WAUKEE — Vice President Mike Pence came to farm country last week to press U.S. House Democrats to ratify a trade deal with Mexico and Canada that backers said — coupled with an agreement with Japan — would aid Iowa farmers and build pressure on China to end a tariff war dragging on the farm economy.
“I came to Iowa to turn up the heat,” Pence told about 550 Iowans who gathered at a rural Dallas County farm — some decked out in red Make America Great Again hats and sweatshirts or 2020 Trump gear — to welcome the vice president for his fourth visit to the state this year.
Pence, a former governor and U.S. representative from Indiana, said the USMCA — a trade deal to “modernize” the three-decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement — would boost the U.S. economy by $68 billion, create at least 175,000 jobs, drive demand and boost farm exports by more than $2 billion if ratified by Congress.
“I was there all along the way for a lot of the negotiations and I’ll tell you that the president drove a hard bargain. He put American jobs, American workers and American farmers first and negotiated a great deal,” the vice president said, standing in front of a parked tractor and wagon, large hay bales and giant grain bins.
“But as I stand before you today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress have refused to bring it to the House of Representatives, and that’s why I’m here,” Pence told a crowd that included Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds.
“I came to Iowa today to say it’s time for the Democrats in Congress to do their job. Put politics aside and pass the USMCA this year. The truth is, and we all know it, Democrats have been spending all of their time on endless investigations and partisan impeachment but enough is enough,” he said.
“The American people deserve better. The time has come. Put Iowa first, put America first and pass the USMCA this year.”
The GOP vice president called out Iowa Democratic U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer and Dave Loebsack to demand that Pelosi take up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal before the 2020 election cycle heats up and urged Iowans to press them to make that happen.
“If Speaker Pelosi puts it on the floor, it will pass,” he said.
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Pence said the Trump administration has delivered “amazing” results since taking office in 2017, cutting taxes and regulations, unleashing a “roaring” economy while driving up job creation and cutting unemployment to the lowest levels in decades.
“We’re not going to allow Democrats in Congress to distract us from working on behalf of all of you — the people of this country. We’re never going to stop delivering on a strong national defense, secure borders, more conservative judges to our courts and jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.
“We’re never going to stop fighting for that agenda because that agenda has made America great again.”
Pence noted talks are slated to begin Thursday with Chinese negotiators aimed at easing or ending a tariff war but the vice president made it clear that Trump “has put China on notice that the era of economic surrender is over.”
Before Pence landed in Iowa, a group of Iowa Democrats told reporters both Trump and Pence repeatedly have broken their promises to Iowa farmers in areas of trade, renewable fuels and farm income that have created severe hardships for rural communities, farmers, workers and Iowa’s economy.
Patty Judge, chairwoman of Focus on Rural America who previously served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture, said Iowans and the farm economy have been hurt by Trump’s “go-it-alone” trade policy that has snubbed many of the country’s traditional allies.
“This go-it-alone, cowboy-style of international trade negotiation does not work,” Judge told reporters on a conference call. “We need trade agreements, but we need trade agreements that work for all of us and that requires negotiations. I’m afraid that’s not our president’s style at all.”
“I think we’re a long way from talking about ratification. But hopefully negotiation and conversation will take place very soon,” she said.
“One thing is clear about this president — he has no plan,” Judge added. “All of us are suffering from his endless whiplash and those taking the brunt of it live and work in rural communities across America.”