Hinson touts "game-changing" projects after opposing infrastructure bill

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson tried to pull a fast one on Iowans this week.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved funding for two lock and dam projects along the Mississippi River, Hinson took credit for the spending. "We secured $829 million in federal funding to upgrade locks & dams along the Upper Mississippi River," she tweeted on January 19, describing the projects as "game-changing for Iowa’s agriculture industry & our Mississippi River communities!"

The trouble is, Hinson voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that provided this "game-changing" funding.

FROM "SPENDING AT ITS WORST" TO "LANDMARK INVESTMENT"

A January 19 news release quoted Hinson as saying,

“The lock and dam system along the Upper Mississippi River is critical to Iowa’s agriculture economy and our country’s entire supply chain — this landmark investment will be game-changing for Iowans and communities along the Mississippi River like Dubuque," [...] "Over 60 percent of our nation’s grain exports travel through this lock and dam system, and it is a massive economic engine for the entire state. That’s why I helped lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues in urging the Administration to prioritize funding for these essential upgrades. I’ll always fight to ensure Iowans’ taxpayer dollars are reinvested at home in Iowa.”

But soon after President Joe Biden signed the bill in November, Hinson bashed the legislation as "Washington Gamesmanship, Spending at Its Worst,” falsely claiming in a news release,

The need to make meaningful investments in our nation’s real infrastructure—roads and bridges, locks and dams, and broadband—was sacrificed to advance a partisan, socialist spending spree. [...]

That’s not how you govern. 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's cover story was that the bipartisan infrastructure bill was linked to a larger Democratic spending package, which would have been, in her words, the "biggest leap toward socialism this nation has ever seen." In a mid-November conference call with reporters, she explained,

“When you look at how this process played out with the infrastructure package, it was that these two bills (infrastructure and the Build Back Better reconciliation bill) were linked together from the get-go. And the package deal in whole was a raw deal for Iowans,” she argued. “So targeted infrastructure spending is where we need to be. And unfortunately, having those two bills tied together was a poison pill and a raw deal for Iowans.”

Obviously, the bills were no longer linked by the time House members voted on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November. The larger Build Back Better Act is still going nowhere.

So there was no "poison pill," just a bipartisan bill stuffed with money for Iowa, such as:

  • $3.4 billion in highway funds and $432 million for bridge replacement and repairs
  • $638 million for water infrastructure
  • $305 million for public transportation
  • $120 million for airports
  • at least $100 million for broadband internet

WILL HINSON'S CONSTITUENTS HEAR ABOUT HER HYPOCRISY?

Thousands of Twitter users, including national reporters from NBC News and the New York Times and at least one one Cedar Rapids area reporter, reacted to Hinson's self-congratulatory tweet by noting that she voted against the bill making the projects possible. So did State Senator Liz Mathis, the presumptive Democratic nominee in the new second Congressional district.

Iowa Starting Line and the Huffington Post framed their write-ups around Hinson taking credit for funding she had opposed. UPDATE: So did the Washington Post.

However, Hinson's vote against the infrastructure bill was buried near the bottom of the Quad-City Times' article about the lock and dam projects, which also ran in the Cedar Rapids Gazette (the largest newspaper in IA-02). That story by Tom Barton quoted a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesperson but not Mathis.

Hinson's spokesperson Sophie Seid objected to the criticism, again wrongly claiming her boss “opposed the infrastructure package because it was tied to trillions of other spending in the House." But “Since the bill was signed into law, this money was going to be spent regardless. If there’s federal money on the table she is, of course, going to do everything she can to make sure it is reinvested in Iowa.”

Similarly, chief of staff Jimmy Peacock tweeted that Hinson "helped lead a group of Members in asking for the funding" to go to projects on the Upper Mississippi "after it was already set to be spent by the fed government & they secured it. She is always going to fight for money to come back to IA instead of going elsewhere."

The bottom line is that if Hinson and her Republican allies had gotten their way in November, there would have been no new lock and dam money to fight for.

It will probably be up to Mathis and Democratic-aligned groups to explain that reality to Iowa voters.

UPDATE: Hinson defended her comments in a January 20 conference call with some Iowa reporters. Matt Kelley reported for Radio Iowa,

“I support and I’ve advocated for targeted infrastructure investments like this one,” Hinson says. “The infrastructure package in the House wasn’t targeted and it was tied to trillions of dollars in additional spending. This is where we are, it passed, and if there’s federal money up for grabs, I’m absolutely going to fight as hard as I can to make sure Iowa’s tax dollars are reinvested back home.” [...]

“If the federal government is going to spend money, it’s been allocated, I want it to be spent in Iowa, not elsewhere,” Hinson says. “So, if there’s federal money on the table, do you think I’m going to sit back and let that go to states like California and New York? Hell, no. I’m going to make sure as much of it comes back to Iowa as possible and that’s exactly what I did with my colleagues.”

LATER UPDATE: Des Moines-based WHO-TV (which does not reach most of the counties in IA-02) ran a story on January 20 headlined, "Hinson welcomes infrastructure funds to Iowa that she voted against in Congress."

I haven't seen any reporting about this by Waterloo-based KWWL-TV or by KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, the most-watched local news station in Hinson's district. Hinson was an on-air personality at KCRG for about ten years before entering politics.


Appendix: Full text of January 19 joint news release from members of Congress

Hinson, Grassley, Bustos, Blunt, Durbin Announce $829 Million in Funding to Modernize Lock and Dams on the Upper Mississippi & Illinois Rivers

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congresswomen Ashley Hinson (R-IA) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) as well as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has allocated $829.1 million in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS). Specifically, the funding will be used to complete the modernization of Lock & Dam 25, including the construction of a new 1,200-foot lock, an environmental restoration project at Lock & Dam 22, and other small-scale ecosystem and navigation projects in the region.

Today’s announcement comes one month after the lawmakers sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to the USACE requesting the Administration prioritize funding the construction of NESP on the UMRS with the $2.5 billion for inland waterways provided in the IIJA.

“The lock and dam system along the Upper Mississippi River is critical to Iowa’s agriculture economy and our country’s entire supply chain — this landmark investment will be game-changing for Iowans and communities along the Mississippi River like Dubuque," said Congresswoman Ashley Hinson."Over 60 percent of our nation’s grain exports travel through this lock and dam system, and it is a massive economic engine for the entire state. That’s why I helped lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues in urging the Administration to prioritize funding for these essential upgrades. I’ll always fight to ensure Iowans’ taxpayer dollars are reinvested at home in Iowa.”

“Iowa’s agriculture, manufacturing and shipping industries rely on a functioning and efficient lock and dam system along the Mississippi River to move goods. It’s an issue I often hear about during my 99 county meetings and regularly raise with the Army Corps of Engineers, so I’m pleased to report that they’ll be investing more than $829 million for updates to these locks and dams. When I voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I was voting for exactly this type of federal support for critical infrastructure that Iowans depend on,” Senator Grassley said.

“Today’s announcement is a huge win for our economy, jobs, American farmers, trade and the environment,” said Congresswoman Bustos“This years-long effort to modernize the locks and dams of the Mississippi will help our agricultural producers bring tons of goods to market faster, increase trade by speeding up the transport of American products, spur job creation, alleviate supply chain stress and help reduce transportation emissions. With this funding, we’re bringing taxpayer dollars home and revolutionizing how efficiently we utilize our waterways.”

“Iowa’s agriculture, manufacturing and shipping industries rely on a functioning and efficient lock and dam system along the Mississippi River to move goods. It’s an issue I often hear about during my 99 county meetings and regularly raise with the Army Corps of Engineers, so I’m pleased to report that they’ll be investing more than $829 million for updates to these locks and dams. When I voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, I was voting for exactly this type of federal support for critical infrastructure that Iowans depend on,” Senator Grassley said.

“Today’s announcement is a huge win for our economy, jobs, American farmers, trade and the environment,” said Congresswoman Bustos“This years-long effort to modernize the locks and dams of the Mississippi will help our agricultural producers bring tons of goods to market faster, increase trade by speeding up the transport of American products, spur job creation, alleviate supply chain stress and help reduce transportation emissions. With this funding, we’re bringing taxpayer dollars home and revolutionizing how efficiently we utilize our waterways.”

“Protecting and strengthening our inland waterways, especially the Mississippi River, is critical to growing our local economies and protecting the health and safety of our communities,”Senator Duckworth said.“I’m so pleased to see the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program that I’ve worked to support getting the resources it needs through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, because it will help protect our environment, modernize our water infrastructure and provide good-paying, local jobs for the region.”

“This investment to improve the safety and navigability of the Mississippi River is great news for farmers, businesses, and Missouri’s economy,” said Senator Blunt. “I’m glad the USACE will have significant resources to advance projects that will make it easier and less expensive for farmers and businesses to get their goods to market. Modernizing our waterways will continue to be a top priority in my efforts to ensure our state has the tools it needs to lead the way in a global economy.”
 
“For years, I’ve advocated for the modernization of Illinois’ locks and dams, which are integral to our state’s economy and in desperate need of repair. Today’s announcement is the beginning of a new era for waterway infrastructure and environmental restoration in Illinois,”said Senator Durbin.“I’m encouraged that President Biden shares my urgency to improve our waterways by providing more than $800 million in federal funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program. This funding will restore our environment, modernize our locks, help Illinois agriculture better compete around the globe, and create thousands of jobs. I’m looking forward to this federal investment’s positive economic impact on Illinois and communities up and down the Mississippi River for years to come.”

  • I am happy to see...

    ...that at least a few lawmakers mentioned the environmental restoration work that will be done along the Mississippi River, work that is very desperately needed. Those lawmakers aren't Iowa lawmakers, of course, because most Iowa Republican lawmakers feel very little need to even pretend to care about the environment these days. What that says about Iowa voters is something I try not to think about.

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