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CEDAR RAPIDS - Brimming with optimism, Joni Ernst, who won a hard-fought and hyperpartisan campaign to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday 'there really is no limit to what we can accomplish when we are working together.”
Ernst, 44, made history as she was sworn in as the first woman elected to Congress by Iowans and the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate.
Ernst did not emphasize achieving these potential firsts during the campaign, 'but having this honor means very, very much to me,” she said.
'I am very honored because it is very, very significant,” she said about 'breaking away this glass ceiling when it comes to serving in federal office.”
Vice President Joe Biden - who inadvertently called her by her husband's name, Gail - administered the official oath in the Senate. Ernst, smiling widely, held her grandmother's Bible tightly in her right hand.
Afterward Ernst participated in the 'ceremonial” oath with Biden presiding again, this time a little more relaxed as he joked with Ernst's extended family, who gathered for a photo.
'I'm a Democrat, but that's OK,” Biden said.
Overall, Ernst told reporters during a 21-minute conference call with Iowa reporters shortly after being sworn in, she was 'thrilled …
humbled and honored to be here.”
'It's a long way from Red Oak to Washington,” she said. 'Wow. I am here now and I am excited to be in a position to bring a little bit of Iowa to Washington.”
That's the 'Iowa way” she talked about while campaigning for the Republican nomination and in her campaign against 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin for 30 years.
She made it clear that despite her party affiliation 'I am here to work for Iowans and I will do that and we will craft and implement real solutions as we chart a new path forward for not only Iowa but the nation as well.”
A signal of her willingness to represent all Iowans, not just Republicans, and to work with Democratic colleagues, she invited Harkin to join Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in escorting her into the Senate chamber for the swearing-in ceremony.
Ernst, who frequently was criticized during the campaign for not making herself available to the media, addressed specific issues during the conference call.
It will be important for Congress to approve the development of the Keystone pipeline, which the White House later said the president would veto, she said.
'It would be nice to see the president willing to work with the new Congress,” she said. Congress will have to address those actions, 'but the president will do what the president will do.”
Ashely Gilmore of Medill News Service contributed to this story.