3rd Congressional District Debate

Iowa Press | Episode
Oct 11, 2018 | 58 min

Election Day is less than four weeks away and Iowa's Third Congressional District could be one of the nation's closest toss-up races. Where do Congressman David Young and challenger Cindy Axne stand on the issues? We sit down with both on this special debate edition of Iowa Press.

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For decades Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Broadcasting live from Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston, Iowa, this is the Iowa Press Debate for the Third Congressional District. From the Iowa PBS Maytag Auditorium, here is David Yepsen.

Yepsen: Iowa's Third Congressional District, sixteen counties encompassing the southwest quarter of Iowa, covers the state's largest metro of Des Moines and stretches westward across more rural counties to Council Bluffs. We're joined tonight by a pair of candidates seeking to represent the third district in Washington. Republican David Young calls Van Meter home. He is seeking a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. And Democratic Party candidate Cindy Axne of West Des Moines is seeking to become one of Iowa's first female congresswomen. Welcome to both of you.

Young: Thank you.

Axne: Thank you.

Yepsen: Good to have you here. Because this is a special Iowa Press Debate we have an audience here in Iowa PBS's Maytag Auditorium. They're watching and listening, not cheering or otherwise distracting from our discussion. We have expanded this program to 60 minutes in an effort to accommodate additional issues and questions. Across the Iowa Press table are Erin Murphy, the Des Moines Bureau Chief for Lee Newspapers and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.

Yepsen: I'd like to begin our discussion this evening with a simple question to each one of you. Congressman Young, why should you be re-elected to another term?

Young: Because I'm solutions oriented, I listen to the people of the third district of Iowa here in the sixteen counties. I've very accessible going to every county every month. I work in a bipartisan way and listening to Iowans I have delivered on many issues from making sure that our veterans are taken care of with the Veterans Crisis Line, delivering tax relief for hardworking Iowans, protecting pre-existing conditions when it comes to health care, that and many more and I look forward to the conversation to continue that. But regardless of who is in the White House or who the Speaker of the House is or the leader of the Senate, I'll work with anyone. My bosses are the people of the third district.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, why shouldn't he be re-elected? And why should you replace him?

Axne: Well, it's time we send somebody out to Washington that is going to look out for the people here in our corner of the state. As a fifth generation Iowans, small business owner, a mom and somebody who spent a decade helping to root out waste in the state of Iowa, to bring in good paying jobs to the people that live here, certainly to make sure that those who are most vulnerable have a voice and of course ensure that we held government accountable, those are strengths that I bring to the table and I think those are characteristics that we need more than ever out in Washington right now. Certainly as a mom and a small business owner I understand the struggles that Iowa families are facing and I think it's time we send a representative out to Washington that is living those issues and certainly can reflect those values and needs out in Washington. Unfortunately, my opponent with the votes that he has taken have been hurting Iowans. And so I think it's time that we send somebody to Washington that will make sure that Iowans have a voice, that Iowans have an opportunity and that we always stand up and protect the needs of the people here in this district.

Yepsen: Well let's get to those issues. Kay Henderson.

Henderson: First one, health care. Congressman Young, you just mentioned pre-existing conditions. You sponsored a resolution on this issue in Congress. Why not a law?

Young: Well, I sponsored a resolution as well because right now the law does protect people with pre-existing conditions. Should that ever change the resolution says through a court case or through any legislative changes within Congress it is the priority of Congress to make sure that we protect those with pre-existing conditions. That is where I stand when it comes to those folks, even within my family. This is a very personal issues for me. And from meeting with Iowans all across the district with pre-existing conditions they want to make sure that they have those protections. Not only have I introduced that resolution, but as well when the American Health Care Act came up to the floor for consideration, I didn't see protections for pre-existing conditions in there. I offered an amendment with my colleagues that would make sure that insurance companies didn't discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, that they didn't price them differently, as well that if a state got a waiver from Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, that they had to take care of those with pre-existing conditions and if for any reason people with pre-existing conditions lost their insurance there is a fund there set aside to help them pay those bills. As well, recently with the short-term limited duration plans that have been put forth, I contacted the White House and made sure that they knew where I stood on that, that these skinny plans, these shorter plans, they need to protect those with pre-existing conditions. So I've got a record.

Henderson: Does that mean you're opposed to the Farm Bureau Health Benefit Plans?

Young: So I don't like the cap that is in there. I'm against caps. And as well I don't like the fact that they do not protect those with pre-existing conditions. So I have a real problem with that bill.

Henderson: So what should Iowa legislators do? The republican-led legislature signed it and republican Governor signed it.

Young: Well, I'll leave that up to the legislature here at the state. But at the federal level I'm doing what I can to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions are protected.

Henderson: Ms. Axne, once the mandate for having insurance went away, the math doesn't work for insurance companies if you don't do something about folks with pre-existing conditions. So should the mandate be re-established?

Axne: Well, let me tell you, this is one of the reasons I got involved in this race is because I wanted to make sure that every single Iowan had affordable, quality care. My husband and I are small business owners. Multiple times in our lives we have had to purchase our own insurance. I remember when I was pregnant with my second son we had just started our business and we couldn't get maternity coverage as part of an individual plan back then because it was a pre-existing condition unless we paid for a rider that cost $1,000 a month and then held that in place for at least a year before becoming pregnant. Well, we couldn't afford that. So when I had my second son we literally had to sell our personal items on EBay. So this is a priority for me. I want to make sure that every single Iowan has an opportunity for affordable, quality care that protects them and makes sure that they never have to make a decision between putting food on the table or keeping lights on and ensuring that their families are healthy.

Henderson: So does that mean re-establishing the mandate? Does that mean Medicare for all?

Axne: I have been promoting shoring up the Affordable Care Act, making sure that we keep the provisions within it that help Iowans like keeping our kids on plans until they are 26, of course covering pre-existing conditions, making sure that there is no lifetime caps and the ability to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs and lower prices. But I've also introduced what I would like to see a public option so that everybody has an opportunity for an effective, affordable plan.

Henderson: What are your views on this Farm Bureau Health Benefit Plan that Congressman Young has commented on?

Axne: This plan is not good for Iowans. It doesn't cover people with pre-existing conditions. The unfortunate thing is that we're seeing in health care right now is that a lot of plans are out there that provide very little coverage and don't do much to help people and this is another one that does that.

Henderson: Just one final question on this topic to Congressman Young. What do you say to individual Iowans who are trying to buy an individual policy for themselves or their family and they look at this Farm Bureau plan as their only option?

Young: Well, I think it is important to give states flexibility. But what we can do is we really need to address the cost here, transparency in cost and bring in a larger individual market. That is very, very important to me. And with that competition with an individual marketplace we're going to have more quality and better care in our health care. One thing that really bothers me with Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act is there is so much uncertainty that is given to each and every person in America because there are thousands of delegations of authority given to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, which could change the health care system in each and every administration, and that doesn't apply for a lot of certainty out there and we need to give certainty to the health insurance industry and give people more options more importantly.

Yepsen: Erin?

Murphy: Mr. Young, you mentioned earlier these candidates in this race are being tied to whether it is the President or the Speaker of the House, you said you're willing to work with whomever, but we've all seen the ads that are tying you to these leaders. Is a vote for you a vote for the Donald Trump, President Donald Trump agenda?

Young: A vote for me is a vote for the third district, that's how I see it. Like I said, I'll work with anybody across the aisle, on the same side of the aisle, in the White House whoever is in there, whatever party stripes, Speaker of the House or colleagues over in the Senate. I'll work with anybody for the benefit of the Iowans in the third district.

Yepsen: What do you say though, Congressman, when the President was in Council Bluffs the other day and said a vote for you is a vote for me and my agenda to make America great again? So that pretty well makes you a Trump person doesn't it?

Young: Well, it makes me a third district person. And let's talk about some of the things that I agree with the President on. The tax relief for Iowans, I'm hearing from so many voices, small businesses, large employers, individuals, about the benefit of keeping more of their hard-earned tax dollars. The rules and regulations that have been rolled back is helping to grow businesses. Making sure that we get rid of awful regulations such as the Waters of the USA regulation from the Obama administration, which my opponent supports. And then on the international front making sure that we rebuild our military, give the largest pay increase in almost a decade to our soldiers. Sitting down with leaders in North Korea is a great place to start fighting back on Isis. But there are places where I disagree with the President on.

Murphy: What are some examples of those?

Young: Particularly the tariffs. I do not like tariffs. I see tariffs as a tax on consumers, employers, employees. And the short-term limited duration plans for health care, I don't like the fact that they don't cover pre-existing conditions. And then the EPA gave some waivers to refineries that I don't think deserve them and I'd like more oversight over those. So there's just a few.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, how do you react to what he just said?

Axne: Well, I'd like to go back to the pre-existing conditions coverage and point out the facts that Congressman Young multiple times voted to take away coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. He voted against the -- he voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which covers people with pre-existing conditions. He voted for the disastrous republican health care bill that he actually lied to Iowans and said that he would not vote for and then turned around in the middle of the night and voted for it, which would take away coverage for pre-existing conditions. The Upton Amendment does not cover people with pre-existing conditions in a fashion that they can afford. As a matter of fact, it does allow insurance companies to charge the rates that they want and the subsidies that he says are in that, which are to the tune of $8 billion to help shore up some of those expenses for people who can't afford it, is about $192 billion short according to the Congressional Office of Budget. So I don't think the million Iowans who are under the age of 65 here in Iowa with pre-existing conditions would believe that coverage that they can't afford is decent coverage.

Yepsen: Quick response, Congressman?

Young: I think she has really conflated the numbers there, a million. We're talking just about the individual market. So those with pre-existing conditions are taken care of whether they are on Medicare or they are on a group employer plan or VA health. So we're talking about 4% of the population really. I've been there supporting help for those with pre-existing conditions. I've got a record on it. It was important to take action. When the republican health care bill first came out I didn't support it and I stated I cannot support this until there are changes that are made. And I used my vote as leverage to make sure that there were protections for those with pre-existing conditions. We can always improve upon that and I'll work with anybody on that.

Yepsen: Okay, Erin, back to you.

Murphy: Ms. Axne, for you, you've seen the ads. Is a vote for you a vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?

Axne: Well, I'll tell you what, I've seen a heck of a lot of ads and quite honestly they're all false. So certainly I got into this race because I want to make sure that Iowans have a voice out in Washington and I'll be working for Iowans. And I have said every single time I've been out talking with folks here, I don't care if you're a republican, democrat or independent, every single one of us is in this together, this is one of the most important elections of our lifetime and we all deserve to have a voice out in Washington. And so I certainly am here to make sure that Iowans have a voice, our farmers have a voice, our kids who are coming out with so much student loan debt and adults as well that they can barely get off on the right foot, small businesses, certainly our hardworking teachers and hardworking Iowa families. I want to make sure that they have got a voice. So I will be independent in my thinking and it will always be to make sure that we better the lives of the people that live here.

Murphy: But you have said that you agree with the minority leader on most topics, is that not accurate?

Axne: No, that is not accurate. That is another false claim that was taken out of context. I think the question in that meeting was what do you disagree with, with the Democratic Party? So that was to answer that. So that is false information as well.

Yepsen: Excuse me, let me put a finer point on it, will you vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker if you're elected to Congress?

Axne: Well, I'll tell you what, right now I'm focused on just winning this race because we have got to get somebody out to Washington that actually is going to stand up to any administration and quite honestly I'll stand up to republicans or democrats as long as they're working on something that is not appropriate for the people that live here. So I'm going to make sure that when I get to Washington and that time comes then I'll be voting for whomever is the best representative for the people here in Iowa.

Henderson: Congressman Young, before we move onto the next topic, taxes, she said you lied to Iowans about your vote on the AHCA.

Young: Well, if you look at early on when the bill was introduced in my release it said I cannot support it in its current form unless it changes. And I brought changes to it. It's interesting, on May 3rd, just the day before the final vote, the Des Moines Register released a headline that said, 72,000 Iowans would likely not have any kind of insurance because of the collapse of the individual insurance market. It was time to act and I brought forth a solution. And it's an issue that we need to work together on. We've tried partisan approaches on both sides. We need to both sit down together.

Henderson: Let's shift to taxes. Ms. Axne, Mr. Yepsen mentioned the Trump rally. You got a nickname there, Cindy Taxme. You have said that you would not have supported the GOP tax cuts. Doesn't that mean you would raise taxes?

Axne: I have said I would not have supported the GOP tax bill. That, what that means is I don't believe that over 80% of the provisions within the latest tax bill should go to benefit the wealthiest and corporations. That is absolutely unacceptable. What I want to do is make sure that our hardworking middle class families here in Iowa have opportunity. I would like to ensure that we continue and grow the child care tax credit. I'm a mom. I understand what it takes to raise children and how much money it costs. At one point in our lives when both our boys were in daycare we were paying close to $20,000 and that was fourteen years ago just to have two children in daycare. The costs are astronomical. So what is being put out in the media is absolutely false. I have never said the things that they've said. I would expand the child care tax credit. I would make sure that taxes for middle class families are beneficial to them, larger than they are, and certainly helping to grow their opportunities. There may be a little bit of money that has come back to some of our middle class families, not all, in this tax bill. It's a wash because they have taken away things like the opportunity to deduct state and local taxes, something that we do a lot here in Iowa. So I want to make sure that this tax bill works for the majority of people in this state, not for corporations and wealthy, and right now what we're seeing is a debt load that is increasing at an exponential rate because we don't have enough revenues coming in, they just put out another release on that, our revenues are vastly outseating our costs and our expenses there in federal government and that is all due to the GOP tax bill that Congressman Young voted for that puts money in the pockets of wealthy and helps corporations not pay their fair share.

Henderson: Mr. Young, today the Gallup organization released a poll that said 64% of Americans have seen no increase in their take home pay as a result of the tax law that you signed. That doesn't appear to be the talking point that voters are hearing from republicans.

Young: Well, that's not what I'm hearing from the people that I represent and that I visit in the sixteen counties. Received many emails and phone calls talking about how the tax relief with individuals and small businesses are allowing them to spend more of their hard earned dollars on their families whether it's another mortgage payment, car payments, tuition for school. Small businesses are expanding. Larger employers are expanding as well. I think it's important that we double the child tax credit and double the standard deduction. My opponent here says that the tax relief has helped her small business. My opponent has also said that one of the things that she would do would vote to repeal the GOP tax bill. That is a tax increase on Iowans and I don't think that's a good thing.

Yepsen: How do you respond to that? How do you respond to that?

Axne: First of all, that's not a tax increase on Iowans. What I want to do is making corporations and wealthy pay their fair share. Let's go back to your small business statement that you just made. Yes, I've said because I'm honest about what I am representing, my business benefits because we're categorized as an LLC. If you look at the majority of small businesses, in particular microbusinesses, which are most small businesses in this country, and they are the ones that are keeping our Main Streets alive and really the keys to our rural communities, they're paying more. So a large portion of our small businesses are paying more than they used to under this new GOP tax bill. And certainly as Kay just pointed out, most of our middle class families are paying more as well. So this bill is not working. It is putting the burden of this massive debt on middle class families, giving them less opportunity than corporations and the wealthy. And so I want to put a tax plan in place that actually helps our working class families and makes sure that they have got opportunity, not wealthy people and corporations.

Yepsen: Congressman Young, I'm old enough to remember when republicans used to campaign a lot on debts and deficit. What happened to your party in this debate over taxes and spending?

Young: We have an incredible amount of revenues that are coming in and this tax relief will pay for itself, but it's just a philosophical approach about who can spend dollars better, the American family or the federal government, and I say the American family, the Iowa family. We've been overtaxed at the federal, local and state level and so it is very, very important to deal with the debt as well. I support a balanced budget amendment. I think that is the only way that Congress can be disciplined to make sure that we balance our budgets. I hate debt. Iowans hate debt. 49 states by state statute or constitutional amendment they have to balance their budgets, Iowa families do, Congress should as well.

Yepsen: So what would you do? What taxes would you raise, what spending would you cut to get this budget back in some balance?

Young: Well, certainly you can grow the economy all you want and have increased revenues but that doesn't take care of it alone. You do have to take in some places an axe or some places a scalpel to the federal budget. But you have to force that I believe with a balanced budget amendment. You also have to consider that 80% of every dollar spent is mandatory spending. It's kind of untouched right now. I think we should be bold and be able to take a look at that and see where we can make improvements.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, same question to you. We've got a big debt looming in this country. What taxes would you raise and what spending would you cut to bring things into balance, particularly to pay for some of these health care programs you've been talking about?

Axne: Absolutely. And I couldn't agree with Congressman Young more to say that I think Iowans understand how to balance a budget. We all certainly know that you have to bring in at least as much if not more revenue than your expenses to make sure that they're covered. Right now what we're seeing in federal government under a bill that Congressman Young supports, under the administration that he has voted with 99% of the time, is a bill that actually is increasing our debt load. They just put out a report saying that we have doubled our debt load for this year compared to last year. So it's growing astronomically. We can't afford it. Here's the deal. I spent a decade in state government. I served under democratic and republican governors. My job was to root out waste and to make sure that we held government accountable to delivering better services and using taxpayer dollars to do that wisely. My job I think is to go into Congress and not just understand that when we put a policy in place that the structures and the resources to support it have to be there. And that’s what I plan on doing is going in and finding waste within the system, making sure that the entire federal government, its departments are running efficiently and effectively, finding savings there and then also making sure that within a tax bill that the wealthy pay a fair share and that corporations pay a fair share as well.

Yepsen: So, my question is what taxes would you raise and what spending would you cut? You've talked about waste. Most economists say that doesn't get you there. You're talking about here at the end raise taxes on corporations and wealthier Iowans?

Axne: Well no, first of all, what this latest bill has done has lowered, it has taken the corporate tax rate from approximately 35% down to 21%. And then of course there are continuing to be opportunities for those corporations to have write-offs. So the effective tax rate for most large corporations we have yet to see what that is going to look like. So I want to go back a tax rate that actually serves the purpose of making sure that it's a fair tax rate for the corporations but also ensures that we've got the revenue that we need to bring in. So I'm not saying go back and do this, that or the other thing. I'm saying we need to look at this. What they've done is cut it by about 14%, kept all of those breaks in there so we're losing the revenue that we need to generate to cover our services.

Yepsen: Congressman Young?

Young: Going back to the rates where they were like my opponent suggests is raising taxes on Iowans.

Henderson: Congressman Young, you mentioned 80% of the budget is untouchable. What part do you want to touch?

Young: Well, I think we need to look at all the programs and we need to make sure that Social Security and Medicare are strengthened and modernized and solidified.

Henderson: Does that mean means testing?

Young: That's on the table. I've been supportive of means testing. But we have to do, when it comes to Social Security and Medicare we have to remember the solemn promise between the people and their government. This is not just money that is just given to folks. They paid into the system and it is theirs and they deserve to have it back. It has got to be done in a bipartisan way. You can't have a partisan solution on this. It has got to be done in a transparent way as well. And you have to have the support of the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. I think there is a willingness in Congress but right now the President says he doesn't want to touch those programs. I think we need the spirit of the former Speaker of the House, a democrat Tip O'Neill and republican President Ronald Reagan who got together, saw an issue, saw a problem, saw that the promise to Americans was being broken and they fixed it in a bipartisan way.

Murphy: Mr. Young, you talked about the tariffs early on, the administration recently announced a new deal with Canada and Mexico, two of Iowa's biggest trading partners, but your old boss, Senator Grassley, said that 95% of what is in that is the same is what is in the old NAFTA deal. Given the market fluctuations that we've seen in the past few months were those worth getting to where we are now with this new deal?

Young: Well, if it's a better deal then I think we should take it. I've been talking to stakeholders in agriculture and manufacturing who see it as a positive. We need to make sure with this new USMCA agreement that we get it taken care of and tie that loose end, that knot in Congress to keep it going forward. That relationship is very, very important with Canada and Mexico. They are incredible trading partners. And then use that relationship in a strategic manner, Erin, to make sure that we work in a concerted effort to isolate China. That is really where the problem is. I would like to see the President sit down with the leader of China and it looks like he may in the G20 Summit. That's very, very important. But I think we're squeezing China right now. Back to the USMCA though, I think it's time to take the tariffs on steel and aluminum off of them.

Yepsen: So that sounds like you'd be willing to vote for this when it comes --

Young: I find it as a positive, yeah.

Murphy: Would you vote for this if elected and that came before the House?

Axne: Well, let me just first of all say I think it's very reckless by this administration to have started these trade wars and certainly with our allies and our neighbors. Canada is one of our biggest trading partners and so is Mexico. What we have seen as a result of this, and you brought it up earlier, is an uncertain market. So any time that we create uncertainty within industries prices go down, people buy less and there is less opportunity for growth. And so that is what we're already seeing in this country and we're seeing that right now with our agriculture sector here. So I would certainly look to any regulation, any agreement to make sure that it works for the people here in Iowa. I'm certainly someone who understands that in government we can pile regulations on top of regulations or policy on top of other policy without looking to make sure that it is actually working for the direction that we'd like it to achieve. So I want to make sure that any agreement that we have levels the playing field, creates Fair Labor Standards Acts with our allies and ensures that they have to follow the same types of regulations we do so that we can make sure Iowa workers receive a good, fair and good pay and that we can sell our prices for a good rate.

Murphy: Does this new agreement do that?

Axne: I have to check all the details within this agreement. I certainly hope that it does. I have not read it from front to back. But if it meets the opportunities to level that playing field and to put more money back in Iowa's pockets then I would agree with it. But I have to look at the bill first.

Henderson: Ms. Axne, you have said no tax dollars should be spent on the wall along the southern border. Why?

Axne: Well, we need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and certainly it's important to keep our country safe. I think that any elected official, in particular those elected to Congress and Senate, need to ensure that keeping our country safe is their utmost priority. It is my utmost priority. But I think there is opportunity for us to do it in a way that doesn't cost us like the wall does. Certainly with aerial drones, increased border security, those are things that we can do that are much more reasonably priced. We also put people back to work in that process. I don't think building the wall is going to be something that will be successful and it certainly isn't something that we can afford. And on top of this disastrous GOP tax bill that has already created trillions of dollars of debt to add more to it for a wall that just is not going to be our solution is very inappropriate.

Henderson: Mr. Young, President Trump promised voters that the wall would be built. Is it worth shutting down the government to have a fight in Congress over funding the wall?

Young: I'm not somebody who is a fan of government shutdowns. I think politically neither side who kind of thinks that they can get the better end of that ever does. And it costs more to open and close the government. I think it's irresponsible. We need to secure our border. I support the wall where it needs to be put. The border patrol says in some places they need a wall. In some places as well Governors say we need a wall, down there in the states of New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas. I've been down at the border. I saw firsthand where there are needs. In some areas you need more fencing. In some areas you need border patrol on horseback. Around Tijuana and California you need more Coast Guard, you need levees in areas. So where the wall is needed I think it's pertinent and it's important to do. I don't support a wall from the Gulf of Mexico though to San Diego. Even the best minds who study this say that's just inefficient and costs too much. But where it's needed, it's needed.

Murphy: Mr. Young, the old Farm Bill has expired. We don't yet have a new one. Why not?

Young: Because Congress didn't get their act together and I'm upset about it. During these times right now in agriculture where the trade issue is looming we need to make sure that agriculture and our farmers and producers have as much certainty as possible. Being on the farm and speaking with the Farm Bureaus in the counties they are very concerned that the Farm Bill wasn't done at the end of September when it expired. It looks like they're pretty close right now and I hope when we come back on November 13th we can get it done. There are some provisions in there that are very, very important to agriculture and to me. I have the Stress Act in there with my colleagues that helps to deal with mental health of agriculture workers and farmers, making sure that there is a safety net for crop insurance, as well as my water act which helps with soil health and water conservation.

Murphy: How about work requirements for food assistance? That is something that, again, Senator Grassley has said that while he may support it that is a non-starter in the Senate because they don't have enough votes? Does that need to be taken out?

Young: I think it probably is a non-starter with the Senate and it will probably fail. But I don't think it's a bad idea to incentivize work and for those who are able-bodied and able-minded and who don't have young children that we incentivize work with 20 hours a week whether it is work or volunteering or getting the skills they need maybe with an apprenticeship or a trade because at 2.5% unemployment rate here in Iowa we're looking for workers.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, how do you feel about this Farm Bill situation and also, as Erin mentioned, this work requirement?

Axne: Well, I'm really disappointed that Congress, Congressman Young and his colleagues out there left and came back without finalizing a Farm Bill. Our farmers are on their seventh year of declining crop prices. This administration has imposed a trade war that has caused uncertainty and continual loss for our farmers and downstream industries as a result of that. So to not pass a Farm Bill is quite honestly the straw that broke the camel's back for our farmers. I think it is incredibly unacceptable that this administration is using our farmers as leverage with these taxes. Our farmers should never be used as leverage. And then certainly not passing a tax bill but coming home and now staying out there to do your job. I don't think there is any other Iowan that I'm aware of that could say, well you know what, I don't need to finish up my job, I can just come home when it's halfway through. Leaving Iowans without a Farm Bill is absolutely unacceptable and something we should never do.

Yepsen: Work requirements.

Axne: Well, listen, within the Farm Bill is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, and that is where they are talking about putting those work requirements. The majority of people on SNAP are either working already or are disabled and can't work. So the majority of people who are receiving these subsidies that they need, nutritional programs, are working if they can. So I don't think that adding that element is something that is necessary. People try and work. We need to make sure that we understand that people in this country, definitely people in this district, understand the value of a hard day's work and if they can get a job they're going to try. I don't think strapping them and not giving them the food that they need is appropriate.

Murphy: Mr. Young, was that a failure of Congress, what you mentioned, and of which you're a member, is this partially on your shoulders as well?

Young: I have been very critical of Congress in not getting this done. And just to correct the record on the SNAP and the work requirements, it does not impose them on those with disabilities, those who have young kids, those who are not able-bodied. And I think what will harm agriculture the most is if we go back to some of those Obama rules and regulations such as Waters of the USA that you support, which would have regulated 97% of Iowa's land in a new way. That is an economic issue and a private property rights issue as well as going back and raising taxes on farmers.

Henderson: Ms. Axne?

Axne: Well, that's absolutely false, again. The Waters of the USA would have extended the Clean Waters Act by about 3% across this entire country. We haven't even seen what it would even do here in Iowa because there has been a federal law case that said that Iowa won't be included at this point. So I think that this is another statement that is not truthful and certainly isn't being forthright with the people here in this district.

Yepsen: How do you balance this issue in this district? You have the most urban area of Iowa here. People are fed up with nitrates in water. And you've got a lot of farmers out there who reject federal or state regulations. So, Ms. Axne, how do you balance this issue in this district?

Axne: Sure, listen, I think there is always an opportunity to make sure that our farmers succeed and that we also protect our environment. At the state of Iowa I directed the Governor's agenda for clean energy and the environment, helped bring the wind industry to Iowa putting thousands of people to work in that and of course supporting and growing clean biofuels here in Iowa including ethanol. So I certainly think that there is opportunity in many policies and programs to be able to protect our environment and also increase opportunity for our farmers and bring in good paying jobs.

Henderson: Mr. Young, if you're living in rural Iowa in the middle of a four mile section it's not likely they're going to extend broadband out to you. Is it time for the federal government to have some sort of rural electric episode in regards to connecting rural Americans?

Young: So when I go out throughout the third district I find those patches where there is not that services whether it's just mobile cell phone service or Internet access. But the federal government under the United States Department of Agricultural and Rural Development there is a program called Rural Utility Service and they do give grants and loans to communities, counties, cooperatives to roll out broadband. So it is happening. And being on the Agriculture Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee I've been guarding and we have been beefing up that account over the years that I've been, the past four years I've been in Congress. And so any way I can get Iowa's taxpayer dollars back I'm trying to.

Henderson: The federal government decided electricity is a necessity. Is broadband a necessity?

Young: A lot of people think it is. It's a necessity in pretty much everybody's daily lives. And so the federal government is working to try to help with that. And there's private companies as well who will make an economic decision on whether or not it's beneficial to them to go in certain areas. I tell them to go there and you'll see businesses come into those areas, the population will stay there, you'll have more workers and economic activity.

Henderson: Ms. Axne, private companies say they don't go there because they can't make money. Is the federal government, if they were to embrace sort of an electrification episode with broadband, will they just be pouring money down a hole?

Axne: Well, listen, I think there is great opportunity for us to be able to bring broadband out to every part of this district and across this state. And as a matter of fact I've been talking consistently about an infrastructure bill that wouldn't address just our roads and our 5,000 bridges, our water and sewer systems that we have pipes that are almost 100 years old and ripe for failure, but of course housing and cellular and broadband services. When I was at the state of Iowa we worked on trying to get broadband out to our public administrative buildings. We've got the Iowa Communications Network that extends out to our public schools. It is in need of upgrading, that's for sure. But I think there is great opportunity for us to combine our rural carriers with things like the ICN and certainly with a government private partnership to make sure we extend broadband to everybody because I agree with you, I think it is the electrification of today. We can't expect that our communities can succeed if they don't have access to the Internet and if they can't participate in today's economy.

Henderson: Mr. Young, she just mentioned infrastructure. Do you think the gas tax should be raised to help finance the President's vision for infrastructure improvements in this country?

Young: No.

Henderson: Why not?

Young: Because I think it's a tax on working Iowans. I would like to see some parity and equity though in how we pay for our roads and bridges. For instance, we have a lot out there who are driving on our roads and bridges who aren't paying into it necessarily with the electric vehicles, propane, different kinds of fuels, flex vehicles. I think if you're going to play on those roads you've got to pay. And so the Department of Transportation under our direction is looking at some solutions to make it more equitable so those who are on the roads are paying for it.

Henderson: A per mile tax?

Young: That has been part of the discussion.

Yepsen: How do you feel about that, Ms. Axne, raise the gas tax, per mile discussion?

Axne: I think we need to look at all opportunities for making sure that we've got what we need for an infrastructure bill. Unfortunately, this infrastructure bill that came out under this current administration passed on the bulk of the cost to local government and that is something that I'll never support. So I certainly think we need to look at any option that is out there. I don't have, I'm not going to say yes or no right now to that. We haven't seen a gas tax in a heck of a long time. We need to look at what might be an opportunity for us to find those funds and look at multiple options.

Murphy: Before we move on, real quick Mr. Young, a few years ago the state of Iowa looked at its transportation budget and saw a hole and passed a state gas tax increase on a bipartisan basis. Was that a mistake?

Young: I'll leave that at the state level to decide that. But I'm not embracing that at the federal level.

Murphy: I wanted to ask you both about gun safety and regulations. Mr. Young, we're just a little bit past a year from the shooting in Las Vegas after which there were numerous calls for a ban on bump stocks, which helped the shooter in that incident to fire more rounds more rapidly. that has not happened yet. Why is that? And should that still, should that ban still be put into place?

Young: I'm very concerned about the violence in our society. And when I go into the schools and talk to families they're concerned about it as well. And I've taken action on the issue. I'm for getting rid of bump stocks. We also passed legislation to make sure that we put some grants out there, the Stop School Violence Act, for schools to harden themselves, to hire school resource officers, to provide mental health funding as well and counselors for kids who may have a mental health issue, as well fixing the background check system because there were holes in it and we saw those holes and they led to some awful atrocities, plugging those holes and making sure states were complying with them. As well I introduced the Protecting our Communities and Rights Act, which is very, very important to me and a lot of people that I talk to that says instead of waiting for after a tragedy to realize somebody with a mental health issues created an atrocity on its citizenry, get at that before it happens and so it allows authorization of a program for states to set up their own red flag system so if a family has a child who is a threat to him or herself or to others that can be flagged and then adjudicated in a court, because we need due process with evidentiary standards to make sure that they can't have a weapon.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, how do you feel about the issue of gun violence in our society? What do we do about it?

Axne: Well, my dad's side of the family are all hunters. One of the bureaus I oversaw at the Department of Natural Resources was hunting and fishing licensing so I'm very familiar with Iowa's history of gun ownership for sport and protection. But what we're seeing today in our communities is absolutely unacceptable. When our children, our kindergartners, five year olds, are going to school for the first time and within the first week or so of getting there they're learning how to keep themselves safe, keep themselves alive from a mass shooting, that is no way for our children to have to live. I'm a mom of two boys in our public school system and there has been many days over these last couple of years where I wonder if my boys will make it home alive. And unfortunately that's what we see across this nation. I absolutely believe we need to fix this. We need universal background checks. We need to ensure that we keep the guns out of the hands of people with criminal or violent backgrounds or those with mental health issues that they shouldn't have them. We need to close those loopholes and make sure that there is background checks at our gun shows, person-to-person sales, online sales and certainly, absolutely I would ban bump stocks.

Henderson: Congressman Young, are those things that you support?

Young: Banning bump stocks, absolutely. Making sure that we've checked, make sure that holes are filled in the background check system. At gun shows and on the Internet if you're a federally licensed firearm dealer you have to have a background check. I don't understand what is happening in our society. It's hard to legislate away evil and get into the hearts of people but these things are happening and at the federal level I'm doing what I can to make sure that those communities and individuals are being protected.

Yepsen: We've got way too many questions and not enough time so I want to move onto another issue. Ms. Axne, should we get out of Afghanistan?

Axne: I think it's high time that we make sure that we bring our troops home. We have been over there for a long time as we all know. I certainly think there's opportunity for us to back that up with support to make sure that on the ground we're ensuring that there's opportunity for people that live there, that there is an opportunity for democracy and to grow that. We keep our country safer by going in and following boots on the ground with programs that help support democratic societies. And so I'd like to see us take advantage of doing that. There is a small pot of money set aside in federal government to make that happen. And it is, if you ask any of our veterans and our military people, they would also support the fact that we've got to make that happen.

Yepsen: Mr. Young, time to get out?

Young: I think we need to listen to Secretary Mattis and the chiefs of our different military divisions. But I do think we've been there a long time and we need to see some action. It's slow. I've been to Afghanistan and visited with our troops and general out there. The point is to try to make sure that we can train the Afghanis to protect themselves. It's a slow process. And make sure though that they're not still coordinating with any nefarious folks out there in the terrorism circles and to hold them accountable if they do. It costs a lot of money but more so it has cost a lot of lives. But I'm going to depend on the reports and the advice from Secretary Mattis.

Murphy: Mr. Young, how about the President's issue to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military? The Secretary has taken that under consideration. Was that the right move?

Young: I've always said if you can pass the fitness tests and the mental exams and you want to fight for our country and our Constitution you should be able to.

Murphy: Ms. Axne, same question for you.

Axne: Well, I absolutely support our LGBTQ community and transgender individuals. I think it's appalling that those that are serving in our military and have put their lives on the line for this country are being treated this way. I certainly don't support that.

Murphy: And in the area of protections for the LGBTQ community, Mr. Young, should there be a federal law banning workplace discrimination specifically against those people?

Young: We need to treat everybody with dignity and respect and kindness and I'm not for discrimination when it comes to employment.

Murphy: So you would support a federal law specifically siting that form of discrimination?

Young: I think it's -- I state the case that we need to be kind to everybody. I would be hesitant to just say yes to any kind of piece of legislation that's not before me.

Murphy: Ms. Axne?

Axne: Yes I believe we should. I certainly think that every single person in this country and around this world are equals and we absolutely need to ensure that they have the same civil rights protection, constitutional protection that every other person in this country has.

Murphy: Is that too much government intrusion into a private business?

Axne: Listen, I don't think treating people with dignity and respect and also making sure that all people are treated equally, which is what we say we do here as a country, is something that we should ever shy away from.

Henderson: Congressman Young, would you vote to raise the federal minimum wage? And how far should it be raised if so?

Young: I think the minimum wage needs to be taken care of at the state level. So I'm not for a federal bill to raise the minimum wage. It has happened before though. If it does come across Congress for any reason we need to make sure it's bipartisan, it's phased in and there is some relief for small businesses because that is who it hits the most. But I think we need to make sure that is taken care of at the state level because states are different. Corning, Iowa is not like Corning, New York.

Yepsen: Ms. Axne, raise the federal minimum wage?

Axne: We absolutely need to raise the minimum wage in this country. Unfortunately it hasn't been raise for so long and that is one of the reasons why families and individuals are falling behind. I do agree with Congressman Young that we need to make sure that this works for small businesses. I do believe that there should be input from local and regional areas to make sure that it's an appropriate wage that helps individuals but also ensures that our economy continues to thrive and that our small businesses can absorb it.

Henderson: Mr. Young, some folks blame the opioid epidemic on pharmaceutical companies. Should there be limits on the number of prescription medications that are prescribed to an individual, a limit on the number of pills in a bottle? Should those be federal limits?

Young: I don't want to play doctor. We've had doctors in medical school with the proper training and I'm not going to play doctor. But I do think we need to bring some real transparency to this with the prescription drug monitoring programs and not just in Iowa but in other states as well because if just a few states are doing it there's going to be folks going around the system, going to other states. And so with that system and that transparency you can see if there are some providers who are pill pushers or some pill shoppers out there. But the opioid crisis is real. I've seen it firsthand. It breaks your heart. It's an evil addiction. Nobody wants to be in that. We need to make sure that aside from a prescription drug monitoring program that we give law enforcement the tools that they need to fight things, those dealers with fentanyl and heroin and provide treatment and prevention efforts as well.

Henderson: Ms. Axne?

Axne: Listen, I do think that we need to hold our pharmaceutical companies accountable. Unfortunately my opponent has taken tens of thousands of dollars from big pharma and I think, which is why one of the things I won't do is take corporate PAC money. I've said that straight out. I think it's important that we're working for the people. I think any decisions that are made have the greatest impact on helping individuals. And so I certainly think we need to hold them accountable. They're a big part of the problem. I do agree that we need to make sure that we've got programs and services in place to help people with opioid addiction and certainly I want to go further than that like I want to do with almost everything we're talking about here and start addressing root causes, mental health issues, lack of opportunity, jobs that don't pay enough. Those are all the things that lead people to issues with opioids as well as overprescribing.

Henderson: Congressman Young, she raised the issue of your fundraising. What is your response?

Young: My response is accept funds legally, solicit it legally and no quid pro quo. I don't report to the drug companies. I have supported legislation that they're probably not too happy about. I report to the third district.

Murphy: Mr. Young, the wind energy tax credit very popular here in Iowa. It is set for a phase out. Is that industry ready to stand on its own? Or do we need to renew that tax credit?

Young: I think it needs to be phased out. That was the deal that was brought forth as well as solar. And it was interesting, during the tax debate with the GOP tax bill it would have harmed the production tax credit in wind energy and I fought in a bipartisan way to make sure that was restored and that the phase out was there. But it's pretty amazing being in Iowa where we lead the country in renewable energy, wind power harnessing that, solar power, geothermal, E-15, pretty exciting the President's announcement. I brought in the acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler to the State Fair and had him sit down with producers and farmers in the ethanol industry to talk about that and this administration listened. So that was very, very nice. We still have an issue though with refineries and the waiver process at the EPA. I'm glad former administrator Pruitt is gone.

Murphy: So just to circle back real quick, you think the industry is ready to stand on its own without that tax credit?

Young: They tell me it is and that was the deal that was made.

Murphy: Ms. Axne?

Axne: Well, I'm very proud to have been a part of bringing the wind industry here to Iowa in my tenure at the state of Iowa. And as you're probably aware we now have almost 40% of our energy from wind. MidAmerican has doubled down putting another $4 billion into it because it has been such a successful program for them and of course we all know it has really lowered our energy costs here. We have some of the least expensive energy in the country, which is helping our economy. So I certainly think we need to look at that. It may be the right time to pull back on that and to move into other areas like solar. I think we've got incredible opportunity here in solar. But I think it's important that we take a look at those businesses and ensure that they're going to have what it takes for longevity. That's the most important thing. I never look at any of these issues as let's just, a solid answer, let's just take this away or add that. I want to go in, make sure that our businesses who have invested in this state, who are helping us lower our cost of energy and who are helping to create jobs have what they need to make that transition and that we're not strapping them. But I certainly believe that if they're at a point where they can stand on their own then we're best to use those taxpayer dollars in another way.

Yepsen: Just a couple of minutes.

Henderson: Ms. Axne, if you are elected and democrats are in the majority there may be an effort to impeach President Trump. Would you vote to impeach the President?

Axne: Here's where I stand right now in regard to what is happening out in Washington. I think on both sides we're seeing too much political partisanship. We've seen it for many years now. I'm not happy any time that we try to not follow our Constitution or not follow processes that were put in place to make sure that we do protect our democracy. So I'm not, I don't have an answer for that at this time. I certainly think what is important is that we allow Mueller's investigation to complete its course and we'll determine at that point if there is information in there that puts our country at risk or that certainly means that we need to do something like that.

Henderson: Mr. Young, the President has said that the Mueller investigation has gone on too long. Has it?

Young: Good question. It's still there. As long as they are staying course and not being diverted into other weird areas that they have been doing I think they need to keep a focus on the issue. So I think the Mueller investigations could keep going. We need to get to the bottom of this. So far even democrat leaders in the House and the Senate have said that there's no evidence of collusion so that is very, very important to take note of. But at some point this does have to end. It has been almost a year and three-quarters, almost two years really, it has to end at some point. But the investigation should go forward and when the findings are there, there should be no question left out there that any of us should be questioning.

Yepsen: We've got 30 seconds left. I'll split it between the two of you. Ms. Axne, what have we overlooked?

Axne: I think maybe economic opportunity here for the people in Iowa. So I absolutely want to make that a priority. I'll go back to the fact that I want to support our small businesses, I want an infrastructure bill that helps build that baseline for economic growth.

Yepsen: Congressman Young.

Young: We do not need to go backwards with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, raising taxes, overregulating our economy and that side of the aisle, Speaker Pelosi is talking about impeaching. We need to go forward to make sure that this tax relief continues and economic opportunity continues and freedom keeps continuing.

Yepsen: I've got to go. Thank you both for being with us, appreciate it.


Yepsen: And thank you for joining us for this special live Iowa Press Debate here at Iowa PBS Studios in Johnston. We hope you'll join us in the weeks ahead for Iowa Press at our regular airtimes, 7:30 Friday night and Noon on Sunday here on statewide Iowa PBS. For our entire crew here at Iowa PBS Studios, I'm David Yepsen. Thanks for joining us today.



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