Staff Editorial

Federal candidates must go beyond partisanship

The U.S. Capitol building is lit at dusk in Washington, D.C.  (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo)
The U.S. Capitol building is lit at dusk in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo)

Approaching two years of unified Republican control of the federal government, much is at stake in this year’s federal elections. To claim legislative majorities, Democrats need to flip 24 House seats and two Senate seats.

Republican Reps. Rod Blum, David Young and Steve King are up for re-election, along with Iowa’s only federally elected Democrat, Rep. Dave Loebsack. Iowa is one of 17 states with no U.S. Senate election this year.

We hope Republicans have the courage to stand up to President Donald Trump when necessary, and Democrats have the humility to give the Republican administration credit where it’s due.

We hope candidates will be accessible to voters, and agree to participate in as many debates as is feasible.

And while legislative control is important, Iowa’s federal races should focus on the merits of each candidate, and not devolve into proxy partisan battles. We hope candidates with the best ideas to Iowa’s most pressing issues emerge as winners, regardless of their political party.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Trade policy is rarely a heated election issue, but it is likely to be among voters’ top concerns this year in Iowa and other states with agricultural and manufacturing economies.

Trump is ramping up trade wars with Iowa’s key international trade partners, like Canada, Mexico and China. Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly agree back-and-forth tariffs between the U.S. and other nations will be bad for Iowa workers and producers. Corn, soybeans and pork prices have already taken substantial hits.

Our legislative leaders have not put forth a satisfying response to the administration.

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Last month, the entire federal delegation, five Republicans and one Democrat, signed a letter to Trump. They wrote, “These tariffs have real consequences on states like Iowa, rural communities across the nation, and on America’s farms. We encourage you to act expeditiously to save our rural economies.”

Since then, the Trump administration has only escalated trade conflicts, including a recent announcement of additional tariffs against China. This election season, Iowans are demanding answers from lawmakers, especially those who gave Trump glowing endorsements.

IMMIGRATION

The federal government has been stuck in a frustrating immigration policy stalemate for years. Most members of Congress support some form of immigration reform, but recently a minority of anti-immigrant lawmakers and an unsympathetic White House administration have sabotaged any meaningful progress.

We have written before on several proposed policies. We want to extend legal protection for immigrants brought to the country as children, under the former Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Federal officials must stop making it more difficult for victims of violence to seek and receive asylum status. And, local governments should be allowed to dedicate their law enforcement resources where they see fit, rather than being required to participate in misguided federal immigration crackdowns.

In Iowa, this is not only a humanitarian issue, but an economic one. We were reminded of that in May when federal authorities arrested 32 men from a concrete products facility in Mount Pleasant.

Iowa is an aging state with slow population growth. State policymakers have made promising moves to increase workforce training in recent years, but those programs are meaningless without enough young workers to fill open positions. Immigration can be a crucial part of the solution, but only if our federal leaders make it so.

FARM BILL

Election season coincides with contentious debate over the federal farm bill.

The farm bill, which authorizes funding for farm programs and food assistance, is renewed every five years. While the current federal farm bill is set to expire later this year, there’s no guarantee federal lawmakers will finalize a new version before the November election, pushing the issue into the lame duck session or even to the next Congress.

After all, last time around, it took Congress an extra two years before they reached a compromise on the Agricultural Act of 2014.

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After a farm bill vote failed in the U.S. House earlier this year, congressional leaders have been trying to compromise on a list of disagreements between the two chambers. Most concerning is a Republican proposal to erect new barriers for Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.

We are highly skeptical of plans to restrict access to federal food assistance. Not only does the program ensure Americans don’t go hungry, the federal government estimates every dollar of SNAP benefits results in $1.80 in total economic activity.

We doubt Iowa voters will be forgiving to lawmakers who let agriculture policy fall victim in a crusade against the poor.

Sections of the farm bill specific to agriculture — crop insurance, young farmer programs, rural revitalization, and more — also continue to rest on less than stable ground. Lawmakers in the two federal chambers need to merge their divergent visions of how American agriculture and food producers are best supported through public investments, and Iowans will expect to see their federal delegation leading the way.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262, editorial@thegazette.com

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