Members of the state senate had a debate about trade and President Trump yesterday afternoon that turned tense and even rowdy at times. Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat from Wheaton who’s a farmer, started things off.
“A trade war, even a short one, could mean long-term losses,” Hart said. “That’s because will quickly replace Iowa’s agricultural products.”
Hart wrote a letter to President Trump on the topic and invited her senate colleagues to sign it. Republicans were having none of it. Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale is the only elected official to endorse Trump before the Iowa Caucuses.
“I will not have anything to do with that letter that you have, Senator Hart, but I’m thinking about maybe writing my own letter, telling him to, “Keep up the good work,'” Zaun said. “‘Thank you for being honest and following through with your promises.'”
Republican Senator Tim Kaputcian, a farmer from Keystone, said Iowa farmers need to “hang tough” with President Trump.
“Somebody that’s actually stood up against somebody that’s been taking advantage of us for far too long, somebody that’s been stealing our technology, somebody that’s been putting trade import tariffs on us,” Kaputcian said. “…We don’t need to weaken his position.”
Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, responded.
“You know you can be tough on trade without being eratic and instituting trade wars,” Hogg said.
David Johnson of Ocheyedan — the independent senator who left the Republican Party in 2016 to protest Trump — started talking about the trade issue, then snapped at Republican Senator Jason Schultz.
“Go on laughing, Senator Schultz. Keep ripping apart the state and its union,” Johnson said.
Senator Mark Chelgren interrupted: “Senator Johnson’s being an idiot. I’d ask him to stop, please.”
Chelgren had to be prompted twice by a colleague, but he apologized for the remark.
Senator Schultz said the letter to Trump was “inappropriate.”
“I am excited that somebody is standing up and saying that: ‘We’re done taking it,'” Schultz said. “Now, anytime you get in a fight…you’re going to take some punches, you’re going to take some bruises, but I believe it’s a fight that at least needs to be discussed.”
Senator Dennis Guth, a Republican farmer from Klemme, said his broker told him the trade dispute will “be a really good thing for Iowa” because China will buy more ag commodities to resolve it.
“We can see, yeah, last week when we had the announcement made, we had quite a dip in prices, however, we’re at brand new highs this week, so just wanted to make that point,” Guth said.
Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, chimed in, arguing there was nothing “offensive” in the letter to Trump about trade.
“Lots of ‘man-splaining’ going on out here,” Mathis said. “…Listen! It tells the president how essential we are for trade in the United States. It doesn’t talk about Stormy Daniels, for crying out loud.”
During half-an-hour of venting, about ten state senators had their say, then the senate adjourned for the day.