Rep. Cindy Axne’s stance on inflation has taken a sharp turn since the ice cream season.
Over the summer, when a constituent asked the Iowa District 3 congresswoman if she was “concerned about rising gas prices and the rising cost of consumer goods here in the Iowa,” Axne assured him he shouldn’t worry about temporary raises. “Our economy is on a good track right now,” the Democratic lawmaker told attendees of a town hall in Ankeny, Iowa, in July 2021.[Republicans are] comparing costs with last year. I would say we got a few raises because we were in the middle of COVID, so no, I’m not concerned about false publicity.
Today, Axne has made the fight against inflation a priority. She publishes programs aimed at solving supply chain bottlenecks, joining congressional task forces that aim to advance policy solutions to reduce inflation and admitting that rising prices do not is not so much a problem on the radar as a persistent problem that requires multi-faceted legislative solutions. . “A good leader should always step in and say, ‘Look, things have changed. We have to take another route here. That’s why I leaned heavily into relaunching a supply chain program, forcing the leadership to be diligent in getting other members to work with me to have [supply chain] the bills are coming on the floor,” Axne told TIME. “I’m not going to be the one to just sit there and say, ‘Oh, I bet [wrong]and God forbid, I can never change my mind.
But with nine months to go until the midterm elections, Axne must hope voters in Iowa’s Third District haven’t changed their minds about him. As Democrats in both houses of Congress prepare for an election cycle that pollsters say could cost the party their narrow majorities, Axne looks particularly vulnerable. His district voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, it was held by a Republican from 2013 to 2018, and it is now ranked by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as a draw.
Inflation, which has risen nationally at its fastest rate since 1982, is seen as a significant issue for voters: 55% of voters polled by CNN and SSRS in January and February said inflation would be hugely important to their vote in Congress this year. He has hit the midwest hardest given the region’s remoteness from the seaports, and among the elements most affected by price increases, there is one element that voters in the Axne district need: gas. “Most people in rural areas and small towns drive very far to get to work,” says George Goehl, outgoing director of People’s Action, a progressive network of grassroots organizing. “Even further than before, because so many industries have closed.”
Add to that a war between Ukraine and Russia – the latter country supplied about 7% of US oil imports in 2020 – and the fuel prices that Ankeny voter was concerned about are set to inflate further, along with the obstacles that vulnerable Democrats will face on the ballot. box this fall. “[The conflict] will only put an exclamation mark on an already serious problem,” says Goehl.
Republicans are trying to capitalize on political vulnerability, decrying Democrats in Congress for what they see as reckless spending that they say is fueling inflation, while touting cost-cutting efforts by voters in the US Legislature. the Republican-led state of Iowa.
Iowa State Senator Zach Nunn points to a 2018 tax cut package passed by the state legislature that reduced Iowa state tax bills by $300 in average, and a bill just passed by both houses of state government that will create a single tax bracket for everyone in the state, lower the corporate tax rate, and eliminate taxes on retirement income. “When Iowans have money, they invest it locally,” says Nunn, a Republican running against Axne. “It’s money that goes directly back into the community, it makes things happen. This is not a giant shotgun blast of federal dollars, which will only go to projects that drive up costs but do not really invest in communities.
In the first year of his presidency, Joe Biden signed a $1.9 million COVID-19 relief package that passed without any GOP support in Congress. He also signed into law a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill (including $550 billion in new funding) that vulnerable Democrats like Axne hope can present to voters as a measure that will ease some of the problems with the inflation. “If we had better infrastructure, we would also be looking at better supply chain issues and less disruption,” says Axne. “Getting the infrastructure bill in place, continuing to support the economy with well-paying jobs, those are also going to be things that will help us as well.”
But Axne also knows that November’s midterm elections will arrive before many Americans see the full benefits of the infrastructure bill, which is funded over five years. In the short term, she introduced a “supply chain solutions agenda” urging her congressional colleagues to pass bills addressing trucker shortages, port congestion, skilled trades gaps in the industry manufacturing, etc She also joined a task force to advance legislative solutions to inflation through the New Democrat Coalition, made up of moderate Democrats.
Axne also supports the America COMPETES Act, which would invest $52 billion in the we production of semiconductors, a key component of vehicles and consumer electronics, in addition to tackling other supply chain vulnerabilities stemming from America’s dependence on electronics. other countries, including China. The COMPETES Act is the House’s response to the United States Competition and Innovation Act (USICA), which passed the Senate last year. JThe legislation must now go through the conference process where lawmakers work out both chambers’ versions before heading to Biden’s office for signing. Axne anticipates this process will end “in the next few months to come.”
But Axne and other Democrats in tough re-election races don’t have much time to change voters’ minds. “Frustration with the current administration and majorities in Congress has already pretty much set in,” says Wes Enos, a former Bondurant city councilman near Des Moines and a Republican. “Democrats are going to have to find a way to support this formation. And as Republicans learned in 2018, backing the train on people’s perceptions once they’ve settled in is extremely difficult to do.
That kind of cemented, slow-growing frustration helped get Axne elected in 2018. It may also be what cost him the Iowa seat in 2022.