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- Former U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, posted on Twitter that U.S. Reps. Hinson and Miller-Meeks, both Republicans from Iowa, denied rural Iowans broadband by voting no on the Infrastructure Investment Act.
- Hinson said she voted no because of an uncertain estimate of how much the bill would cost Iowans, while Miller-Meeks said she supported an original infrastructure plan, but not what she called a partisan version that excluded Republican opinion.
- Both congresswomen voted for rural broadband expansion funding when they were in the Iowa Legislature.
The day the Infrastructure Investment Act spending bill was passed in the U.S. House, former U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, posted a tweet saying Republican Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, both of Iowa, denied rural Iowans broadband by voting no on the bill:
"The NO votes cast by Hinson and Miller-Meeks on the infrastructure bill (13 Republicans voted yes) is a powerful reason to replace them in ‘22. Denying rural Iowans broadband alone shows how terribly partisan these two are."
In an interview with The Daily Iowan on Nov. 19, Loebsack said he brought up broadband specifically as much of the money funding broadband in the bill will come from the Energy and Commerce Committee on which he served while in the House.
"I didn’t stay long enough, obviously, to see the fruits of my own labor. But I have some personal interest in this but it’s also incredibly important for Iowans," Loebsack said.
But did voting no, along with Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, on the infrastructure mean Hinson and Miller-Meeks wanted to deny Iowans broadband, as the comment implies? The answer requires context and explanation.
Of the $1.2 trillion defined in the bill, Hinson said in a statement, she supports the $650 billion of existing spending that would be reauthorized. If it was this spending alone, she said Iowans an herself would support the bill.
Hinson does not support the $550 billion in new spending and said that this bill adds too much additional spending for items aside from the physical infrastructure Iowans care most about, without fully paying for them.
"That’s not how you get things done for the American people. You do not create a legislative ultimatum by tossing trillions of hardworking Americans’ money up in the air like Monopoly money. That’s Washington gamesmanship at its absolute worst and the very definition of chaos and dysfunction that Iowans sent me here to fight against," Hinson said in the statement.
Of the entire $1.2 trillion package, $100 million will be allocated to each state for broadband. According to The New York Times, the bill is being paid for by repurposing jobless benefit money and using untouched small business loan funds and other pandemic relief funds.
In a press release following the vote, Miller-Meeks said she has been calling for a fully funded bipartisan bill that would improve bridges, roads, broadband, locks, dams and the electric grid. She listed broadband as a priority twice in her press release, despite her eventual vote.
Miller-Meeks said in the press release that she did not support the Infrastructure bill because it was tied to the Build Back Better Act, which she said had no Republican input. The House took separate votes on the two measures, passing the infrastructure bill on Nov. 8 and the social spending package on Nov. 19
Loebsack said the reasons Miller-Meek and Hinson gave for voting no did not make sense to him. He said voting against the bill meant opposing all aspects of it. He said he singled out Miller-Meeks and Hinson, rather than Feenstra, because they are the representatives from the areas he is most familiar with in Iowa.
"That was a standalone vote. There were 13 Republicans who voted for that bill who had the courage to vote for that bill. But Miller-Meeks and Hinson are not among those 13 Republicans. And that’s what’s unfortunate," Loebsack said.
Miller-Meeks, who succeeded Loebsack in Iowa’s Second Congressional District seat in January, had said she supported the original Infrastructure spending bill that the Senate passed in October.
"We could have passed a clean infrastructure package already on a bipartisan basis like the Senate did and found reasonable ways to pay for it. Instead, the majority decided to play politics and hold good ideas hostage to push through their agenda in a partisan manner," Miller-Meeks said in her press release.
Broadband was only one aspect of the Senate and House-approved infrastructure bill. Also included were funds for roads, bridges, water, public transportation, airports, cyber security and tackling climate change.
Added context comes from 2019 when Hinson and Miller-Meeks were in the Iowa Legislature — Hinson in the House and Miller-Meeks in the Senate. Hinson and Miller-Meeks voted yes on a nonpartisan Empower Rural Iowa Act, which Feenstra managed as a state senator at that time, that created incentives for broadband providers in Iowa to improve service and developed a fund to administer broadband grants for service providers who bring broadband to rural areas.
Empower Rural Iowa was an initiative through the Iowa Economic Development Authority to invest in rural towns in the state.
Dave Loebsack wrote on his existing Twitter account that Hinson and Miller-Meeks denied rural Iowans broadband by voting no on the infrastructure bill. That happened in this instance. And, while Miller-Meeks said she supported the original Senate-passed infrastructure bill, she still cast her no vote on the bill before her.
But both congresswomen voted when members of the Iowa House in 2019 in favor of an Iowa bill to increase rural broadband funding. With more than just broadband in the infrastructure package, and given Miller-Meeks’ and Hinson’s previous records in the Iowa Legislature supporting rural broadband funding, we rate this statement to be Half True.
CORRECTION, Nov. 22, 2021: An earlier version of this fact-check said that comments from Hinson expressed her opinions on the infrastructure bill. But Hinson’s campaign said her comments were about on a motion to add Build Back Better to the consideration. We have corrected the fact-check to reflect her views.
Tweet by Dave Loebsack for Congress Twitter account
The Daily Iowan Interview with former Dave Loebsack, Nov. 19, 2021
Gov. Kim Reynolds, Governors Empower Rural Iowa Initiative, December 2019
Iowa House File 772, May 20, 2019
Press release, Miller-Meeks Statement on Second Reconciliation Bill, Nov. 19, 2021
Floor remarks from Ashley Hinson, Speaking on House Floor in Opposition of Democrats Reconciliation Bill, Nov. 5, 2021
The Daily Iowan, Iowa delegates split on Biden’s infrastructure agenda, Oct. 17, 2021
Congressional Budget Office, "Senate Amendment 2137 to H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," Aug. 5, 2021
The White House, Fact Sheet: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Nov. 6, 2021
U.S. Congress, H.R. 3684, Nov. 11, 2021
Iowa Senate Journal from April 24, 2019
Iowa House Journal from April 23, 2019
The New York Times, Paying for the infrastructure bill: The plan relies on unused relief money to cover some of the cost, Aug. 2, 2021
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