Government

Pence touts Trump's tax cut, 'strong leadership'

Vice president stops in Council Bluffs, Omaha

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a “Tax Cuts to Put America First” event Tuesday at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. (Matt Dixon/Omaha World-Herald)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a “Tax Cuts to Put America First” event Tuesday at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. (Matt Dixon/Omaha World-Herald)
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COUNCIL BLUFFS — Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he wanted to be sure voters who helped elect Donald Trump knew about the administration’s achievements in its first year.

The top issue he brought to a crowd of about 500 during a visit in Council Bluffs was last year’s federal tax overhaul, which Republicans have said will spur growth and investment.

The vice president also noted President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Waters of the United States environmental rule, his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and his “strong leadership on the world stage.”

“We’re only one year into this administration, and the results are nothing short of remarkable,” Pence said. “It’s been a year of action. It’s been a year of results. It’s been a year of promises made and promises kept.”

An enthusiastic crowd, dotted with “Make America Great Again” hats and flag attire, offered several rounds of applause and a few standing ovations.

Pence appeared at the rally at the Mid-America Center as part of his tour promoting the recent income tax overhaul with America First Policies, a nonprofit organization created to promote Trump’s agenda.

The vice president was greeted at the airport by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, both fellow Republicans. He planned to later attend a fundraiser for Ricketts in Nebraska.

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Reynolds introduced the vice president. She said Pence, a former Indiana governor, “remained a strong advocate and powerful voice for states’ rights and the critical issues that impact us.”

The visit came the week after Trump announced his plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, a move that drew alarm from Reynolds and others about its potential effects on farmers as nations respond to the rates.

On Tuesday, Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, announced he was leaving amid a clash over Trump’s protectionist trade policies. But Pence promoted the president’s policies on trade, saying “we’re cutting down on unfair trade practices.”

Ricketts said in an interview before the fundraiser that he planned to share with Pence the importance of trade to the agricultural economy.

“I know the Trump administration has an overall strategy about how they’re approaching (trade),” Ricketts said. “We just want to make sure we’re not disrupting the relationships we currently have.”

He said he also planned to raise with Pence the importance of the Trump administration’s continued support of renewable fuels, including corn-based ethanol. Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were included in a White House meeting last week where they pressed for an expansion of biofuels.

Some members of Congress, most notably Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have been pushing to change the program and lessen the costs for oil refiners to comply.

This was Pence’s fourth stop in a tour that so far has hit Pittsburgh, Dallas and Detroit.

Before Pence spoke, the America First nonprofit held a roundtable discussion on the effects of the tax bill. The panelists included Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

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Four Iowa government and business leaders touted the new tax law, saying Iowa will see new companies come to the state and existing companies expand.

“I quite frankly think it’s going to be a banner year for the state of Iowa,” said Durham.

The GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature is considering changes to the state income tax law that supporters also say will stimulate growth but that Democratic critic warn may be too aggressive for a state that already is underfunding education, public safety and justice and health.

Chris Carley, 58, of Overland Park, Kan., drove up to hear the vice president talk taxes, elimination of red tape and economic growth.

He’s a general contractor who says he wants to hear more about what the tax law means to his business. He says he doesn’t worry about Trump’s recent push on tariffs and trade because the president, to him, appears to be thinking several steps ahead.

“There will be some cost up front, even to my business,” he said of the tariffs. “But that’s the price you pay to reposition yourself in the market, and this president understands business.”

Outside the convention center, protesters gathered. A handful of women dressed as handmaidens from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to protest Pence’s opposition to abortion. Across the drive, about of 20 Democrats from Nebraska and Iowa gathered to hold signs and a news conference to protest the visit.

One of the protesters, Kevin Gibbs, 28, of Omaha, chairman of Indivisible Nebraska, said the tax cut bill benefits a small group of people, those with more, while risking government benefits and programs those with less depend upon.

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“I think right now we’ve got this representative from this administration in our backyard, and we need to let him and them know we don’t support their policies,” he said.

Jeffrey Robb of the Omaha World-Herald contributed to this report.

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