Op-Ed: Trump tramples GOP loyalty with anti-Iowa positions on health care, energy

Source: By Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen has proposed a ‘stopgap’ plan to shore up the state’s teetering market for individual health insurance policies. Tony Leys/The Register

Top Iowa Republicans have been loyal to President Donald Trump, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

They endorsed health-care bills that would penalize Iowa. They refused to criticize the president when he disparaged wind energy, which is responsible for thousands of jobs in Iowa. They enthusiastically joined Trump’s criticism of pro football players who have demonstrated against racial injustice during the national anthem.

And what do they get it return?

“Tell Iowa no.”

According to the Washington Post, that was Trump’s message back in August regarding Iowa’s effort to shore up its individual insurance market under Obamacare. Without the waiver, about 72,000 Iowans will have only one Affordable Care Act insurer and substantially higher premiums.

The federal waiver to allow Iowa’s “stopgap” measure has not been denied — yet.  The White House also hasn’t denied that Trump wants to refuse Iowa’s plan.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann’s response to the Washington Post article blamed Obamacare for Trump’s apparent efforts to undermine the program and accelerate its collapse.

“Democrats created Obamacare. Democrats own Obamacare. Obamacare is failing Iowans, collapsing right before our eyes, and no matter how much they try to deflect blame, they own this abysmal failure. Period,” Kaufmann said in a written statement.

Sen. Joni Ernst has occasionally carefully disagreed with Trump’s words and actions, including his call to kick transgender personnel out of the U.S. military.  She’s also admitted she wishes he’d spend more time at the White House instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars with frequent visits to Trump resorts.

Regarding Iowa’s waiver request, she suggested Trump’s attitude could be discounted in light of his displeasure over the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare.

“I think the president’s disappointed that we weren’t able to do anything on the overall repeal-replace with Obamacare and so I think again, that it was just an immediate reaction to something that he heard and I don’t put any stock, necessarily, in that,” Ernst said in a phone interview on Friday. “I want to see what the actions are.”

For an Iowa Republican senator to say she puts little stock in the president’s words is rather extraordinary. Ernst’s comments sound like effusive praise, however, compared with the scathing comments from Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.  Corker, who has announced he won’t run for re-election, called the White House and “adult day care center” after Trump criticized him on Twitter.

Corker’s uncorked rhetoric comes as some ag and industry groups were using words like “betrayal” over the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to curtail renewable fuel standards.

Trump, while campaigning in Iowa, pledged to protect the RFS, which sets the minimum volume of renewable energy that must be part of the transportation fuels sold in the United States.

The National Biodiesel Board posted a video last week compiling clips of Trump’s campaign promises on the RFS. It includes a statement by Sen. Chuck Grassley on the Senate floor, saying Trump had personally assured him he would keep his word on the renewable fuel standard.

The EPA has indicated it intends to roll back the RFS, particularly for biodiesel.  Congressman David Young, an Iowa Republican, called the move a “gut punch” to Iowa agriculture.

“I think the EPA administrator needs to be reminded of what the president said and needs to back that up,” Young said. “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.”

Young made his comments on “Iowa Press,” which aired over the weekend on “Iowa Public Television.”

He didn’t answer directly when asked if Trump was double-crossing Iowa. But it was clear he’s using a different songbook from most Iowa Republican leaders.

I asked Young, who is seeking a third term, whether he wants Trump to come to Iowa and campaign for him.

“I want what is best for the Third District,” Young said.

“Is that best?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Young said.

Young stopped short of saying he thought Trump was a liability to Republicans.  But as Trump’s job approval rating hit 32 percent in an AP-NORC Center poll last week, the president may well be like concrete swimming trunks to swing-district Republicans like Young.

If Iowa’s waiver is denied and the EPA persists in pruning back renewable fuels, we’ll see more Iowa Republicans trying to get out of Trump’s pool. Most, however, are already in too deep.