2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

GOP leader slams 2020 Democrats blocking Iowa flood relief

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, criticized 2020 Democratic hopefuls for showing up for photo ops in flooded western Iowa communities, but then voting against a flood aid package during his appearance on Iowa Public Television’s
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, criticized 2020 Democratic hopefuls for showing up for photo ops in flooded western Iowa communities, but then voting against a flood aid package during his appearance on Iowa Public Television’s "Iowa Press" on Friday. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)

JOHNSTON — An Iowa Senate Republican leader slammed Democratic presidential hopefuls who “get their photo ops, then they go back to D.C. and vote against the flood relief package for Iowa.”

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, who described flooding in western Iowa as a “devastating situation,” said Congress is being slow to respond to the “dire circumstances.”

“President Trump approved the presidential disaster area declaration very quickly, within hours and days, but the Congress has not acted,” Whitver said Friday during taping of “Iowa Press,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Iowa Public Television.

“Frankly it’s very disappointing,” he said about Democratic candidates who come to Iowa to ask for support in the first-in-the-nation caucuses but have voted against flood aid.

“So I think the real question that needs to be asked is why are these people out here pandering for votes in Iowa by touring the floods and then they go turn their back on Iowans out in D.C.?” he said. “That is a conversation we need to be having.”

Whitver echoed sentiments expressed by Iowa’s United States Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, also Republicans.

Ernst accused Democrats of choosing to “play partisan political games” over the flood aid for the Midwest, including Iowa where flood damage has been estimated at $1.6 billion.

“Words can’t really express my disappointment,” she said. “Folks in Iowa have lost their businesses, they have lost their homes. Our communities have lost their infrastructure. Livestock, gone. Grain, gone. It is devastating and it is heartbreaking.”

Democrats, Ernst said, blocked the $13.45 billion relief package because they wanted more money to help Puerto Rico recover from a hurricane there last year.

However, Grassley said the relief package Democrats blocked “takes care of the urgent funding shortfalls” in Puerto Rico.

“Playing politics with disaster aid does a disservice to the people of Puerto Rico and the people of states like Iowa that are suffering right now from these floods,” Grassley said. “Why would these senators want to come to campaign in Iowa when they don’t show sympathy for Iowans suffering from the floods with the vote that they cast last night?”

It isn’t clear what action the Legislature may need to take in response to the flooding, Whitver said, adding his praise for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ leadership.

“She is on the ground, she’s talking with local officials, state officials, federal officials, she’s working with other governors to make sure that we have the resources we need to rebuild these parts of this state,” Whitver said.

Mindful that the flooding could have an impact on state revenues, Whitver said Senate Republicans are advancing a conservative budget. They are proposing to keep general fund spending at the current level of $7.6 billion. That’s $48 million less than the House Republican proposal, which is $10 million less than the governor’s budget.

“We’re not sure of the impact to the budget on the flooding,” Whitver said. “The ag economy is a huge part of our economy. And the disaster with grain and livestock down there could have an impact. So we really want to make sure that we have a conservative budget so that we’re not coming back and doing deappropriations in the future.”

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“Iowa Press” also can be seen at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on IPTV World, noon on Sunday on IPTV and online at IPTV.org.

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

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