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Iowa Gov. Reynolds will likely tout her COVID response in State of the Union rebuttal

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will give the official Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address.
Charlie Neibergall
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will give the official Republican response to President Biden's State of the Union address.

Since taking office in 2017 as Iowa's first female governor, Kim Reynolds has pushed for conservative policies, like limiting teaching about systemic racism in schools and seeking to ban transgender girls from girls' sports teams.

But it's Reynolds' response to the pandemic that has gotten her national attention.

Businesses and large gatherings in Iowahave had few or no restrictions for much of the past two years, often against the advice of public health experts.

Reynolds is likely to tout her approach to the pandemic as she delivers the official Republican response after President Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

In a recent Iowa PBS interview, she contrasted her policies with those from Democrats.

"People are so frustrated. They've just had it, and they feel their freedoms and liberties are being infringed upon," Reynolds said. "And we're seeing that here in the United States. And you're seeing it honestly in the president's poll numbers. They are tanking, and you're seeing, I think, Democratic governors in other states realize what's happening and where Americans are today."

Reynoldsrequired Iowa schools to offer in-person learningfor most of the pandemic and rejected $95 million in federal funding for COVID testing in schools. Last spring, she banned schools from requiring masks, leading the Biden administration tolaunch a civil rights investigation.

Reynolds says federal pandemic relief has contributed to inflation andworkforce issues. But the billions of dollars coming into the state helped make a big legislative win possible for her: On Thursday Reynolds signed legislation to cut income taxes.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Fox News he's proud of Reynolds and gave a preview of what he thinks she will say.

"I expect her to say that Iowa has led the way," Grassley said. "And it's about time that the federal government do the same thing and the president show leadership that is something other than shutting down the economy to fight the virus."

Deidre DeJear, a Democrat running for governor in Iowa, said Reynolds being chosen for the GOP response shows she's following national Republican talking points instead of addressing challenges specific to the state.

Reynolds still hasn't announced if she's running for reelection this year, but she's expected to run. She has never said publicly if she wants to run for higher office in the future. Reynolds has been mentioned as a potential vice presidentfor Donald Trump if he runs again.

Copyright 2022 Iowa Public Radio

Katarina Sostaric is an Iowa City based reporter covering Eastern Iowa for Iowa Public Radio.