Taxes, health care, hurricane disaster relief, mass shootings and gun control. Just a sampling of issues confronting the U.S. Congress this fall and we talk about it all with Congressman David Young on this edition of Iowa Press.

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For decades, Iowa Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than 40 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, October 6 edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen.  

Yepsen: As Congress reconvened after its annual August recess a full docket awaited the republican majority. But legislative failures on health care and uncertainty on potential tax reform has raised questions whether Congress and the Trump administration may be among the least productive in modern history. Add to those issues a series of devastating hurricanes on American soil as well as this week's tragedy in Las Vegas. Republican Congressman David Young is in his second term in the U.S. House and he joins us to discuss those issues and many more. Welcome, Congressman.

Young: Great to be here, thank you.

Yepsen: And across the table, Kathie Obradovich is Political Columnist for the Des Moines Register and Kay Henderson is News Director at Radio Iowa.

Henderson: Congressman, David mentioned the tragedy in Las Vegas. There has been discussion in regards to gun policy. Do you think these bump stocks which were used by the shooter to make his weapon essentially an automatic weapon should be banned?

Young: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to be here. And we recognize how horrific that act was and how horrendous of a morning we all woke up to. This was a pure act of evil. I don't know how you legislate evil away but I wish we knew how to do it, just like I wish we knew how to legislate sanity. But these bump stocks, no one had heard of these, at least I hadn't and many of my colleagues hadn't heard of what a bump stock was until earlier this week. My understanding, it is basically a tool, an accessory to make a legal weapon into an illegal weapon. And so I'm reaching out with my colleagues to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to revisit their ruling in 2010 when they decided not to regulate these. And so I can't think of a good reason why these things are existing.

Henderson: So will you depend on the ATF to make this ruling? Or should Congress pass a bill and send it to the President for his signature?

Young: Well, I think we should wait for a ruling and I hope it's an expedited ruling because I think there's some agreement here as to what this is, why is it even legal and so I can't think of a reason why I wouldn't vote for it if it comes down to the floor.

Yepsen: Congress was supposed to vote on legislation to legalize silencers but held off on that after this tragedy. What is your position on legalizing silencers?

Young: Well, I think because of the situation that happened in Las Vegas we need to be sensitive and so I think it was appropriate to not take that up. But it's really suppressors, you want to make sure that for those who go to firing ranges and shoot off and sportsmen that it doesn't silence a gun but it suppresses sound by about 30% and protects hearing.

Obradovich: Are there other types of gun control regulations that you'd be willing to consider?

Young: I think we need to really take a look at our mental health system, particularly the conversation has shifted into state databases and whether or not they can be connected to see if folks within that database are somehow getting through to buying any kind of weapons when there is a background check. So I think we need to be considering something like that.

Obradovich: So the mental health system, there's two aspects to that. One is connecting that to background checks, essentially, but there's also a serious mental health crisis here in Iowa that we're facing. What do you think is the federal role in dealing with that aspect? It doesn't have to necessarily have something to do with guns but overall issues in mental health.

Young: Kathie, wherever I go in the district from Hamburg to Polk City people are talking about mental health issues. I think Congress does have a role. Last Congress we passed something called the 21st Century Cures Act and with that we provided a provision in there, it was a bill and it was a bipartisan bill that I co-sponsored, that had to do with consolidating all the mental health programs within the departments and various agencies in the federal government. They weren't working so well. They weren't working well together. Consolidating those, streamlining those and then getting those funds directly to the communities that need them. Aside from that there also was a provision that allowed families to take more of a decision-making process in the mental health of their loved ones. It was usually left more up to a doctor or provider to decide what to do and what not to do, but this gave family more input and I think that's very important. So funding, but I think those decisions are best made at the local level because it's closest to the people.

Henderson: Would you force insurance companies to cover mental health coverage in a greater way than they already are?

Young: I'd have to take a look and see how they're covering them now but I think there needs to be a component to mental health when it comes to insurance, absolutely. It affects all of our families, our friends, our communities. I'm hearing about it more and more.

Obradovich: Iowa has been waiting for a ruling on a waiver dealing with its health insurance market. The individual health care market, as you know, under the Affordable Care Act is dwindling with the possibility of having only one insurer left next year. The Insurance Commissioner came up with an idea for a stop gap to help 72,000 Iowans. The Washington Post was reporting just the other day that the President said, tell Iowa no on that waiver. What is your reaction to that? And do you feel like Iowa is going to end up in a corner here on health insurance?

Young: Well, every state is almost in a corner on this right now. I'm hopeful that the administration will move sooner rather than later at making a decision. I hope it's favorable. Iowans, folks from different states, the leaders, the governors, the insurance commissioners, they need to have certain flexibilities and some autonomy in dealing with their populations, their different innovations in each state on how you deliver health care. But we need to act on this. Both sides of the aisle have come down to the conclusion that the current law is not stabilized and it's not working and I think states have a role in this. And if the administration is balking on this for political expediency I don't think that's right.

Obradovich: Not just balking, there have been allegations that the administration is actively undermining and if they were to deny this waiver that that might be an example of that. Do you feel like that's going on?

Young: It has been a slow walk and it's time to speed up. I hope it has not been undermined. It's time to act because people are suffering. Where do those 72,000 people in Iowa go if they don't have access to the individual insurance market?

Henderson: When will Congress speed up action to reform or repeal the Affordable Care Act?

Young: Well, as you know, we acted in the House.

Henderson: Right, I think we all know what happened.

Young: And in the Senate of course they don't have the votes so they're pivoting the tax simplification, tax relief for Iowans and for Americans, maybe taking a time out over there in the Senate. But I think behind the scenes there is some working groups, republicans and democrats working together particularly. Senator Patty Murray, a democrat from Washington and Lamar Alexander, a republican from Tennessee, they're starting to work on this and it's going to have to be bipartisan because it has been proven that just a partisan approach the votes aren't there.

Henderson: Another issue that Iowans are concerned about is the Renewable Fuel Standard and there was a hue and cry from the industry a couple of weeks ago when the EPA administrator issued something that their interpretation is that it's going to roll back the RFS, particularly for biodiesel. Are you concerned that the EPA is not going to follow through and set an RFS that meets the federal law?

Young: Well, the EPA needs to back up their rhetoric with reality and they've said, this administrator of the EPA and the President of the United States has said as well that he supports renewable fuels in a robust way. This needs to happen.

Henderson: Do you consider what has been proposed robust?

Young: No, it's not robust at all, it's lacking, it needs strengthened and renewable fuels need to be at the table when it comes to our energy independence, that portfolio needs to be diverse across the board, wind, solar, biofuels, ethanol, geothermal, name it, it needs to be there.

Yepsen: Congressman, is President Trump, I'll just lay it on the line, double crossing Iowa here? He talked about in his campaign the Renewable Fuel Standard and yet federal agencies are slow walking stuff. You've also got this health care thing that Kathie was talking about, that the President himself supposedly says, no, tell Iowa no. Now, at what point do Iowa voters say, we were misled by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign?

Young: I think the EPA administrator needs to be reminded of what the President said and needs to back that up. This is really hurtful to Iowa's agriculture economy. As you know, Iowa's agriculture income has been down four years in a row, this is a gut punch to it, so is the lack of trade. I'm worried about our agriculture economy and this administration needs to speed up on some promises that they have talked about. One is a robust Renewable Fuel Standard and biofuels as well as a trade agenda. I'm not seeing a trade agenda.

Yepsen: Well, what about NAFTA? That's a part of the President's agenda, he wants to change that. Now, what will that do to Iowa?

Young: I'm open to looking at the different titles of NAFTA and maybe making sure things are being enforced, things can be tweaked. On behalf of a better deal for America, good, but to totally throw NAFTA away I think would be disastrous to the American economy and Iowa's economy.

Obradovich: If the President wants to dismantle those treaties, though, there's not that much Congress can do about it, right?

Young: We have a pretty weak hand when it comes to that because of that trade agreement. We had a weak hand as well when the President said that he doesn't like the Transpacific Partnership, that 11 country Pacific Rim deal. Well, okay, but he says he likes bilateral agreements. Great, let's do it, let's get on with it, let's be competitive globally and help our economy.

Obradovich: Is there a way to mitigate some of that damage through tax reform or when you start looking at some of the tax implications for corporations, for example, that have moved jobs overseas? Is there any way to deal with that or is that a totally different, separate issue?

Young: Well, it may be a separate issue but overall with the economy is does matter and it is part of that. For Iowa really and for the agriculture economy and for other small manufacturers we need markets, we need trade.

Henderson: Well, let's talk in detail about the tax bill. Is it everything that you dreamt it would be? There are those who say it will raise taxes on something like 186,000 middle class Iowa households.

Young: Well, a lot of people are saying a lot of things about it right now but it's important to note that there is no legislative language actually. This is a blueprint, it's a framework. But I'd tell you this, everywhere I go in the third district people are talking about their taxes are too high. The middle class is getting socked right now, people are living pocketbook, paycheck to paycheck and their pocketbooks, they're rattling with change these days. And so it's very important that we get tax simplification done. It's tax relief. My priority is the middle class, it's the hardworking Iowans out there every day, some with two or three jobs out there. They are my priority.

Henderson: Repealing the estate tax?

Young: That's part of the framework.

Henderson: You support it?

Young: I do.

Henderson: What should the corporate tax rate be?

Young: Well, that's the great debate. So for the job creators we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, it needs to come down. We talk about jobs moving overseas, corporations they have shareholders, right? And they want to make sure their shareholders are satisfied and then at the same time they see a corporate tax code that is sending jobs overseas and companies domiciling elsewhere. We need to keep those companies here and creating great paying jobs for our middle class.

Obradovich: You talk about the priority being the middle class but with this tax plan a lot of the analysis says that the wealthiest Americans are going to get a huge benefit out of this. Is that really where you think Americans' priorities are?

Young: Well, my priority is with the middle class and those climbing the economic ladder. There has been a lot of analysis but I find it kind of interesting that they're analyzing something that doesn't even exist in legislative language yet. There's a lot of numbers and provisions that need to be plugged into this framework. What's different about this in health care though is we've got the House, the Senate and the Oval Office, the President kind of on the same page with the framework and a better process. We didn't have that with health care. So I'm optimistic about it.

Obradovich: How much of this tax plan do you think should be paid for with spending cuts as opposed to just expecting growth to pay for it and avoid deficits over time?

Young: Well, we want to really simplify this and so you're going to be getting rid of some tax provisions that will be saving. We have to be mindful of the price tag of this. But we also have to be mindful of the growth that we need. Can we take some short-term deficits for long-term gain and growth? I would like to see it deficit neutral but I'm one of 435 people and zero of 100 in the Senate.

Yepsen: Congressman, we've got way too many questions and not enough time so I want to move on. CHIP program, children’s health program, how did that -- that was supposed to be renewed, everybody was for it. How did that fall through the cracks?

Young: Yeah, so September 30th the CHIP program expired in Congress. That's the children's health insurance program. Fortunately there's funds in there right now to go to about March of 2018. But myself and other colleagues have been banging on leadership to bring a reauthorization to the floor. The Senate acted. As well, community health centers, funding for those expired September 30th as well and I introduced a bill, bipartisan, to extend that. And so there's a lot of work to do but these are the priorities that we need to tackle first. We're talking about people and their health.

Obradovich: I don't know if it answered its question, how does this kind of thing fall through the cracks if it's that important to everybody?

Young: It's important to me and so it didn't fall through the cracks with me so that's why we were watching this coming along and said, we need to introduce a bill and get on leadership to get this going. A lot of issues not necessarily the way I prioritize them.

Obradovich: One of the serious issues that faces the rest of the country, maybe more so than in Iowa, but we're starting to see it also in Iowa is the opioid crisis. There was just a new study out of Princeton that said, this is actually starting to effect the workforce now. We hear a lot of discussion about it, not a lot of solutions or action. What do you recommend?

Young: I recommend we find out where the illegal opioids are coming from and we stop them. Go down to Bridgewater. Take back Bridgewater is happening in the community down there. They are being overtaken by opioids, methamphetamines and they're not going to take it. We've gotten to the point where the communities are having to stand up themselves and say stop.

Henderson: What is the responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry?

Young: Well, I think it's interesting the debate has put some onus on them and I think rightfully so as well as providers, some of our doctors and those who prescribe. I think it's important to look at dosage amounts, frequency of prescribing. There has been some oversight in that and I think we need to gain some tighter control of that and find out who is doing this just for the sake of getting some reimbursements to make more money.

Yepsen: On another issue, Congressman, we all work up recently to find our credit scores probably were hacked, millions of Americans. What is Congress going to do, if anything, to prevent that Equifax fiasco from repeating itself?

Young: Well, first of all, it affected so many Iowans, probably some of us here at the table. Cybersecurity needs to be taken seriously. This new game of warfare is something that we didn't imagine 20 years ago. Congress needs to act in conjunction though and take the lead with those private security groups out there and some of those other organizations in the private sector who really know how to tackle these issues but thus far aren't and they aren't taking it seriously.

Henderson: So why did the IRS hire Equifax?

Young: In a no contract bid. I have no idea.

Henderson: Should it be undone?

Young: A lot of questions need to be asked and they need to be drug before a hearing and said, what in the world were you doing? Why would you do this? It just didn't make sense.

Obradovich: President Trump gave himself an A+ for hurricane response to Puerto Rico. Do you think he deserves that grade? And what is Congress going to do to, first of all, make sure there's enough resources for hurricane relief, but secondly, maybe to try to take some of the politics out of this?

Young: Well, pretty horrific what happened and then one after another after another, right, we've seen three hurricanes so far. Congress has acted with emergency disaster assistance.

Obradovich: An initial amount.

Young: I supported that and that was primarily for the first two hurricanes, right. And so now we will be taking up a package for Puerto Rico. Some people view Puerto Rico as not part of America but it's a territory, they're American citizens and so they need to be, we need to take care of our brothers and sisters wherever they are here in America when it comes to these problems.

Obradovich: The discussion of Puerto Rico's debt came up as a result of this and the President had a throw away remark about well we've got to wipe that out. And then they said, well we're not really going to wipe out Puerto Rico's debt. What is your view of that? What is the responsibility that the rest of the country has for dealing with that debt?

Young: I think the focus should be on the problem right now and that is the horrendous situation that the hurricane caused and deal with that on a human level. We can look at some of the past economic issues of Puerto Rico, we have dealt with them in some way. But we need to make sure that Puerto Rico, from here on out, that they need the help we give them because of the hurricane, but when they're constructing a new economy that they’re doing it in a responsible way.

Henderson: Another unresolved issue. The DACA program for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally when they were children. Would you vote for a package that provided funding for "the wall"? Is that one of your must do items?

Young: Well, first of all, we're a very compassionate nation and I have met many of these dreamers. They’re in our communities and all they know is America, right. And so we will be dealing with this issue, the President has kind of kicked it to Congress where it should be because that is who should be deciding this issue by March but hopefully we can get started sooner rather than later. But there's going to have to be I think some provisions on enforcement. I think the President and some other members are going to demand some action on the wall. It needs to be a smart wall, if you ask me, which means different areas, different sectors have different needs and some areas, most Coast Guard, more fencing, more aerostats, unmanned aerial vehicles kind of looking down, bollards around the levee areas. And so different needs elsewhere because if you do just a mile of the wall it's about, what did they say, $25 million per mile. It's about $500,000 if you want to do it in other ways that are just as effective.

Obradovich: Do you see any hope for a larger discussion about comprehensive immigration reform? Or are we really just talking about taking this really piecemeal?

Young: I think here in the beginning with the DACA fix you're going to have some enforcement mechanisms on there to get people to vote for this. It's going to be a compromise piece. But no doubt that we need to look at many angles of our immigration laws, enforcement, looking at our current system, why it is the way it is, looking at employment issues, e-verify, things like that.

Henderson: Speaking of employment issues, the Ferrara Candy Company in Creston closed. Are you confident that the federal government can help those displaced workers? And was that company targeted because it's a union shop?

Young: I've been to Ferrara and I have toured that plant and I've met with the workers and they're good people and right now they're in a desperate situation. I would put the call out to Iowa Economic Development folks and the Governor and anyone else to say, hey there's a facility down there that needs to be filled, it's a great place for manufacturing and it's got the great workers here in the southwest part of the state. I did reach out to the Department of Labor to see if there is any assistance that could be made and so we're waiting to hear back. But some of those folks need to be retrained with new skills and I hope there's some support for that.

Obradovich: We're expected to hear just in the new few days from the President on pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement and whether he will actually go forward with that. Do you think the U.S. should pull out of that agreement? And are you prepared to act with Congress then to increase sanctions?

Young: Well, as you know, I opposed the Iran agreement when it came down, the joint comprehensive plan of action and I don’t think that Iran has been fulfilling their obligations. Right now the International Atomic Energy Administration has had some problems getting in to inspect, to see whether or not they are complying, specifically around the nuclear capabilities angle. That is a big red flag for me if they're not letting us in to inspect. And so if he decertifies, what does that mean for Congress regarding further sanctions? That's going to be a big question that we may have.

Obradovich: What do you think Congress should do?

Young: Wait for the President's decision and then go from there.

Yepsen: Congressman, we've got just a couple of minutes left. We always like to talk politics on this program.

Young: You, Dave?

Yepsen: We talked historically the party holding the White House loses seats in Congress. That has been true for many cycles. We just mentioned three things that are causing you concern as an Iowa republican, as an Iowan, but as a Iowa republican, health care, Renewable Fuel Standard and trade. How big a hit do you think republicans will take in Iowa during these midterm elections?

Young: You know, I'm going to let that just take care of itself in campaigns and elections and just do what I can do. There's only so much you can control. I can be a great advocate for the district, be in every county every month, work in a bipartisan way, get laws passed, I've had two bills signed into law and just be a happy warrior and go on with it. But I can't control the broader political climate out there.

Yepsen: Do you see yourself as being vulnerable? Democrats say you're on the short list. Do you see yourself as vulnerable? Do you feel like you're vulnerable?

Young: I feel strong and I'm running for re-election and that is mostly because of the urging of folks in the third district.

Henderson: Dysfunctional may be a generous way to refer to Congress. Why ever would you run to return to that environment?

Young: Because I love this district. These are incredible people I represent and I want to be an advocate for them.

Obradovich: Do you want Donald Trump to come in and campaign for you?

Young: I want what is best for the third district.

Obradovich: Is that best?

Young: I don't know.

Yepsen: If the President called up and said, we want to come campaign for you, what do you say? Come on? Or why don't you go someplace else?

Obradovich: I'll get back to you.

Yepsen: Or I'll get back to you. Thank you. So you do think that Trump could be a liability to republicans?

Young: No I'm not saying that at all. When it comes to his policies I take a look at them and I look at the third district, there's some things I agree with, some things I disagree with and so the President is the President and he'll be responsible for himself but he's not my boss, I don't answer to him. I don't answer to Paul Ryan or the House Majority Leader or Mitch McConnell in the Senate, I answer to the people of the third district.

Yepsen: We have to leave it there. Congressman, thank you for being with us today, we appreciate it.

Young: My pleasure.

Yepsen: And thanks to you for joining our latest edition of Iowa Press. We'll be back next week with another program Friday night at 7:30 and Sunday at noon on our main IPTV channel with a rebroadcast on our .3 World channel Saturday morning at 8:30. For all of us here at Iowa Public Television, I'm David Yepsen. Thanks for joining us today.


Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure. I'm a dad. I am a mom. I'm a kid. I'm a kid at heart. I'm a banker. I'm an Iowa banker. No matter who you are there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you get where you want to go. Iowa Bankers, allowing you to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks.