Progressives cite Sen. Joni Ernst's votes on judges, question her commitment to health care

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, responds to a comment at a Sept. 2 roundtable in Cedar Rapids. Progressive groups on Wednesday
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, responds to a comment at a Sept. 2 roundtable in Cedar Rapids. Progressive groups on Wednesday attacked Ernst for her votes in support of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, saying those judges support dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Ernst said earlier in the week she thinks the federal government has a role to play in health insurance and believes insurers must cover preexisting conditions. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Progressive groups are attacking Sen. Joni Ernst, accusing her “repeatedly lying” about her support for health care, especially protecting people with preexisting conditions.

Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way, contrasted Ernst’s stated position of support for protecting health care to her votes for President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who have and will continue to rule on cases aiming to undermine the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“She has repeatedly rubber-stamped judges put up by Donald Trump who are there for the express purpose of destroying the ACA,” Jealous said on a call Wednesday. “She has repeatedly voted for these judges knowing full well that they will do, frankly, as they have promised to do, which is to destroy access to health care for millions of people in our country.”

As recently as Monday, Ernst voiced her support for ensuring “that everyone has access to health care and health insurance.”

During a candidate forum with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a community and economic development group, Ernst said the federal government has a role. She favors a federal “backstop” for those who need additional assistance with health insurance.

“First and foremost, again, preexisting conditions — they need to be covered,” Ernst said, adding that she has family members with preexisting conditions.

“I would never, ever want to see my family members or yours denied the opportunity to be covered in a fair and reasonable way by health insurance companies,” Ernst said.


In addition, she said Congress should be “looking at ways we can provide that federal government backstop ... so that people don’t face that financial strain when they are dealing with those difficult issues in health care.”

But Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, said it’s important that voters understand the connection between Ernst’s votes on judicial nominees and health care.

“Who the president puts up for judicial nominations, from lower courts all the way up to the Supreme Court, is on the ballot this fall,” he said.

Also on the call was Susan Blocker, who with her husband owns Mischka Press in Cedar Rapids. After seeing their health insurance costs increase and eventually become unavailable, they now save money by buying coverage on the ACA exchange.

Also, state Rep. Timi Brown-Powers, D-Waterloo, spoke about the needs of more than 70,000 Iowans who have contracted COVID-19 who now have a preexisting condition.

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