GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa — Iowa’s third-district congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines), spoke with a crowd of about 80 here Saturday afternoon, touting the Dec. 19 passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and urging the Senate to approve the bill as soon as possible.
Axne said she came to the Farm Bureau Hall in this town of 1,500 to talk about “the USMCA and trade and moving forward with an ag perspective because we’ve had a rough year when it comes to agriculture, and I’ve been doing every single thing I can to make sure folks understand why it’s so important to support agriculture and rural America.”
The USMCA — basically NAFTA 2.0 — includes tougher requirements for car and truck makers and parts makers in North America, opens the Canadian dairy market to U.S. products, requires labor-friendly laws in Mexico and many other provisions.
Under the new agreement, for example, cars will be eligible for tariffs unless 75 percent of their parts are made in North America — up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA — and unless about half of the parts are made by workers making at least $16 per hour.
It took the House of Representatives six months to produce its version of the USMCA, a rate criticized by Republicans as too slow. Axne explained the pace of the trade bill’s progress and the importance to Democrats of strengthening its labor and environmental protections.
“I’m not sure USMCA would have passed if we had not been able to take the time to fix the labor issues,” she said. “There’s a lot of people within the caucus who would not have voted for it had those issues not been fixed.”
She called the trade agreement a “shining example” of a deal that pleases not only agricultural and manufacturing interests but also accommodates the interests of labor and the environment.
“When the head of the AFL-CIO, the president and agriculture can all agree on something, we’ve really got a good package there,” she said.
While the event was billed as a town hall focusing on the USMCA, Axne fielded questions on several other topics. She stated her position on universal healthcare, a subject that has brought out salient differences among the Democratic presidential candidates.
“I am in support of a public option for healthcare,” she said. “I believe that every single American should have access to quality, affordable healthcare. I’ve said since I started running this race that I believe that folks should be able to buy into Medicare so that we can do many things, first and foremost, give people choice. If they want to keep their own insurance, they can keep their own insurance. If they want to buy into Medicare because they think that’s the best for them, they’ve got that opportunity. This is very much how a lot of other countries function that have really good practices in place to provide healthcare to everybody.”
Axne said she discussed community pharmacies earlier in the day at stops in Winterset and Greenfield, arguing that supporting and strengthening the small-town pharmacies, along with rural health clinics and critical-care hospitals, is crucial to the welfare of rural Iowans.
She also urged voters to encourage their U.S. senators to pass House Resolution 3, a “monumental prescription drug bill” that is currently “sitting in Mitch McConnell’s graveyard of good bills.” The bill would will save taxpayers $350 billion to $500 billion over seven years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, she said.
Axne said her first term has been busy, starting in the midst of the president’s forced government shut down and followed in the spring with disastrous flooding in her district and an equally disastrous trade war for Iowa commodity producers.
She was recently highlighted by the Town Hall Project for holding more public town halls than any other freshman member of Congress between January and September.
On the subject of her vote Wednesday to approve the articles of impeachment against the president, Axne said the evidence she saw was overwhelmingly persuasive that Trump abused the power of his office for personal gain and then obstructed Congress’ inquiry into his abuse.