WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - In his speech to Congress Wednesday evening, President Biden laid out an ambitious agenda including a $2 trillion "American Families Plan" that would cover universal Pre-K, tuition-free community college, and expanded child care tax credits.
"I wanted to hear a plan to focus on rural America, and instead, we got more free stuff and fluff," Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, R-IA 1, said. "I'm disappointed that there wasn't a priority on the issues that really affect our working families than our small businesses. I heard more government, more regulation and more taxes that Iowa families and our Iowa farmers will have to bear."
Dr. Chris Larimer, professor of Political Science and coordinator for the Master of Public Policy program at UNI, said President Biden covered a lot of ground on policies that appeal strongly to the Democratic base.
"Minimum wage, childcare payments, education, and several social issues," Larimer said. "What was interesting to me is that all of this was framed in terms of really keeping up with China and sort of an external threat from China in terms of economic competition."
Hinson said she was pleased to hear President Biden talk about the importance of community health centers and infrastructure, two issues she said she hoped to work across the aisle on.
President Biden extended an olive branch to Republicans like Hinson during his speech, inviting them to work with him on his major proposals. Republicans called on Biden to scale back his proposals, describing the President's infrastructure plan as a liberal wish list.
"I do think there is a potential we can work together on a package. I do think that it needs to be more targeted than what he proposed last night," Hinson said. "My biggest priority is making sure that Iowa's roads and bridges are safe for people to drive and our locks and dam system is up and running at its highest potential."
The state's 2019 infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers was a C. Roadways received a C+, and bridges were awarded a D. The report found one-fifth of the state's bridges are considered structurally deficient.
Biden touted the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package Congress passed along party lines. Biden said he plans to pay for the package by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
"I believe what I proposed is fair, fiscally responsible," Biden said.
Biden's high-cost programs total around $6 million. Hinson said she is concerned with the price tag and said Democrats are spending money the country does not have.
"I just don't think these spending plans exercise that Iowa common sense," Hinson said.
On their own, issues like paycheck fairness, background checks, and universal Pre-K education are popular with the American public. But with Republicans framing it as an unnecessary, expensive package, Larimer said Democrats would have their work cut out for them to sell the American people on it.
"The challenge for Democrats, the one for the Biden ministration is going to be, how do they get away from what the Republican frame," Larimer said. "That is not going to poll well for them if they're talking about big government, but if they can isolate those individual policies, there is the potential to build support there."
Larimer said framing the programs as combatting external threats such as economic competition could be a way to garner support.
President Biden also called on Congress to pass the George Floyd policing and reform bill and a $15 minimum wage.
"Our small businesses have come to me and said that 'would kill us and break our backs, especially coming out of a pandemic," she said. " That is a one-two punch that many of our small businesses just won't be able to survive."
Going into the speech, Hinson was eager for President Biden to address the situation at the Southern Border. While the President did lay out his plan for immigration reform, Hinson said it was misguided.
"The biggest security threat right now is the gaping holes in our border," Hinson said. "Ultimately, we can't really focus on immigration reform until we stop this crisis at our border."
Larimer said it is not necessarily Biden's words, but what was behind him in Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the history books will remember.
"This has the potential to have a very significant effect moving forward for our political system and electoral politics in terms of women running for office," he said. "Seeing those two women in the two most powerful positions, outside of the presidency right there on camera all night was incredibly historic."