The vice president suggested to Iowa flood victims Friday that they should pressure the Senate Democrats running for president to support the disaster relief package that’s stalled in Congress.
Vice President Mike Pence was in the area for the second timesince last month’s flood to view damage. In March, he took a three-hour tour and promised to expedite disaster relief.
In Friday’s brief visit to the Ridgeview Farms near Pacific Junction, Pence promised that the administration and the federal government would help flood victims.
“We’re going to get the support that Iowa needs,” he said. “And we’re going to rebuild … bigger and better than before.”
The late March floods resulted in five deaths as well as billions in damage in Nebraska and Iowa, according to preliminary estimates.
Much of Mills County remains underwater. Between the Interstate and Ridgeview farms, several fields look like lakes, and at least two houses remain surrounded by water.
Lonnie Mayberry, vice chairman of the Mills County Board of Supervisors, who was at the Pence event, said he hoped Pence would see the need for funding to repair levees.
Echoing that was Dennis Lincoln, the operator of the farm, who gave Pence a tour of the damage. He said two blown levees have left the farm open to more flooding.
“He was so personable,” Lincoln said of Pence. “It was just like talking to a neighbor.”
Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared with Pence. The area’s congressional representative, Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, was not there.
Pence accused congressional Democrats of playing politics with disaster aid.
“There’ll be plenty of time for politics,” he said as he stood in front of standing water and in view of rubble from flood damage.
He is the latest Republican to use Iowa’s political clout to try to sway presidential candidates to vote for the administration’s aid package. Grassley and Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer have made similar comments.
The package has stalled because Republicans and Democrats in the Senate haven’t agreed on how much additional money to give to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Pence specifically pointed to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, both Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination, and suggested Iowans “ask them why they voted against disaster assistance for Iowa.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed to the March floods as an example of why the federal government should take stronger measures on climate change. Klobuchar, for example, appeared in Iowa and Nebraska to point to the damage as part of her push for her infrastructure plan. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made climate change a central focus of his campaign, appeared in Council Bluffs on Friday.
In the meantime, Reynolds is looking for ways to fund state aid. Ernst and Grassley have proposed a series of measures, including a joint proposal to provide federal relief to farmers who have lost stored grain. And Axne has pushed the House to pass Iowa disaster funds.
Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Iowa could make immediate use of $9 million in federal emergency relief funds to make short-term repairs to roads damaged by flooding.