Ag, energy and spending dominate Hinson’s Tama Co. town hall discussion

U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) addresses the audience before taking questions during a town hall meeting at the Tama Civic Center on Aug. 22. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

TAMA — U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) made the rounds with a trio of stops in the southwest quadrant of her district last week Tuesday, August 22, and one of them was a town hall meeting at the Tama Civic Center, where she discussed government spending, agricultural issues, immigration and a host of other topics with a crowd of about 15 to 20 attendees over the lunch hour.

Hinson, who was first elected to federal office in 2020, kicked off the event with a recap of some of her recent activity in Washington, D.C. and the priorities she has been advocating for as a member of Congress. She was critical of government agencies paying rent on office spaces while their employees continue to work from home, and she also stressed the need to “hold China accountable,” highlighting a recent summit with two other members of Congress in the Tama County community of Dysart, where a Chinese national named Mo Hailong was caught attempting to steal seed technology from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto.

“They’ve been doing it to us for decades,” she said.

Before opening up the floor, she also expressed her support for an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes biofuels. Although the first question, posed by Dave Walford of Grinnell, was actually about D.C. statehood (which Hinson opposes), the conversation quickly shifted back to more Iowa-centric matters like proposed legislation requiring country of origin labels on beef thanks to a question from Berleen Wobeter of rural Tama County.

“I have a policy of not committing to signing onto a bill until I have a full chance to review it because I think you would want me to do that,” Hinson said. “I work with Dusty (Johnson, a representative from South Dakota), so I’m happy to take a look at that.”

Harry Healey of Cedar Rapids asked about benefits for retired federal employees before another hot topic — government spending — came up in the form of a question from Ken Phillips of Grinnell, who said he supported the Freedom Caucus position of cutting expenditures and holding the government accountable.

Hinson responded that she did not favor any sort of a government shutdown but would continue, alongside her Republican colleagues, to find ways to make cuts. She added, however, that with the Democrats controlling the Senate and President Joe Biden in the White House, she didn’t expect to get everything she wanted.

“The reality of the situation that we’re in right now is that we obviously had to fight to even get the spending levels lower for next year, which I support. I think Congress does need to spend less money, and I think that we’ve done a good job of starting that process of reeling it in,” she said.

Dale Peterson of Tama shared concerns about immigrants who have entered the country illegally receiving government benefits, and that led Hinson to call for current Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to either be impeached or resign.

“I think the real tragedy here is that President Biden has created a humanitarian disaster through his southern border policy,” Hinson said. “Maybe they want them, the same opportunities we all have, and I don’t fault anyone for that. What I think is a disaster here is that many of these people are coming into our country with nothing. They’re coming into our communities, and our communities are struggling to feed and clothe the people we have in our country.”

She also called out the cartels for their involvement in drug and human trafficking. Another questioner wondered how the government could shut down as long as taxes are still being collected, and Marshalltown Police and Community Team (MPACT) Advocate Mark Doland of Toledo implored her to continue fighting for more mental health services at the federal level.

“I do think we’re facing an extreme mental health crisis in this country. Coming out of the pandemic, it was so hard for so many people, and I would argue that a lot of these issues we’re talking about here today with inflation and out of control energy costs are putting additional strain on people, and stress,” Hinson said. “My best goal to help support mental health is to make sure our states are drawing down the resources they need from the federal government, whatever that looks like, and then making sure we have a robust mental health system here in the state of Iowa.”

Another attendee cited the recent heatwave, wildfires and air quality warnings as evidence of man-made climate change and asked what Hinson would do to address it. Noting her own professional background in TV news working with a meteorologist, she responded that the climate “is always changing” and stressed the importance of land, flood and water management and conservation practices in agriculture without creating more government programs.

That led into a follow-up question from Wobeter about Hinson’s position on carbon capture pipelines, which have been controversial from the time they were first proposed. The Congresswoman said the pipeline would play out at a state and local level and didn’t take a formal position on it but added that she’s “always leery” of eminent domain in general.

“I think we do need to have robust laws in place to protect property owners and landowners, and so I support those laws for a reason,” she said. “What I don’t want to see happen is a complete end to liquid fuels in this country. It would be devastating to our state and our economy.”

Walford wondered how the Biden Administration’s push for a digital currency and an end to cash transactions could be stopped, and Hinson said the reserve currency of the dollar is what keeps it strong. Kriegel followed up with a question about mining the ocean floor for the trace minerals used to make batteries for electric vehicles.

“It’s having adverse effects down there, but you don’t hear about that in the news because they want this green energy to go through so bad because that’s gonna save us,” he said. “It’d be nice if somebody could get that information out so we don’t gotta get this stuff crammed down our throats every day when they’re not telling us the bad things that they’re trying to do. But they can hide them because they run the media.”

Hinson again pointed to overreliance on China as a reason that the U.S. shouldn’t make a quick transition to electric vehicles. One of the final questions covered the Inflation Reduction Act, which included a provision that would mandate moving more production of vehicle batteries to the U.S. through union labor. Hinson opposed the bill.

“I’m not anti-innovation. What I am anti is giving sweetheart deals to one person at the expense of another, and this was a sweetheart deal to a whole lot of organizations and a slap in the face to taxpayers, and I don’t think that was right,” she said.

Doland got the last word with a question about a potential executive order to recodify Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that federally legalized abortion in 1973, and Hinson opined that she believed the court made the right choice in overturning Roe and returning the matter to the states last year.

After she wrapped up the town hall, Hinson and her team shook hands with several of those who attended and enjoyed a meal at Murph’s Creamery in Toledo before heading to the next stop in Belle Plaine.