116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
BETTENDORF — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Friday put to bed any speculation she will run for president in 2024.
During a stop in Bettendorf, Ernst said there was "zero" chance she would seek the Republican presidential nomination.
Ernst's name had been floated by some media outlets and political oddsmakers as speculation has begun on possible GOP presidential candidates in 2024.
"I absolutely love working for the people of Iowa," Ernst told reporters Friday. "I'm just really excited to see who pops up as GOP contenders."
Ernst stopped at Bettendorf City Hall, where she spoke with city leaders about ongoing projects in the community, including the city's plans for elevators connected to the new Interstate 74 bridge.
City officials say the project has hit a snag over requirements of the Buy America provision that requires the I-74 project to use primarily U.S.-made parts and components.
City officials say elevator suppliers in the U.S. do not produce specific components of the structure. Due to the lack of domestic availability of certain components, city officials are seeking a Buy America waiver.
Ernst said she will to call on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to support the city's request of the waiver.
Ernst and city leaders also discussed plans to reconstruct the Interstate 80 bridge and six-lane the interstate from the Mississippi River to Iowa City, as well as funding upgrades to area lock and dam systems.
"Sixty percent of the world's grain travels down that Mississippi River. Those lock and dam systems that are over 50 years antiquated are going to have to be replaced," Bettendorf Mayor Robert Gallagher said.
But Ernst criticized President Joe Biden's proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan, arguing a small percentage of the money goes to roads and bridges and other "actual" infrastructure projects.
About $621 billion of the proposed $2 trillion package would go toward transportation infrastructure such as bridges, roads, public transit, ports, airports and electric vehicle development.
Money also would be invested to fund child care facilities, drinking water infrastructure, broadband access, electric grids, affordable housing, research and development and job training.
The White House has said the plan would fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, while also addressing climate change and racial inequities. Corporate taxes would be raised to pay for the projects.
"There is more in this package for electric vehicles than our roads and our waterways," Ernst said. "Let's go back and take a look at the work that we did in the (Senate) Environment and Public Works Committee in the last Congress," including work on a bipartisan highway bill, "and craft legislation that focuses on infrastructure; not a lot of fancy, extraneous policies that the Democrats want to see."
Scott County Democrats pushed back on Ernst criticism of Biden's infrastructure plan, saying 30 percent is "a more accurate“ estimate of the amount earmarked for traditional infrastructure, according to CNN.
"Republicans are playing word games while Americans drive across unsafe bridges," the statement reads, which argues Biden's plan will increase jobs. "The truth is, Biden’s proposal expands the traditional idea of infrastructure to reflect our more modern reality — that the information superhighway is as much a part of America’s infrastructure as … a highway. That American businesses need our essential workers to have reliable child care."
Ernst also addressed Biden's executive orders this week aimed at addressing a proliferation of gun violence across the nation.
Ernst said she was "disturbed" by Biden's comments that the Second Amendment is "not absolute," and predicted "you will see lawsuits coming out on these executive orders" for potentially infringing on "law-abiding citizens'" Second Amendment rights.
Ernst said any gun-reform proposals should be addressed through legislation rather than executive order.
Ernst said she worked with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the last Congress to address gun legislation as part of her work on the Violence Against Women Act, but was stymied by Senate Democratic leadership, "because I was in an election cycle.
"So we're happy to have those discussions, but, again, I want to make sure that we are protecting law-abiding citizens' rights and find a way forward," Ernst said. "So we're willing to take a look, but we have a lot of folks that are very concerned about this issue and that Democrats will go too far in trying to strip away rights, and we can't allow that."