CORONAVIRUS

Joni Ernst sees COVID-19 relief, infrastructure bill still possible - after election

Sen. Joni Ernst speaks with members of the media during a brief media conference after meeting with Linn County leaders
Sen. Joni Ernst speaks with members of the media during a brief media conference after meeting with Linn County leaders at the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

In a competitive race for re-election, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst promised Monday to “never stop fighting” for Iowans and the support they need from the federal government.

Ernst, a Red Oak Republican seeking a second term, spoke at length about her roots, her lifetime of service to Iowa and the nation as a member of the military and as an elected official, and her bipartisan approach in the Senate for the past six years.

“Whether you live in Red Oak or Des Moines,” she told the Greater Des Moines Partnership in a virtual forum, “you know that Iowa is not just a place. It’s who we are and what we believe.”

Her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, is scheduled to meet with the Greater Des Moines Partnership on Sept. 23.

Ernst talked about the importance of bipartisanship in the Senate. She said 60 percent of the bills she has sponsored are bipartisan. A Georgetown University study rated her 39th out of 250 senators over the past 25 years with a lifetime score putting her in the top 15 percent for bipartisanship.

Unfortunately, Ernst added, election-year politics have hindered bipartisan action in the Senate, including another round of pandemic relief. She remains optimistic that Congress will approve more assistance for individuals and businesses, including more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program that provided $5.1 billion in aid to more than 61,000 Iowa businesses.

“This pandemic has been tough on our families on our neighborhoods and our businesses,” she told the economic and community development group members. “That’s why I have relentlessly pushed for child care support in our relief package, and it’s why I have aggressively told leaders in my party that we must allow more small businesses to qualify for PPP funding.

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“It’s why I push for everything and anything that supports the nuts and bolts of our communities,” she said.

That includes looking for a way to move an infrastructure bill, Ernst said. A highway reauthorization bill came out of committee unanimously, and there is bipartisan support for the Water Resources Development Act. Add a broadband initiative, and “we would have like a super infrastructure bill.”

However, it probably won’t happen before the election, Ernst said.

Ernst also talked election-year politics, highlighting what she sees as differences between her and Greenfield.

The Democratic challenger has “refused to take positions because she is afraid to tell Iowans the truth,” Ernst said.

“She wants you to assume she’s a scrappy farm kid or a voice of small business, but, unfortunately, she is bankrolled by coastal elitists who don’t have Iowa’s best interests at heart.”

Responding to a question about campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, Ernst said Greenfield, who says she doesn’t take money from political action committees, has accepted donations from lobbyists and executives of pharmaceutical companies.

“I always put Iowa first,” she said. “I will always put our farm families first, our hardworking moms and dads, certainly our veterans because I’ve worn those boots, and I will always be a tireless fighter for our children, our women, and those that are survivors of domestic violence and abuse.”

Ernst and Greenfield are scheduled meet in a debate hosted by Iowa PBS at 7 p.m. Sept. 28. The hourlong debate will be aired live on Iowa PBS and streamed online at www.IowaPBS.org, YouTube and Facebook.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

 

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