Pelosi talks to Iowans

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke this morning to Iowa Democrats who are attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She spent only a few seconds talking about disaster victims in Iowa. After her remarks, Pelosi walked over to speak with Iowa’s three Democratic congressmen — and I happened to be in the right place at the right time with my recording device to capture their conversation.  As you may know, Pelosi is set to visit storm damage in Iowa on September 8.  The four members of congress, plus Governor Chet Culver, can be heard discussing the trip in this sound file: Download PelosiTrip.mp3

Here’s the text of the conversation:

Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines) approached Pelosi and said something that cannot be heard on the tape.

"I don’t know if you want to do that now, but if you do, that’s o.k. with me," Pelosi replied.

"Well, the geographic natrual thing would be, I don’t know how much time you’ve got, stop in Des Moines, Waterloo," Boswell said, gesturing toward Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo) who was standing to Pelosi’s left, then Boswell gestured to Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Mt Vernon), who was standing next to Braley. "Cedar Rapids and out."

"Does that work for you?" Pelosi asked the other two congressmen.

Braley and Loebsack reply in the affirmative.

"Well, let’s talk to security," Pelosi says, and Boswell interjects: "It depends on how much time you have."

Pelosi continues:  "Well, what we want to do is spend the time in a way that translates into what we need to do and if you think that that’s the way."

Boswell interjects:  "Well, you’d get to see all the three major places and then we’ve been on the farms.  We can really fill you in."

At this point Governor Chet Culver, standing beside Loebsack, chimes in:  "Madam Speaker, we really appreciate your willingness to come.  I think it shows your personal interest and care and concern, you know, for the people of Iowa."

"I appreciate your saying that," Pelosi replied.  "Thank you.  Well, we’re family."

Something else is said, but Scott Brennan, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, started speaking again from the microphone and the sound system in the room carried his voice so loud it overpowered whatever was being said in the circle. 

"We’ll get it all set up and see you then," Culver can be heard telling Pelosi, then Pelosi tells Culver to "say hi to Mari." (Mari Culver, Iowa’s first lady)  Pelosi bids her House collegues goodbye and left without answering any questions from reporters.

UPDATE:  A few moments later, Congressman Braley had this to say when asked about Republicans who say congress should have approved a disaster relief package for Iowa before the House and Senate adjourned at the end of July.

"(Pelosi) already has tremendous amounts of information from all of us on the extent of the devastation, but we want to make sure we plan her trip well so she gets a very comprehensive understanding of how broad it is and how some of the small community/large community, tornado/flood contrast," Braley said.

"It seems like you got a commitment from the House Speaker.  You’ve got a commitment from a high-ranking senate leader," Rod Boshart of The Cedar Rapids Gazette said.  "What are the prospects for the three week window you have once you get back in September?"

"Well, I think they are very good because I know that both senators from Iowa are going to be working very hard to make that happen.  One sits on the appropriations committee, one sits on the finance committee.  It’s going to take a combination of financing and tax policy to address the magnitude of this problem, but we’re all working together to make sure this happens  before the end of September and I’m confident that we can do that and if we don’t, it’s not going to be because there’s not a will among the Iowa delegation to make it happen."

"Republicans are making hay with the fact that you did adjourn in July without taking action on a package and there are certainly people in Cedar Rapids who aren’t happy," said me.

"Well, let’s talk about that," Braley said. "When I was at the Cedar Rapids airport with Senator Grassley, Senator Harkin and my predecessor Jim Nussle (the current White House budget director), Jim Nussle crunched the numbers and said on that day, at the peak of the flooding in Cedar Rapids, there was $5 billion of federal disaster assistance money available in the pot because of what happened after Hurricane Katrina.  Then we appropriated $2.65 billion of additional funding, which means according to director Nussle there was about $7.65 billion in dissster assistance available.

"Now, there have been some delays in getting funding that we’ve approved through the agencies that are a part of the Bush Administration to people in Iowa who need it, but I’m not aware of Iowans who are eliglble for federal disaster assistance who meet the criteria to get those benefits who aren’t getting money because congress hasn’t appropriated the money.  $7.65 billion is a lot of money.

"Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to do more and keep funding those needs as they continue to emerge, but from my perspective, based on what Jim Nussle told us, there should be plenty of money available.  The bigger obstacle is we’ve been pushing the Bush Administration, including the HUD director, to get this money out to Iowans who need it and that’s been a big problem that’s coming from the administration, not from a lack of funding."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.