Ernst Addresses Multiple Issues At Glenwood Town Hall Meeting

Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst answers a question during her town hall meeting in Glenwood on Jan. 5.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst began her 99-county tour of Iowa for 2023 with three stops in Southwest Iowa Thursday, including the Glenwood American Legion Hall in Glenwood.

The Republican senator fielded questions from audience members during an hour-long town hall meeting.

The topics of discussion ranged from the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill passed in Congress last month to the chaos surrounding the election of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
 In regard to the omnibus spending bill, Ernst said both she and fellow Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley are opposed to including costly earmarks into legislation but other senators “are more than happy to support earmarks as long as they’re getting a little something in their community.”

The solution, Ernst said, is to go back to regular order.

“We haven’t gone through a regular appropriations process for years, probably decades” she said. “Everything goes to what we call the four corners. It’s the Republican leader of the House, the Democratic leaders of the House, the Republican leader in the Senate, the Democratic leader – they’re the ones that are ultimately saying ‘ye’ or ‘ne’ on this spending in conjunction with whoever is in the White House. That’s what happened in this last omnibus, so we see unprecedented levels of spending and no checks and balances. There’s a ton of earmarks in this last bill that don’t really benefit a ton of people.

“It should be for the good of the American people when we’re doing federal spending.”

In regard to the drama surrounding the election of McCarthy to the Speaker of the House position, which was still ongoing at the time of the town hall meeting, Ernst said it was “frustrating” and most Americans “were tired of the in-fighting.”  McCarthy was finally elected to the position early Saturday morning on the 15th vote.

“Obviously, I’m focused on the Senate and the House’s business is the House’s business,” she said. “I don’t have a vote in the House and I don’t have a say in what’s going on but there’s a lot of frustration, not just from members of the House but from constituencies from all across the United States. These members can’t even be sworn in until there’s a Speaker of the House.

“We need to get our act together and we need to learn how to govern. Not only do we have all of America watching what’s going on but believe me there are now a lot of foreign governments watching what’s going on in Washington, D.C.”

Another topic of discussion at the town hall was the Waters Of United States rule and its potential impact on landowners. Ernst said the environmental protection regulation is a “retread” of a rule that was originally adopted by President Obama, reversed by President Trump, and now reinstated by President Biden.

“It is very harmful for small businesses and farmers,” she said. “Anyone who is disturbing the soil will have to apply for federal approval. We’re going to keep diving into it but we don’t have that much support in the Senate.”

One member of the audience was critical of Ernst for voting in favor of the Respect For Marriage Act, telling her that someday she’ll regret her vote.

Ernst said she doesn’t think she will regret the vote and urged her constituents to take time to read the 3-page piece of legislation that protects “religious liberties.”

“The bill only applies to government actors. Everybody is like, ‘Religious freedom, religious freedom.” Believe me, I’m an avid supporter of religious freedom, which is why we went in and codified ‘religious freedom’ in words, in language, in the bill,” she said. “That has not been done before. So, it expressly states that this does not apply to private industry.  This bill only applies to government actors or those that are working under color of law.

“An example, with this law, it’s required that that private prison operating as a government entity receiving government dollars allow that same-sex partner to visit that same sex spouse. It does not require people that don’t believe – such as the cake baker – to bake a cake for a gay marriage. It does not require any of that. It does not force someone to accept your religious beliefs.”

Ernst addressed some other matters as well, including her concerns about how Ukraine relief dollars are being spent, immigration problems at the southern border and the impact the closure of the Glenwood Resource Center will have on the residents at the GRC who live with profound disabilities.

Ernst said although the federal government doesn’t have much say in what’s going on the GRC, it’s important that resources be available to support residents as they transition into new homes in new communities.

“A lot of the Medicaid dollars flow down through the state, so we obviously have a vested interest in making sure that our vulnerable population is cared for,” she said.

The Opinion-Tribune

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