Government

Sen. Joni Ernst: No regrets for spending to fight war on COVID-19

Lindsey Graham joins senator in call to supporters

Sen. Joni Ernst meets with city officials in February in Coralville. The Iowa senator on Wednesday, in a call with her s
Sen. Joni Ernst meets with city officials in February in Coralville. The Iowa senator on Wednesday, in a call with her supporters for re-election, said she will never regret her “yes” vote on the $3 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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The American people are at war with COVID-19, and Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran, doesn’t regret her support for multi-trillion dollar coronavirus relief packages to fight that battle.

Congress will need to address spending and find ways to spur economic growth “post-coronavirus,” Ernst told supporters on a campaign call Wednesday.

Despite the unprecedented level of spending to help Americans cope with the public health and economic impact of COVID-19, “I am never going to argue and I’m never going to regret the vote that I took on the CARES package,” Ernst said about the $3 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“We knew that we needed to support our small businesses, our health care systems, our individuals, our families.”

That’s because “if we’re in a war, you do what you have to do,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican and military veteran, said.

Ernst, whose re-election to a second term is being challenged by Democrat Theresa Greenfield, was criticized Wednesday by Iowa Democrats for not spending even more and not acting more quickly on a fourth phase of coronavirus relief.

“Ernst is wasting precious days with political games and legislative charades, while the clock’s running out on working families, farms, small businesses and health providers across Iowa,” said Jeremy Busch, Iowa Democratic Party spokesman.

The GOP’s most recent $1 trillion plan is an insult to Iowans who have lost their jobs and, in some cases, their health insurance, due to the pandemic, he said.

In the 10 days since the Senate reconvened after a summer state work session, “Ernst and the GOP have done nothing but delay critical relief with partisan games and put forward unserious proposals,” Busch said.

But Graham called Ernst “indispensable” in winning passage of the Paycheck Protection Program that provided more than $5 billion in loans to more than 60,000 Iowa businesses. He’s calling for another round of the program aimed at businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have experienced a 50 percent loss in revenue.

Ernst said she is working with the Department of Treasury on making PPP loan forgiveness “as easy as possible.”

Greenfield, she said, has “flip-flopped” on PPP.

“One day when she’s out talking to small business owners, she’ll tell them she’s for it because they are very supportive of it,” Ernst said. “The very next day, she will rip it apart. So I don’t know where she stands on this — if she actually does support the Paycheck Protection Program or not.”

“Theresa Greenfield is the problem, not the solution,” Graham added.

Greenfield, who is promoting her “Small Towns, Bigger Paychecks” plan to help small business weather the pandemic, has called for another round of PPP funding.

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

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