ELECTION 2020

Rep. Abby Finkenauer calls for more pandemic relief now, not after election

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer works with volunteers to load batteries into flashlights - needed after the derecho - at NewBo
U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer works with volunteers to load batteries into flashlights — needed after the derecho — at NewBo City Market on Aug. 18 in Cedar Rapids. Finkenauer told the Greater Des Moines Partnership during a Wednesday virtual forum that additional federal pandemic relief is needed now, rather than waiting until after the election. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Rep. Abby Finkenauer hopes President Donald Trump is serious about taking up pandemic relief ahead of the Nov. 3 election but wants to go further than he indicated in a series of social media posts Wednesday.

The 1st District congresswoman was “disappointed and frustrated” when Trump said Tuesday he was abandoning negotiations on pandemic relief until after the election.

“The idea that folks are not going to be able to get relief before the holidays, before going into the winter, is incomprehensible to me,” Finkenauer told the Greater Des Moines Partnership during a virtual forum Wednesday. “I don’t care what party that is, anybody just throwing up their hands and saying, we’re not going to talk about this until after the election. It’s just disrespectful.”

Trump on Wednesday walked back his comments, calling for $1,200 stimulus checks and new aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

That doesn’t go far enough, Finkenauer said.

Congressional COVID-19 relief packages have helped, but more aid is needed for farmers, the unemployed, small businesses, hospitals, schools and local governments, she said.

In addition to discussing pandemic relief, Finkenauer, who is seeking a second term in the U.S. House, said trade and infrastructure are priorities because both issues are vital to rebuilding Iowa’s economy.

“I could talk about trade and infrastructure all day long,” she told the Partnership, which has been hosting candidates for federal office, including state Rep. Ashley Hinson, her challenger in the 20-county district that includes Linn, Black Hawk, Dubuque and Marshall counties.

Finkenauer said she asked to be on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee because of the importance of those issues in the 1st District.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be flashy ... but it deals with things that were going to show up in a big way for Iowa and for our country,” she said.

Finkenauer sees a lot of connectivity between trade, transportation and infrastructure. Upgrading infrastructure will help stimulate the economy, create jobs and put people back to work, she said.

Iowa’s economy, including trade, relies heavily on a variety of transportation — not only highways, but Mississippi River locks and dams that are critical to grain movement to export markets, she said.

Asked about promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, Finkenauer said it shouldn’t have taken the death of George Floyd to jump-start conversations about social justice.

“I’ll be frank, I should have been having the tough conversations a long time ago,” she said.

The discussion needs to go beyond police reforms, Finkenauer said. Inequities in health care, including mental health care, and education must be addressed, too.

Recent polling shows a tight race in the 1st District, after earlier polling showed Finkenauer with a double-digit lead. In a district Donald Trump carried in 2016, election handicappers put the race in the “lean” or “tilt” Democratic category.

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Voter registration in the district is 35 percent no party, 35 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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