U.S. Representative for Iowa’s 3rd congressional district Cindy Axne held a town hall Thursday at the SWCC Performing Arts Center in Creston.
Axne, a fifth-generation Iowan who grew up in Warren County, became the district’s representative in 2018 when she defeated Republican incumbent David Young. Since taking office, Axne said she has pushed to bring Iowa values to Capitol Hill.
“I am proud to be able to represent a state that I love so much,” said Axne. “Especially a part of the state that means so much to me.”
Axne touted her accomplishments from before being elected, particularly her push for all-day kindergarten to become the standard in West Des Moines, her current city of residency. Axne said the previous system left student enrollment too up to chance, with some students receiving only half a day of kindergarten as opposed to others who received a full-day of education.
“We finally got it in West Des Moines after advocating for about a year,” said Axne. “I didn’t think it was right that half the kids lost the lottery and got an inferior education and not an all-day kindergarten. I think public schools should be our great equalizer that gives everyone an opportunity for success no matter if you’re in a rural or urban area. Your zip code shouldn’t determine your opportunity in life.”
Axne also referenced her efforts in establishing more mechanic programs in Iowan community colleges to provide technicians for energy projects.
“I oversaw the energy and environment plan help bring the wind industry to scale here in Iowa,” said Axne. “It was great to work with our community college system as they developed a mechanic program. Back then, we were literally flying in mechanics from Scandinavia because we didn’t have people to work on our towers and turbines.”
On the hill
The congresswoman shifted focus to her current position in Washington, starting with a bill she helped pass as part of the House Financial Services Committee.
“Within the Securities and Exchange Commission, there’s an office of advocacy,” said Axne. “They look at small business from a minority perspective and a woman perspective, because women and minorities have a harder time getting what they need to start a business. Well, I said that so do rural entrepreneurs. They face difficulty in access to capital, but if you look at the statistics, small businesses in rural communities actually have a longer lifespan. So they’re less risk but they don’t get the opportunities of some other places.”
Other national concerns that Axne said are heavily affecting Iowa deal with medical care in rural areas, specifically the price of prescription drugs and the shortage of physicians. One particular bill passed to expand pharmaceutical access is H.R. 3 — The Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019. This bill aims to lower prices for select drugs by effectively forcing drug manufacturers to accept prices set by the Secretary of Health and Human Services — or otherwise face an excise tax of up to 95 percent of sales.
“This bill would save all of us a lot of money,” said Axne. “It is supposed to save us between $350 billion and $700 billion over a seven-year life span as this bill starts moving its way through and starts addressing the cost of those individual drugs. The bill allows us to negotiate the cost of the most expensive and most used drugs within medicare, which we have never been able to do before.”
The bill was originally intended to deal with the top 125 used prescriptions but was expanded to 250 before passing. Axne said she hopes to continue expanding the coverage of the bill as time goes on. Currently, the bill is on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk, awaiting a vote in the senate.
Axne also gave some insight into upcoming endeavors, namely her goal to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from “ripping off Iowans.”
“The EPA is waiving large fossil fuel companies out of the Renewable Fuel Standards by issuing them a small refinery exemption,” said Axne. “Folks, we are giving exemptions to companies like Chevron and Exxon — multi-billion dollar companies — so they could put more money back in the pockets of their rich shareholders at the expense of hard working farmers in our state.”
Axne wants to enforce the 15 billion gallon limit as she believes the exemptions are most harmful to the ethanol industry — a major source of employment in the Midwest.
“I’m not stopping until we get our 15 billion gallons back,” said Axne. “That’s the law and Iowans deserve that. I want to make sure we can produce ethanol and get it to the states that want it.”
Axne said she was most excited about the finalization and passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade deal conceived to replace the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We worked very hard to make that a good bill,” said Axne. “That bill got over to the House working group this past summer, just before the beginning of July. At that point, there were a lot of good improvements from NAFTA.”
The USMCA successfully passed both houses of congress and is currently awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump. Despite partisan differences resonating within the halls of Congress, Axne praised the Trump and members of the Republican Party for their commitment to the USMCA.
“I’m glad the President decided to look at trade agreements,” said Axne. “I think we should always be looking at trade agreements so they are working best for the people in this country.”
The meeting in Creston was the congresswoman’s 60th town hall since her election. Axne’s frequent interactions with her constituents earned her the title of “Most Accessible Freshman Member of Congress” by the Town Hall Project, an independent organization with the goal of encouraging constituent participation in the democratic process.
Axne was met by members of the community from both sides of the political spectrum. While there were heated discussions and disagreements from some attendees, Axne said she welcomed the difference in opinion and viewed it as an important learning opportunity.
“I truly don’t care what letter is behind your name, whether it’s a “D”, an “R” or an “I”,” said Axne. “I’m here to work for everybody. We might not always agree but I certainly respect everything that you say and I take your concerns and craft policy.”
One immediate issue brought up by a constituent was the ongoing impeachment trial taking place in the Senate, with them saying they were disappointed in Axne’s decision to impeach the president and noted that Axne had “glaringly” left her vote out of her list of accomplishments stated earlier.
“The reason I didn’t touch on that is because I don’t call that a success,” said Axne. “When we have to impeach a president, when we get to that in this country, it’s a somber moment. So I don’t look at it as something that is a ‘win’ in any way, shape or form. It’s something I wish we never had to get to and it’s something I know that many of us didn’t want to have.”
The other main topic of public discussion was abortion. While majority in attendance were vocally opposed to what was referred to as “child murder,” Axne stood firm in her beliefs, stating that a woman should have the right to choose.
“You know, I’m Catholic, I’m a mom, and I love my boys,” said Axne. “I want to do anything so that our country supports our children. I’m not pro-abortion. What I am for is a woman being able to determine their own destiny. I will always believe that women should have as much opportunity in this country as men.”