U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and her challenger, former U.S. Rep. David Young, tangled in their third debate Monday night, clashing on issues like health care and taxes.
Axne, a Democrat, is running for her second term after defeating Young, a Republican, in 2018. Young had previously served two terms in the House.
The 3rd Congressional District debate, co-sponsored by KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register, aired live on KCCI-TV and DesMoinesRegister.com.
Here are some of the claims Axne and Young made, and how they line up with the facts:
Young’s claim: ‘Unfortunately, my opponent misses many votes.’
According to GovTrack, which monitors each member of Congress’ voting record, Axne hasn’t failed to cast a vote since mid-2019. She has missed 1.8% of votes in the House overall — lower than the median of 2.3% among all active representatives.
While Axne hasn’t missed a vote recently, she has made use of the recent change in House rules that allows voting by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic.
In debates, Young has repeatedly referred to Axne’s use of voting by proxy in the U.S. House as the equivalent to not showing up for work. The claim marks a difference in the way the two candidates’ parties see the use of proxy voting, which many Democratic representatives have used during the pandemic but many Republicans oppose.
But the way Young has presented the claim in debates — as “missing votes” and “giving our vote away” — lacks important context.
On May 15, as the coronavirus was continuing to spread, the Democratic-controlled House passed a measure to allow members to cast votes without being in the chamber. They could do so by designating another member, who would be present in the chamber, as their “proxy” to cast their vote.
Proxy voting had never before taken place on the House floor, although House and Senate committees have used it in the past. Support for the measure allowing it for floor votes was divided along partisan lines in May and has continued to be controversial, with Republicans questioning the constitutionality of the move.
According to the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, Axne has on three separate occasions designated U.S. Rep Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, as her proxy to cast a vote. As Young mentioned Monday evening, one of those occasions came in late June when the House held a vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020.
House members provide their proxies with written instructions on how to cast each vote. In her votes, Axne is still the one giving directions on how the vote is cast.
In an analysis of one of Young’s ads, the New York Times found “no sign” that Raskin had affected Axne’s voting record, despite the fact that he is generally less moderate than Axne. The two Democrats have voted differently 11 times during the pandemic, the Times found, mostly regarding amendments proposed by more progressive members of the party.
Young’s claim: ‘I never missed a vote in the United States House of Representatives.’
According to GovTrack, Young didn’t miss any of the 2,535 roll call votes during his four years in Congress.
Young’s claim: ‘My opponent campaigned as moderate, middle-of-the-road kind of candidate, a problem solver, but once she got in there she started voting 95% of the time with Nancy Pelosi.’
Ruling: Largely true
The percentage Young quotes is largely true. Axne has agreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, on 94% of their major votes over the past two years, according to the vote comparison tracker from ProPublica.
But “voting with” scores are not limited to one side of the aisle. FiveThirtyEight’s “Trump score” calculator, which measures how often each member of Congress votes in alignment with Trump’s position, shows that Young aligned with Trump 99% of the time from 2017 to 2018. Axne has brought up that statistic during this campaign.
Axne’s claim: ‘(Young) voted to take away coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.’
Ruling: Partly true
This claim, which the Des Moines Register originally fact-checked in 2018, was also a point of contention two years ago.
Axne has focused on Young’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which bars insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to Americans with health problems like diabetes, cancer, mental illness or high blood pressure.
Young says an amendment he co-sponsored in 2017 would have helped states safeguard people with pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act were repealed. Under the bill, called the American Health Care Act, states could have let insurers resume charging more to some applicants who had pre-existing conditions if they did not have continuous insurance coverage. The amendment Young co-sponsored was designed to cushion that change.
The amendment helped the act pass 217-213 in the House, but the bill failed by one vote in the Senate when U.S. Sen. John McCain R-Arizona, famously gave it the thumbs-down.
Since the American Health Care Act did not become law, there’s no way to say for sure how well Young’s amendment would have protected people with pre-existing health conditions.
Axne’s campaign has noted Young voted in 2015 for a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, without solid measures to replace it.
This claim is partly true on both sides: Young has voted in the past to repeal the Affordable Care Act but has also co-sponsored an amendment to help cushion the repeal’s effect on those with pre-existing health conditions.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, and Republican challenger, Former U.S. Representative for Iowa’s Third District David Young, participate in a debate on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at the KCCI studio in Des Moines. (Photo: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)
Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at [email protected], at 515-284-8254, or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.
Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-284-8449.
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