? And what role do you play in, in fighting that disinformation like that?

Hinson:

Well, I, I've been very clear. I believe in voter integrity. That's why I've supported common sense voter integrity measures here in Iowa, like voter ID. And that's the story I'm out telling is that Iowa runs fair and safe, free elections. And, and we can be confident here in Iowa that our vote counts as our vote. And I I've been out talking with folks about that. Cause there are people who you know, are concerned, will my vote matter next year if I go? So that's the story I'm telling with my constituents out there. What I would say about 2022 is I think that the main issues are not going to be about that. It's going to be about the tax and spend spigot that's been happening in Washington, DC. The failed policies at the border. The botched situation in Afghanistan. That's what voters I'm hearing from about their priorities. Not about the 2020 election.

Henderson:

There's a, and just for the benefit of viewers of this program, who might see it after Friday...on Saturday, there's a rally planned in Washington, DC. Are you concerned about referring to people who've been arrested for their participation in what happened at the Capitol on January 6th, referring to them as political prisoners?

Hinson:

Well, the people who are behind bars, if they have fall and I believe our law enforcement and our, our folks in Washington, DC, who responded to the situation on January 6th and are holding those people accountable, I believe they've done their job. What I would say is anybody, whether you're rioting in a street or on the steps of the Capitol if you're breaking the law, you should be held accountable. And I firmly believe that. As far as, you know, the, the situation in DC, I've just, you know, I was there on January 6th. So I lived through that myself and I saw what happened there that day. And I just hope that you know, I, I never would condone violence on either side, no matter if it's the right or the left. And I think that's a stand we need to be very clear about in this country.

Masters:

Why did you vote against the January 6th Commission?

Hinson:

So I actually, in January, we had a group of us that supported a bipartisan commission. Nancy Pelosi blocked it from coming to the floor. Back in January, we tried to bring it to the floor and she as Speaker blocked it. So in the meantime, though, what we've seen is Department of Justice, Capitol police, US Secret Service, all of these agencies move forward with their investigations. And they continue to, you know make sure that people are being held accountable for their actions. And now what we've seen is the development of a highly political and partisan process through the commission that speaker Pelosi has pushed forward. So I think timing wise, I supported getting to the bot and I still support getting to the bottom of it. But the process we're seeing play out right now is highly political and partisan.

Lynch:

One of your colleagues, representative Tony Gonzalez from Ohio, has said he's not running for reelection. And he talked about toxic dynamics in the Republican party. He called former President Trump a cancer. How do Republicans move beyond Donald Trump and, and be the Republican party they were prior to his takeover?

Hinson:

Yeah, well I think that President Trump's administration had a number of policies that we need to continue to talk about and, and focus on. You talk about the border. There's a great example. You know, what I'm hearing from Iowa farmers at my town halls, they're concerned about overregulation. That's an area where I think Trump's administration was very successful in trying to get big government out of the way and cut red tape. So I think those are the policies that we need to be focused on as a Republican party. And ultimately, when I talk about, you know, connecting with Iowans and their kitchen table issues, they're not focused on all the drama. They're focused on how am I going to put food on the table for my family? What's the kid's baseball tonight that I have to coordinate while I'm trying to still do my job? That's those are the things that people are concerned about, not all the political infighting. So that's what I'm concerned with, is making sure that I'm focused on those issues, both in Washington and here in the district.

Lynch:

The former president is going to have a rally in Des Moines in October. Will you attend that?

Hinson:

Well, I think, you know, a number of my constituents are President Trump supporters, and I supported President Trump, as well. So if he comes back to Iowa, I'll likely be there, because I understand how important it is also for me to connect with the people who sent me to Washington DC. That's a great chance for me to connect with people who continue to support me, as well. I am, you know, there are people on both sides of that issue, both Republicans and Democrats, right? In terms of their support for the president. And again, when I look at his legacy and the policies that I continue to support, that's where my support for the president still lies.

Masters:

At the same time, voters will say that they want bipartisanship. Is there a reward for working with Democrats right now? And does that erode the closer you get to the, the closer you're getting to the 2022 midterm election?

Hinson:

Well, I, I, we've been very successful in working across the aisle. And out of, I think more than a hundred bills I've introduced, dozens of them are, are bi-partisan. Representative Abigail Spanberger's office. She's a Democrat from Virginia. We're we're right next to each other. We've worked together on issues for small businesses. I've worked with Cindy Axne here in Iowa. We actually have a bill that she was the lead Democrat sponsor on, and I was the lead Republican on that was signed into law. The Sergeant Ketchum rural mental health act for veterans. And I was in the oval office with President Biden as he signed that bill. And so I think that there's been a lot of really good opportunities to work across the aisle on, on policies Iowans care about. You know, I, I hope that the partisan rhetoric doesn't get in the way of doing that, but our office has continued to reach out to other offices. Talk about the border situation. Um one of the, you know, key policy ideas that came out of those discussions was we knew CBP and ICE couldn't accurately communicate to each other once an illegal immigrant's released into the country from CBP's custody. ICE couldn't track them. And so there's an issue where there's a lot of bipartisan cooperation. I'm working with a Democrat from Texas on that bill. So I think that there are plenty of opportunities to work together. And obviously there's some big conversations that you hear about in the news. And obviously they're very weighty and very important, but there's a lot of other things churning as well that we're working on together.

Lynch:

Is there a political reward for that? Do Republicans reward you for your bipartisanship? Do Democratic voters reward you?

Hinson:

I think Iowans expect that. I mean, I, everywhere I've gone, people expect you to work together and, and get things done. And I think if I look at what's wrong with the chaos and dysfunction in Washington, DC, it's that you don't have enough people willing to do that. And I'm willing to do that. Cause I didn't go to Washington DC to sit on my hands. I want to get things done. And I'm in the minority, but I think we've been successful in working across the aisle.

Henderson:

We've only got a couple of minutes left. I want to return to Afghanistan, which you mentioned a few moments ago. Do you believe that the US should have a continued presence in Afghanistan? Or do you believe that US soldiers should be completely withdrawn?

Hinson:

Yeah, so I think what we need to do is get the accurate information. I've been a part of classified and unclassified briefings on this this matter. The biggest question I have going forward as a member of Homeland Security is did we lose our chance at good intelligence gathering by pulling completely out? Now whether that's military or just intelligence I have concerns about Bagram Air Force Base strategically in the, in the Middle East, in that region. So I think that's kind of what I'd like to see get to the bottom before I, you know, give a judgment on that. But what I can say is that we, we pulled out on a lurch, we were on the Taliban's timeline. We should have been only on America's timeline in terms of getting our people out. And now we've lost 13 American lives as a result of that.

Henderson:

We've got about half a minute.

Lynch:

Yeah. And as Kay mentioned at the top of the program, you served in the Iowa Legislature. And I just want to ask you what you've learned in your nine months in Congress. And how does that compare with the Iowa Legislature in terms of workload, the pace of work, and the sort of the partisanship that you've talked about?

Hinson:

Again, I think there are always opportunities to work together. And you know, what I always, the perspective I had in the Iowa House is the same as it is in Congress. Which is I was in the majority party there. And someday I might be in the minority party. Now I'm in the minority party. And so that's how I've always tried to consider it in, in, you know, making sure that that decorum amongst colleagues exists. That doesn't mean you can't be critical or disagree, but I think that that decorum is at the heart of what we do. So I would say that at times, the workload is is massive. The number of bills that are introduced every year is, is massive. But we're focused on protecting taxpayers, protecting rural America, and safety and security for Iowa families. And that's something we've been able to do quite successfully in my first nine months.

Henderson:

Well, speaking of nine months, we're to the end of this time that we have together. Thanks for your time today, Congresswoman Hinson.

Hinson:

Thank you for having me.

Henderson:

That's it for this edition of Iowa Press. Join us at our regular broadcast times next week. Friday at 7:30 and noon on Sunday, or anytime on iowapbs.org. For everyone here at Iowa PBS, thanks for watching.

Music:

[Music]

Voiceover:

Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. Fuel Iowa is a voice and a resource for Iowa's fuel industry. Our members offer a diverse range of products, including fuel, grocery, and convenience items. They help keep Iowans on the move in rural and urban communities. Together, we fuel Iowa. Small businesses are the backbone of Iowa's communities, and they are backed by Iowa banks. With advice, loans and financial services, banks across Iowa are committed to showing small businesses the way to a stronger tomorrow. Learn more at iowabankers.com.

 

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