May 15, 2020
U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer were among 14 Democrats who broke with their party and voted against a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the House late Friday.
The wide-ranging legislation, known as the Heroes Act, would provide a second round of direct payments to Americans, funnel billions of dollars to cash-strapped states and local governments and expand unemployment and food stamp benefits.
But the measure is viewed largely as a “messaging” bill of Democratic policy goals with no chance of becoming law. Republicans in the Senate have panned it as a “liberal wish list,” and President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it. The measure won just one Republican vote in the House.
Axne and Finkenauer are moderate Democrats first elected in 2018 who are expected to face competitive races in their bids for reelection this fall.
“I absolutely do believe that there are many pieces of this bill that we need to support now and we’re probably going to have to continue to support in the future,” Axne told the Des Moines Register on Friday before casting her vote. “But I can’t vote for this in good conscience and just accept what I believe is some Washington gamesmanship and waste taxpayer dollars. I need to see a bill that specifically focuses on COVID-19 issues.”
Axne said that among the measures she opposes in the legislation is a provision that would remove the cap on the State and Local Tax deduction for two years — a move she said would primarily benefit wealthier earners.
Axne represents Iowa’s 3rd District, which includes Des Moines and the southwestern corner of the state. Trump carried the district in 2016 and Axne rode a wave of Democratic support in 2018 to defeat Republican incumbent David Young.
She said that, moving forward, Congress needs to find a way to send aid to state and local governments as well as certain industries that are struggling the most, like the service industry.
Finkenauer represents Iowa’s 1st District, which includes Cedar Rapids and the northeastern corner of the state. She defeated Republican incumbent Rod Blum.
Finkenauer said in a statement that when she has spoken with constituents about the next steps the country should take in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, “they asked for support for our firefighters, police and local governments; more help for families and front-line workers; expanded access to testing and PPE; and meaningful support for our main streets and the agricultural and biofuels economy.”Get the Iowa Politics newsletter in your inbox.
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She called for Senate Republicans and President Trump to work with Democrats on future legislation.
“The next federal COVID-19 relief package must be focused on helping families, workers, small businesses and local governments,” she said in the statement. “It needs bipartisan buy-in, and should not be tied up with unrelated provisions.”
While a small group of moderate Democrats in swing districts spoke out against the Heroes Act for its massive price tag and lack of bipartisan support, other, more liberal members said it doesn’t go far enough in addressing the vast need caused by the pandemic.
“I don’t know exactly what their concerns are,” Axne said of the more liberal members of her party. “But I think it points to the fact that with barely enough time for my colleagues and I to really dig into this bill, we have issues all across the board no matter where you kind of sit on the political spectrum.”
Axne said she had 72 hours to consider the 1,800-page bill.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, the other Democrat in Iowa’s four-member House delegation, voted with the majority for the bill. He represents the 2nd District, which includes Iowa City and southeastern Iowa. He plans to retire from Congress and isn’t seeking reelection this fall.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, the lone Republican among Iowans in the House, voted against the bill. He represents the sprawling 4th District, which encompasses northwestern and north central Iowa.
“There is a saying, popular among some members on the other side of the aisle, that ‘one should never let a crisis go to waste,’” King said in a statement. “In my opinion, Speaker Pelosi’s $3 trillion wish list is her latest attempt to use the terrible COVID-19 pandemic to radically restructure American society by advancing a bill that was drafted in secret and behind closed doors while Congress was out of town.”
King said in the statement that provisions in the bill would incentivize illegal immigration, waste hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on organizations that have no role in fighting the pandemic, and give more power to the federal government in determining how Americans cast their votes in elections.