It’s been a busy week in Washington D.C. with the announcement of a big boost coming to eastern Iowa and a change in leadership.
First Congressional District Representative Rod Blum was in Cedar Rapids on Friday where he talked with KWWL one-on-one about the issues facing Iowans. The city had learned on Thursday that after ten years it would be getting federal dollars for flood protection. The congressman said that was one of his top priorities since taking office but like others, he credits the job as a team effort.
Blum said the funding will provide Cedar Rapids with a sense of certainty and he forecasts an economic boom that will follow.
"I think there’s a lot of economic investment dollars that have been sitting on the sideline and as a business person, why would you want to invest money in a building that could possibly get flooded out? This will unleash, I think, tremendous economic activity in Cedar Rapids," he said.
Unlike Cedar Rapids, Iowa farmers are left in a state of uncertainty as the tariff war continues with China, with soybeans being one of the targets. Since the announcement, soybean prices in the country have taken a dive.
Blum said this is a frequently visited topic for them in Washington.
"I remind the administration that disproportionally, Iowa farmers and the Ag community is going to feel the pain of any retaliatory tariffs," Blum said. "I’d like to see no tariffs. I don’t like to see countries put tariffs on our products, we shouldn’t put tariffs on theirs. The president takes the same position. So, I’m nervous. I mention it every single chance that I get in Washington D.C., that the farm community is nervous."
Despite that, Blum said he’s confident in President Trump.
"The president is a business guy," he said. "He’s a good negotiator and I have faith that at the end of the day, we’ll end up with better trade agreements than we have today. I would call myself cautiously optimistic."
On Thursday, news broke of Environment Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt’s resignation. Blum said, like Senators Grassley and Ernst, he felt Pruitt didn’t serve the president’s interests, specifically with renewable fuels.
"When the president campaigned in Iowa, he made certain promises and supported the renewable fuels industry and I don’t think EPA Director Pruitt fulfilled those promises. Quite personally, I’m happy to see him step down."
Rep. Blum said he hopes the next director selected for the job will have Iowa’s interests in mind.
Another issue facing Iowans is the ongoing opioid crisis. On Monday, Blum will be holding an Opioid Drug Conference in Dubuque. Blum said they want to explore how they can solve the crisis at a local level.
"We’ve passed over 50 bills in the House of Representatives over the last year to deal with opioids and the crisis," he said. "Now, we need to take the federal funding and the federal ideas down to the local level. We’re going to have some experts come in. We’re going to have law enforcement there, the medical community there to discuss the different ways, kind of best practices, what can be done to solve this crisis at the local level."
Come November, Blum will be challenged for his seat by Democrat Abby Finkenauer. When asked about the upcoming election, Blum said they are focused on the work that is being done in Washington and not on campaigning.
"I think our record of great constituent service in our district offices and the bills that I vote on, vote Iowa interests, I think will speak for themselves come election time," he said.
Blum said he’s still working on one of his campaign promises, to “drain the swamp.”
“I’m more convinced than ever after three and half years there that the swamp needs to be drain," Rep. Blum said. "I’m on lots of different bills, including a terms-limit bill. I firmly support term-limits and other bills; ending the congressional pension program, cutting our pay ever year by 5% until the budget is balanced. Lots of bills that I can name that I’m involved in, co-sponsored, or authored to drain the swamp.”