CR Gazette: Second District Rep. Loebsack’s small victories add up

CR Gazette: Second District Rep. Loebsack’s small victories add up

James Q. Lynch
May 27, 2014

Democrat is running unopposed for primary

CEDAR RAPIDS — It can be tough building a case for re-election when you’re a member of the minority party, but 2nd District Rep. Dave Loebsack thinks his work on economic development and infrastructure issues — and his promise to continue his dogged work to hold Congress accountable — make a pretty good case for another term in the U.S. House.

Loebsack, 61, is unopposed for in the June 3 Democratic primary in the 24-county district that stretches from Lamoni to the Mississippi River and includes Iowa City, the Quad Cities, Clinton, Ottumwa and Burlington.

What success he has, the fourth-term Democrat said, often come from working with majority Republicans.

A recent example, he said while traveling from a tour of the VA hospital in Des Moines to his Iowa City home, came during the debate on the defense authorization bill. Loebsack was successful in turning back an amendment by a Kansas Republican that would have taken work away from the Rock Island Arsenal, a major employer in the district, and have it done by private contractors.

Working with Republicans, Loebsack organized an effort to defeat the amendment. Using the five minutes allotted to opposition during the debate, Loebsack spoke for two minutes and three Republicans each spoke for a minute. It worked. Fifty-one Republicans joined Democrats to reject the amendment.

That was typical, Loebsack said, of his approach to representing the interests of the district where 30 percent of voters are registered as Democrats, 25 percent are Republicans and the remaining 45 percent have no party affiliation.

Loebsack also points to his success — as a minority party member — in leading the charge in the House to get funding for Meals-on-Wheels included in budget deals.

“You can call that a minor victory, but if you’re out there delivering meals, seniors are extremely appreciative,” he said. “That doesn’t distinguish between Democrats and Republicans.”

When not in Washington, Loebsack said he spends “a heck of a lot of time out on the road … meeting as many people in the district as often as possible to hear what’s on their minds.”

Mostly, he said, it’s the economy.

So he was pleased that “a major part of my SECTORS bill have been included in the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization.”

His proposal links businesses, labor unions, local stakeholders, and education and training providers to develop and implement a strategy to grow or save a targeted industry.

“As I meet with business leaders in Iowa, I hear time and time again that they are unable to find workers … (because) there is a gap between the kinds of skills that workers have and the kind of skills that businesses need,” he said.

The Interstate 74 bridge across the Mississippi River to Illinois also is a priority for Loebsack. Illinois and Iowa have approved funding, he said, but federal funds have yet to be authorized. Loebsack recently hosted Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for a visit to the area to impress on him the need for a new bridge.

Another triumph for Loebsack was having his efforts on the farm bill recognized with a White House invitation to the bill signing even though he’s not on the House Agriculture Committee.

“I think that’s an indication of how hard I worked on that,” he said.

Protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard and opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to require less ethanol usage is another priority for the former Cornell College political science professor.

As he seeks a fifth term, Loebsack sees a worrisome frustration with Congress, and government in general, on the part of the public.

“I think it’s important that we keep holding Congress accountable,” he said. “I think (voters) are beginning to believe the whole system is not legitimate. Not just that Congress isn’t doing its job or that the president isn’t doing his job or that the Supreme Court is politicized. It’s leading to a lot of frustration with the entire system.”

The way to address that is to hold Congress accountable “and that’s what I can do as a member of Congress,” he said.

Dave Loebsack
Age: 61
Occupation: Professor Emeritus, Cornell College; Congressman, Iowa’s 2nd District
Previous Elected Experience: Congressman since 2007
Hometown: Iowa City; grew up in Sioux City