U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, speaking at a town hall at the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown, Iowa on Saturday, February 22, 2020.

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa – U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, held a town hall in Marshalltown last Saturday, one of four she held in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District that weekend. Finknauer desired to highlight progress in Congress that she pointed out is never reported in the press.

“One of the things I want to do when we do these town halls is give you an update of what we’ve been up to in Washington, because, as I like to say, it seems very different than what you see on TV at night, doesn’t matter what you’re watching, whether you’re watching CNN or Fox,” Finkenauer said.

She said members of Congress are working across the aisle in several ways that have bipartisan appeal, but those efforts don’t make for “the fanciest tweet or the fanciest headline.”

Finkenauer said one of the issues that she is working on is a visa waiver program called Conrad 30 for foreign physicians in the United States with a J-1 visa for further graduate medical education who would like to stay and work in the U.S. after completing their training. 

She noted that particular regions end up running out of their allocated visas. She said she worked on a bill with U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., that doesn’t increase the number of visas nationwide, but reallocates them to regions that are not using them to areas that need them.

“And when I was in Marshalltown having conversations, I remember sitting there being told that there was a doctor one day they could have had that was a psychiatrist, or a doctor, they could have had there was an OB-GYN, and they were out of waivers and couldn’t get them. And so this is a problem that shouldn’t be happening, and that there’s a common-sense solution to that we’re actively working on and, you know, feel really hopeful about,” Finkenauer explained.

She also wanted to address Medicare reimbursement rates for rural health clinics. 

“You know, it is not free to upgrade hospitals here in Iowa versus Miami. And we need to make sure that our formula is in a way that actually remains competitive for states like Iowa,” Finkenauer said.

She also noted congressional efforts at addressing prescription drug costs, specifically referencing H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, that passed in December on a mostly party-line 230 to 198 vote.

“This is a bill that allows Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies on a certain number of prescription drugs, insulin being one of them. And not only does this not cost taxpayers any extra dollars, it saves hardworking Iowans and folks across the across the country dollars in their pocket. Every time they go fill up a prescription,” Finkenauer stated.

Conservative organizations, like the Heritage Foundation, warned that the bill is “a drug price control scheme that is a poison pill to innovation and access.”

Finkenauer claims that the bill was passed “in a bipartisan way,” but it had only two Republican supporters.

Her remarks took a partisan turn when she took a shot at Republican Governor Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans for the state’s Medicaid privatization and how Iowans are denied access or have to travel two hours or more for care. 

“It is our most vulnerable that are being affected. And I have been incredibly frustrated with the lack of action on the state level by our governor and the State House and State Senate to be able to actually fix this,” Finkenauer complained. 

“And because they’re not doing anything to fix the problem on the federal level, we actually have an investigation into these managed care organizations about why they’re denying care or prescription drugs the way that they happen. Because the thing is, it’s not just happening in Iowa. It’s happening all across the country, where Medicaid has been privatized,” she added.

Finkenauer later rebuked President Donald Trump’s policies and their impact on Iowa’s farmers, whether it is the EPA granting small oil refinery waivers that negatively impact the ethanol industry or his tariffs that affect trade.

“I’ve made it my mission to make sure that our farmers are being uplifted as much as possible in Washington because I’ve been frustrated about how they’ve been treated by this current administration,” she said.

Finkenauer, again pointing out bipartisan action, said she worked with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for biodiesel tax credit extenders to help Iowa’s agricultural economy. She also highlighted her role in helping to negotiate the USMCA deal along with U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, to ensure there were enforceable labor and environmental standards. 

She then highlighted her committee work addressing infrastructure. 

“You see, I sit on transportation infrastructure where I am the vice-chair of highways and transit. And the reason I asked to sit on infrastructure was because of the fact that we have over 1000 structurally deficient bridges and the entire country in my district alone. We have the most in the entire country in Iowa, and our roads and our bridges, especially in our rural areas, have been ignored for far too long,” Finkenauer said.

She noted the House is poised to pass the Surface Reauthorization Act that, she says, will start to address some of those issues.

Finkenauer also addressed climate change and called for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement that President Barack Obama made, the Senate never ratified, and President Donald Trump began the former process to withdraw last fall. 

She voted with House Democrats on a resolution for the U.S. to rejoin “and take a seat at the table.”

Finkenauer concluded her remarks by discussing efforts to expand broadband into rural Iowa. 

She then opened up her time for questions. 

Watch Finkenauer’s remarks and Q&A with constituents.

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