Ernst talks pandemic relief, bipartisanship, Supreme Court, and more in one-on-one with TV9

Adella Miesner

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, Republican Senator Joni Ernst spoke with KCRG-TV9′s Mary Green in an extended, one-on-one interview in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 9. © Provided by Cedar Rapids KCRG-TV Sen. Joni Ernst talks with TV9 in Cedar Rapids on Oct. […]

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Ahead of the Nov. 3 general election, Republican Senator Joni Ernst spoke with KCRG-TV9′s Mary Green in an extended, one-on-one interview in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Oct. 9.

Joni Ernst standing in a field: Sen. Joni Ernst talks with TV9 in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 9, 2020.

© Provided by Cedar Rapids KCRG-TV
Sen. Joni Ernst talks with TV9 in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 9, 2020.

Ernst, a native of Red Oak, Iowa, vying for her second term in the U.S. Senate, will face Democrat Theresa Greenfield on the ballot.


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She spoke with TV9 about what she’s not willing to compromise on in a pandemic relief bill, what police reform she believes needs to come at the federal level, if denials for ethanol waiver requests are enough to aid farmers, what bill she believes she can pass in a second term that eluded her in her first, and more.

Watch the full interview with Sen. Ernst below:


MARY GREEN: “Senator Ernst, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.”

SEN. JONI ERNST: “My pleasure, thank you.”

MG: “We’ll jump right in here. Let’s consider for a moment that in a couple weeks, you win back your Senate seat, but the Democrats win back their majority in the Senate. Pandemic relief bills, as you know, have stalled largely over of partisan differences. As what would then be a minority member of the Senate, what would you do to ensure Iowans get the help they need?”

JE: “Continue working the way I do, and I am ranked as one of the most bipartisan senators of either party in the last 25 years. And so I do have a lot of those really wonderful relationships where I reach across the aisle to get things done, and certainly, support for childcare is an initiative I’ve worked on with many of my Democratic cosponsors and colleagues. Of course, making sure that our rural healthcare systems are supported, that is also a bipartisan issue, and then agricultural relief too. Again, so many of us that serve on the ag committee, we’re always working in a bipartisan way on things like the Farm Bill, conservation. So it’s business as usual, continuing to work with my Democratic partners.”

MG: “What is one item that you would not be willing to compromise on a relief bill on?”

JE: “On a relief bill, well, I think everything really is out there. I think it’s really important that we give or take. So I’m not one of those that’s willing to say, you know, let’s throw this issue down and take it off the table. I think we have to continue those discussions, so if they are willing to take a look at my childcare and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to bump up our spending to match Sen. Enrst’s, to make sure moms and dads can go back to work and know that their little ones are cared for,’ you know, we can debate all of that.”

MG: “So there’s not one item that you say, ‘It’s a nonnegotiable, and I won’t put my signature on the bill unless it has this?’”

JE: “Well, and it has to be COVID-related. So if they’re talking about other things outside of COVID, then we might have some issues. But by and large, if we’re talking about COVID-19 and supporting families, if we’re talking about giving businesses back up and running, I think we should be able to debate those. Will I agree with everything? Maybe not. But giving care out to Iowans is really important.”

MG: “Iowa’s COVID positive case rate is currently sixth in the country, according to the most recent White House coronavirus task force report. What do you believe can and should be done on the federal level to slow down infections in states like Iowa?”

JE: “Well again, providing the resources is really important. That is the role of the federal government, is to be able to step in and provide PPE or at least the resources for PPE, making sure that OSHA and others can go in if there are situations with the packing plants that we saw earlier. OSHA can go in and make those recommendations, as well as CDC. We want to make sure our workers are safe. We want to make sure our families are safe. So again, federal government should be responsible for resources and providing the necessary items.”

MG: “In some of those packing plants, as we saw with the outbreaks earlier in the year, do you think that the federal government should’ve done more through agencies like OSHA?”

JE: “Well they did, actually, and they were right on the spot as soon as those hotspots were identified, CDC and OSHA did go into those packing plants, provided guidance, and that was part of the Defense Production Act that President Trump did as well, was to get those industries back up and going, providing food for American families, but doing it safely and responsibly. So that’s what the federal government should be doing.”

MG: “You, not sponsored, but you signed on and voted for President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which brought some of the largest changes to US tax code in decades. Joe Biden has said he’ll eliminate at least some of these tax cuts — but that Americans who currently make $400,000 a year or less won’t pay a penny more in taxes than they’re paying right now. What changes, if any, to US tax code would you fight for?”

JE: “Well, certainly, I believe in lower taxes, and the plan to go back and roll back the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is wrong because we saw one million Iowans that had tax breaks because of that bill. These are hardworking Iowa families that received additional tax benefits. So to say that I’m going to roll that back on Iowans, hardworking families, I don’t think that’s right. So I do believe that lower taxes spurs economic growth. That and easing regulations on small businesses allows us to expand operations, hire more employees, just as we saw with that Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we saw Anfinson Farm Store, which is in northwest Iowa, they were able to give their employees a wage increase as well as additional benefits. Bob Hamilton of Jefferson, same thing—he has a concrete company, and he was able to give additional benefits to his workers and raise their wages. So all of this is really good for Iowa’s economy, and I think it’s wrong if Joe Biden wants to start raising taxes on our hardworking Iowans.”

MG: “What’s the first bill you’d sponsor if you’re elected to a second term?”

JE: “I will be sponsoring probably many of the same bills that I have been working on. Again, most of those are bipartisan. I’m always fighting for Iowa’s farmers. I’m fighting for our veterans, obviously, I have served in uniform very proudly, and I appreciate the men and women that are serving our country today and those of past eras. But also fighting for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault because I’m a survivor myself. So I can’t say that there’s one bill. There will be many bills.”

MG: “But one’s has to be the first, right?”

JE: “The work continues, the work continues. But I can tell you what I did in the past six years. The first bill that I did sponsor on my own was a bill to expand healthcare services to our veterans, and it was much needed. Mental health has been a huge emphasis of mine through my time in the United States Senate. When we lose one farmer, when we lose one veteran to suicide, it’s too many.”

MG: “The EPA recently announced it’ll deny more than 50 ethanol waiver requests. Of course, this is a big move that you were advocating for. Is this enough to help Iowa farmers, many of whom, especially in this part of the state, are still dealing with that heavily damaged corn crop from the August derecho?”

JE: “We will keep pushing on this. The RFS is very important and maintaining that is very important, and so again, I will push back against the Democrats and their plans to roll back the internal combustion engine. We saw Gov. Newsom in California with his edict that within 15 years, any new car sold in California will not run liquid fuels. It will be an electric vehicle. So those Democrats that are supporting those plans, they are basically sealing the death of the Renewal Fuel Standard, so we have to continue fighting as Iowans to make sure that whether it’s diesel, biodiesel, whether it’s corn-based ethanol, that we continue to promote those activities. I think it’s very important. I’ve been at the forefront of that. The President calls me relentless on this issue. I will continue being a relentless advocate for our farmers.”

MG: “In a Judiciary Committee hearing in June on police reform, you said that bans on chokeholds are ‘a wonderful step that all of our states need to grab hold of.’ When it comes to police and criminal justice reform, what do you believe needs to be done on the federal level, and what should be reserved and encouraged to be done at the state level?”

JE: “The JUSTICE Act that I supported with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina was a very important piece of legislation, very similar to what we saw enacted in the state of Iowa, and yet Senate Democrats refused to move on it, even though it included 70% of the provisions that they wanted to see. So I do think that at the federal level, we do need to take a look at policing reform. We need to dig back into the JUSTICE Act. Democrats need to come back to the table because we really need to ensure that our states are following these reforms across the board and that we are protecting individuals that end up in police custody. What we have seen with Breonna Taylor, what we have seen with George Floyd — absolutely unacceptable. That has to change, but we as the United States Senate and as Congress, we need to act, and if Democrats are unwilling to even sit down and talk to us about it, we’re not going to be able to put those reforms in place. I am going to give huge kudos to both Democrats and Republicans in the state of Iowa in our legislature for coming together and getting it done, when we couldn’t even get it done in Congress. It’s because everybody gave a little bit, and again, if we would come back together and give a little bit, we could move forward the Justice Act.”

MG: “What didn’t you accomplish in your first term in the Senate that you believe you can and will be able to accomplish if you’re elected to a second term?”

JE: “The Presidential Perks Bill, which is one of my ‘squeal’ pieces of legislation. The Presidential Perks Bill is taking hard-earned tax dollars from everyday Iowans and supporting the lifestyles of former presidents. Most of these former presidents make a lot of money, and yet we’re supporting their travel, their office staffs, their leases, you name it, we pay for it as Iowans. And this bill actually passed through unanimously, passed through the Senate and through the House during President Barack Obama’s administration, and he vetoed it. Now the #1 benefactor of presidential perks is President Barack Obama. So we do have—again, it’s a bipartisan bill. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire is my cosponsor in the Senate, and we’re hoping to move on it again and get it done over the finish line. We know that President Trump will sign it if we can get it to his desk.”

MG: “So you feel confident he’ll put his name on that?”

JE: “I do, I do, absolutely.”

MG: “How much in the cost of college do you believe the federal government should cover?”

JE: “I do believe that there are plenty of grant opportunities for those that need it the most, and that’s what we need to focus on is, who needs additional help to go to college, and that’s what we should plan to support. I think there are a number of ways that we can sponsor students going to college or to technical colleges. I was a Job Training Partnership Act counselor at a technical college, and the program I worked with was a federally sponsored program, taking long-term unemployed individuals, enrolling them as students and teaching them trades or certain skills. Those are really wonderful programs, and I think the federal government does have a role there as well, and we can also partner with our states and local communities to sponsor kids, get them the training they need, and nontraditional students because you do have a lot of adults that will want to go back to school as well.”

MG: “If Amy Coney Barrett isn’t confirmed in time for the election, and Democrats take back the majority in the Senate and take back the White House, how will you proceed?”

JE: “It’ll be guided by the chairman of the Judiciary, and if he decides to continue moving that forward, then we’ll have to take a yes or no vote on the floor of the Senate. Iowans sent me to the United States Senate to do a job for Iowa, so if that does become a vote after the election, we’ll have to make that determination. Again, that will be up to the chairman, it will be up to the majority leader.”

MG: “So you’ll follow the call that Sen. Graham makes?”

JE: “Well, yes. When we have a vote on the floor, you show up, and you vote.”

MG: “Last thing, I’d invite you, if you’d like, Sen. Ernst, to look directly at the camera and make a direct appeal to Iowans on why they should reelect Sen. Joni Ernst.”

JE: “You bet, thank you. So Iowa is more than just a place to me. It is where I was raised and where I have lived the majority of my life, but it is also who I am. I worked my way through college. I’ve served at many different levels, both at the county level as a county auditor, serving in the state Senate then, now as a United States Senator. I’ve also served my nation in uniform, serving as a combat company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom, leading 150 of our best and brightest Iowa Army National Guardsmen. So as I said before, I am one of the most bipartisan senators in the United States Senate, as ranked by Georgetown University, one of the most bipartisan from either party over the last 25 years. I have a lot of work yet to be done, and I will continue fighting for farmers because I was raised on a small family farm in southwest Iowa. I will fight for our veterans because I’ve worn the uniform and put my boots in that sand. I will fight for our working families and our single moms because I have had some of those same struggles myself. And importantly, I will continue being a strong advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors because I’ve faced those same tough situations. So again, a lot of work yet to be done in the United States Senate, and I’m humbly asking for six additional years to continue to take Iowa’s fight to Washington, D.C.”

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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