Hedging our bets in Senate

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

Iowa held a unique place in Washington power circles when we were represented in the U.S. Senate by both political parties. For 30 years together, Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin wielded influence no matter who controlled the White House and Congress. We had all our bets covered when it came to legislation affecting the Hawkeye State. Iowa’s interests, especially agriculture, benefitted from the bipartisan support and farmers enjoyed some of their best financial years in history. Our own Tom Vilsack was Secretary of Agriculture for eight productive years and our former governor never forgot his home state.

When Harkin retired six years ago and Republican Joni Ernst was elected to fill his seat, Iowa should have been set for big gains when fellow Republican Donald Trump won the White House. But it didn’t work out that way. Trump double-crossed Iowa repeatedly while our senators failed to challenge him. Instead of  Vilsack looking out for our interests at the USDA we got some chicken wrangler from Georgia.

First Trump began the trade war with China, which ravaged the Midwest farm economy as soybean sales to our biggest customer were slashed.

Trump added insult to injury when he broke his promises to help the ethanol industry. His EPA leader, for whom both Grassley and Ernst voted for in confirmation hearings, allowed refiners to cut their use of ethanol, a mainstay of our corn farmers. This snub of Iowa’s interests came despite the fact that Grassley and Ernst have supported all of Trump’s agenda. They folded like a cheap suit.

Trump supporters out there aren’t going to like hearing this, but he has zero chance of being reelected. I will bet a year’s pay on that. The economy has tanked, unemployment is at Depression-era levels, the deficit is soaring out of control, there is rioting in the streets, all while the deadly coronavirus is sweeping our country unabated.

By nearly all accounts the Senate will flip to Democrat control and Democrats are likely to increase their margin in the House of Representatives as well. And given the animosity in Congress, there will be little reason for Democrats in leadership to extend an olive branch to Republicans, who will be left out in the cold until sanity and bipartisanship are restored to politics. That isn’t likely to happen as long as Democrats remember how Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley treated them for the past six years. Does Merrick Garland ring a bell?

Given this scenario, Iowa will have no influence in the Senate if we are represented by two Republicans. Republicans may not like it, but that’s a fact.

Now more than ever Iowa needs a seat at the table in Washington, DC. I have not met Joni Ernst; she is probably a fine person. And if Chuck Grassley weren’t in office, she might make a good replacement for him. She can try for his seat two years hence when he should retire at age 88. But come next January, Iowa will need someone who can get things done with the Democrats who will likely control the federal government. Theresa Greenfield is the insurance policy Iowans need to make sure President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer return Iowa’s calls.

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