Next president, congressional leaders need to talk, Blum says

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Even though voters are faced with two disliked and flawed presidential candidates, Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum holds out hope the next president and Congress can tackle big issues.

“Everyone out here knows Donald Trump is crude,” he said about his party’s nominee. “Everyone knows Hillary Clinton is a liar.”

So he focuses on their policies and sees a “canyon of difference” between Trump, who be believes has a better understanding of how to make the economy work, and the Democratic presidential nominee.

But if Clinton wins, Blum told The Gazette Editorial Board on Monday, “I respect that. We got to get past all this and do what’s right for the American people.”

The first step getting past gridlock is for the new president and congressional leaders to start talking to find areas of agreement, he said.

Blum, a first-term Republican, is being challenged by Cedar Rapids Democrat Monica Vernon in Iowa’s 20-county 1st District that includes Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown.

Blum hopes he’s back in Washington to be part of tackling Social Security, Medicare, health care and reforming the tax code in ways that will foster job creation and income growth.

“One of the biggest reasons I ran is raising the incomes of working families,” who he said have not had a pay raise in 20 years when incomes are adjusted for inflation.

His advice for the next president and congressional leaders is to follow the example of President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who worked together to save Social Security, and President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich, who reformed welfare and balanced the budget.

Blum said the reasons he’s seeking re-election are the same as why he ran two years ago. He’d like the economy to grow at least 3 percent a year, lower the corporate tax rate and eliminate “crony capitalism” or corporate welfare to help the federal government better fund research on the causes and cures of cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases — or perhaps help fund a flood protection system in Cedar Rapids.

Although he’s voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Blum said he believes it has some good things in it, such as allowing people to stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 and mandating coverage of pre-existing conditions.

He believes allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, tort reform and negotiating prescription drug prices would help control costs.

“There’s not one silver bullet,” he said. “It’s a bunch of things.”

The same is true of Social Security, Blum said, but the political environment is toxic.

“No one in Washington wants to talk about it for fear of what’s happening to me — $1 million in attack ads,” he said, referring to ads against him for suggesting the retirement age might have to be raised.

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