Axne: Democrat negotiations over major bills in ‘less turmoil’ than it seems

By: - October 4, 2021 3:33 pm

Rep. Cindy Axne spoke to a handful of constituents in Norwalk about budget negotiations in D.C. (Katie Akin / Iowa Capital Dispatch)

After a tumultuous week in D.C., Rep. Cindy Axne had a message for constituents in Norwalk: “Sometimes the sausage-making isn’t the prettiest and it isn’t the easiest.”

House Democrats in D.C. are neck-deep in negotiations over two major bills: an infrastructure package with that had some bipartisan support in the Senate, and a $3.5 trillion spending bill that Democrats will have to push through both chambers along party lines. Moderates in the party want to pare back the spending bill, while progressives have threatened to tank the infrastructure bill if the spending bill gets cut.

Axne said Monday that negotiations are in “less turmoil than it’s been made out to be.”

“What they don’t talk about are the progressives and the moderates are working together on a lot of issues,” she said, noting that all Democrats hoped to pass both packages.

She said that top-line budget discussions were less meaningful than policy discussions within the caucus. Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, requested that the spending bill be cut by $2 trillion, for a total expense of $1.5 trillion over 10 years, a proposal that the House Progressive Caucus rejected.

“I’ve never seen a good organization … start out with ‘here’s the dollar amount,’” Axne told reporters on Monday. “You start out with what you need to get done. What do we need to get done for this country?”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the House would vote on the infrastructure package by the end of October – a  full month after the original, self-imposed deadline for the legislation. Axne expressed frustration last week that the House was delaying the infrastructure vote as negotiations on the spending bill continued.

“This bill will be invaluable to the future of our state and create thousands of Iowa jobs over its lifespan. Its passage should not be delayed,” she said in a statement.

Iowa’s Republican congressional delegation has objected strongly to the spending proposal. Rep. Randy Feenstra gave a speech last week warning of a “devastating inflationary effect” if Congress approved trillions of dollars of additional spending. Rep. Ashley Hinson also raised concerns that the spending bill could cause inflation and called it “the biggest leap toward socialism our country has ever seen.”

Debt ceiling battle continues

Republicans have also refused to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling. Without raising the ceiling, the U.S. cannot pay for existing expenses. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the U.S. will default on its debts on around Oct. 18 without action.

Iowa Republicans say the debt ceiling is a problem for Democrats to solve on their own. Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters last week that Republicans  “will not abet the tax and spending spree.”

Axne accused Republicans of filibustering on the debt ceiling and the other bills, noting that the debt ceiling “isn’t about raising our expenses” and that lawmakers approved debt ceiling increases on a bipartisan basis during the Trump administration.

“(Republicans are) willing to strap this country into going into an economic spiral, because that is what will happen if we do not pay our bills,” she said.

President Joe Biden took a similar stance on Monday, saying that only Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could guarantee that the U.S. wouldn’t default on its debt.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.