COUNCIL BLUFFS — Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that he wanted to be sure Iowa and Nebraska voters who helped elect President Donald Trump knew about the administration’s achievements in its first year.
The top issue he brought to a crowd of about 500 in Council Bluffs was last year’s tax law overhaul, which Republicans have said will spur growth and investment in the United States.
The vice president also noted Trump’s repeal of the Waters of the United States rule, his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and what he called Trump’s “strong leadership on the world stage.”
“We’re only one year into this administration, and the results are nothing short of remarkable,” Pence said.
“It’s been a year of action. It’s been a year of results. It’s been a year of promises made and promises kept.”
An enthusiastic crowd, dotted with “Make America Great Again” hats and flag attire, offered several rounds of applause and a few standing ovations for the vice president.
Pence was appearing at the rally at the Mid-America Center as part of his tour promoting the recent income tax overhaul with America First Policies, a nonprofit organization created to promote Trump’s agenda.
The vice president was greeted at the airport by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, both fellow Republicans. Pence later crossed the river to Omaha to appear at an evening fundraiser for Ricketts.
Reynolds introduced the vice president. She said Pence, a former Indiana governor, “remained a strong advocate and powerful voice for states’ rights and the critical issues that impact us.”
The visit came the week after Trump announced his plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, a move that drew criticism from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, among other local groups.
Pence promoted the president’s policies on trade, saying “we’re cutting down on unfair trade practices.”
Ricketts said in an interview before the fundraiser that he planned to share with Pence the importance of trade to Nebraska and its agricultural economy, given that 30 percent of the agricultural products Nebraska produces are sold overseas.
“I know the Trump administration has an overall strategy about how they’re approaching (trade),” Ricketts said. “We just want to make sure we’re not disrupting the relationships we currently have.”
He said he also planned to raise with Pence the importance of the Trump administration’s continued support of renewable fuels. Some members of Congress have been pressing to change the program.
Ricketts said he appreciated the open line of communication with Pence.
“As a governor, I love working with this administration,” he said.
This was the vice president’s fourth stop in a tour that has already hit Pittsburgh, Dallas and Detroit.
Pence told the Omaha fundraiser crowd — one that included Nebraska’s attorney general and treasurer, Omaha’s mayor and police chief and more — that he met Ricketts more than a decade ago, when the vice president was “a backbencher in Congress.”
“I can honestly tell you I was for Pete Ricketts before it was cool,” Pence said.
He praised the governor for running the State of Nebraska like a business, including slowing the growth of government spending, cutting taxes and creating jobs. He cited Ricketts’ help lobbying members of Congress for passage of the recent tax cut bill.
The governor, for his part, returned the admiration, crediting the Trump administration and Pence for reducing regulations that burdened Nebraska businesses, farmers and ranchers.
Pence’s visit to the Omaha-Council Bluffs area drew Chris Carley, 58, from Overland Park, Kansas. He drove up to hear the vice president talk taxes, elimination of red tape and economic growth.
He’s a general contractor who says he wants to hear more about what the tax law means to his business. He says he doesn’t worry about Trump’s recent push on tariffs and trade because the president, to him, appears to be thinking several steps ahead.
“There will be some cost upfront, even to my business,” he said of the tariffs. “But that’s the price you pay to reposition yourself in the market, and this president understands business.”
Victoria Krogh, 19, of Atlantic, Iowa, said she came with her mother to hear the vice president speak because she is studying political science in college and wants to seize these opportunities to learn more.
“He’s talking about taxes, and my mom is an accountant, so she’s excited,” she said.
Outside the convention center, protesters gathered. A handful of women dressed as handmaidens from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to protest Pence’s opposition to abortion. Across the drive, about 20 Democrats from Nebraska and Iowa gathered to hold signs and conduct a press conference to protest Pence’s visit.
One of the protesters, 28-year-old Kevin Gibbs of Omaha, chair of Indivisible Nebraska, said the tax cut bill benefits a small group of people, those with more, while risking government benefits and programs that those with less depend upon.
“I think right now we’ve got this representative from this administration in our backyard, and we need to let him and them know we don’t support their policies,” he said.
World-Herald staff writer Jeffrey Robb contributed to this report.