Congressman Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, talks with Morning Edition one week before the 2014 Elections.
Clay Masters: This is Morning Edition on Iowa Public Radio. Good morning, I’m Clay Masters. A week from today voters decide who will be the next U.S. Senator to replace retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. It pits Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley against Republican state Senator Joni Ernst. Polls show the race too close to call with me this hour in our Cedar Falls studios is Congressman Bruce Braley. Hello, Congressman Braley.
Rep. Bruce Braley: Hi Clay, thanks for having me on the show with you.
Masters: OK first issue, Social Security. The Social Security administration’s website states that as early as 2033 if no legislative changes are put in place, scheduled tax revenues will be sufficient only to pay about three fourths of the scheduled benefits. What are changes you would propose to keep Social Security solvent beyond 2033?
Rep. Braley: Well social security is based upon a promise that if you work hard and contribute your contributions, it’s going to be there for you when you need it. So I have made my plan for social security very clear, very simple. If you are a millionaire or a billionaire you should be paying the same share of your earned income into social security that hardworking Iowans do, the same way they do for Medicare.
And it will add years to the solvency of the Social Security trust fund, it will actually allow us to increase benefits for seniors. But I will never, ever vote to privatize Social Security because that’s an investment plan for Wall Street bankers, not for Iowans. And Senator Ernst has a very different view on that, and has indicated a wiliness to privatize Social Security and I think that’s wrong.
Masters: Now switching topics a little bit here, a recent USA Today poll showed 52 percent of Iowans say the Affordable Care Act has been “generally bad” for the state, and 38 percent say it’s “generally good.” Now you voted for the law commonly called Obamacare. Is there room for improvement in the law?
Rep. Braley: Absolutely, and that’s why I voted to allow people to keep their policies. That’s why I voted to take some of burdensome paperwork off of the backs of small business owners to comply with the Affordable Care Act. And that’s why I fought so hard on behalf of Iowa hospitals and physicians to address a longstanding problem on how they are paid less than they should be for the quality care they provide.
But look, there are almost 150,000 Iowans who have healthcare coverage who didn’t have it before the Affordable Care Act. We have done a good job of combating waste, fraud and abuse. We’ve recovered tens of billions of dollars recently. And we need to continue to make sure that the money we’re spending is for the purpose that was intended and gets the results we want. That’s how we can improve the system and make it better for Iowans.
Masters: Another topic that’s on a lot of minds is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed expanding its federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act so that these seasonal streams and wetlands would answer to oversight.
Now, many farmers say additional regulation would create a large burden during a time when crop prices are dropping. I’m curious, should the EPA expand the Clean Water Act? And are you comfortable with the EPA instating changes without Congressional approval?
Rep. Braley: Look I voted against allowing the EPA to expand their jurisdiction into ditches, and farm ponds, and other waterways. And I voted to limit their ability to expand their definition of agricultural land.
But one of the things Iowans want, is they want clean water, and they want clean air. And we know many Iowa communities are paying a lot of money to try to remove harmful nitrates out of their water supplies. So there has to be balance.
Masters: So what do you think the role of Congress should be in how the EPA makes decisions?
Rep. Braley: The Congress has an important role in providing much needed oversight so the EPA does not overstep its boundaries and allows businesses and farmers to able to generate income and do it in a responsible way. But at the same time, it’s important to have an agency that is doing what it was supposed to do when it was first founded, and that’s cleaning up rivers and lakes from the pollution that we saw back then. So the important thing is to find the right balance.
Masters: Moving on, Congress’s approval rating is at a historic low. Give me some examples of bipartisan bills that you've worked on in Congress. And what bipartisan issues would you pursue in the U.S. Senate, should you be elected?
Rep. Braley: Well, I’m a bridge builder, not a bridge burner, and that’s why I’ve worked so hard to develop relations with people on both sides of the aisle, in the House, and in the Senate.
The very first bill I introduced, Clay, was the New Era Act. It was a job training program in biofuels with community colleges. And I worked with the Republican from Alabama named Jo Bonner to get that in the Farm Bill and create opportunities in Iowa’s growing biofuels industry through Iowa community colleges, and I was very proud to do that.
I worked with Republicans from Minnesota. Introduced legislation when the Iowa National Guard came home from Iraq, and they were denied G.I. Bill benefits and hardship pay, and we took on the Pentagon and got their orders changed to get them the benefits that they deserved.
I worked with a Republican from Georgia to help an Iowa manufacturer keep Iowa jobs, and keep making a product in the United States by working to pass an exception to an energy efficiency rule for a specific type of refrigeration system.
And that’s a key difference between Senator Ernst and I in this race, is that I can tell you the legislation that I introduced, the Republicans I worked on to get it passed, and that’s a fact that I am proud of and it’s something I will continue to do as Iowa’s next senator.
Masters: Alright, Congressman Braley, thanks so much.
Rep. Braley: Thank you, Clay.