Freshman GOP Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) did not oppose President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty in her State of the Union response on Tuesday evening.
Ernst claimed that the “new Republican Congress you just elected” has “heard the message you sent in November–loud and clear.”
“And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country,” she claimed.
The Republican establishment elevated Ernst’s profile by choosing her to deliver the State of the Union response, and she ignored arguably the loudest message midterm voters sent lawmakers. Aware that the illegal immigration issue was hurting Democrats last year, incumbent Senate Democrats in red states who eventually went on to lose their races begged Obama to delay his executive amnesty until after the midterms. Seventy-five percent of voters in the midterm election voters rejected Obama’s executive amnesty in one poll while another 80% did not want foreign workers taking jobs from Americans. But Ernst only passingly mentioned that Republicans would work to “correct executive overreach” without mentioning illegal immigration, border security, or executive amnesty.
Ernst instead focused on “stagnant wages and lost jobs,” which illegal immigration only exacerbates, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and approving the Keystone pipeline.
“We see the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children,” she said. “Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”
She spoke of tearing down “trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific” so “we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.” And she called for tax reform.
“Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending,” she continued.
Ernst, an Iraq War veteran, also called for a more “comprehensive plan” to defeat terrorism after the recent terrorist attacks in France, Nigeria, Canada and Australia.
“For two decades, I’ve proudly worn our nation’s uniform: today, as a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. While deployed overseas with some of America’s finest men and women, I’ve seen just how dangerous these kinds of threats can be,” she said. “The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.”
And Ernst, whose biography has always resonated on the campaign trail, introduced herself to America with stories from her Iowa childhood.
“As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees,” she said.
Ernst also revealed that because she “only had one good pair of shoes” growing up, “my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry” on rainy days.”
“But I was never embarrassed,” she said.” Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet.” She said their parents did not have much but worked hard for what they did have.
Ernst received the support of Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney in addition to the Chamber of Commerce and the Senate Conservatives Fund en route to her 2014 Iowa Senate primary win. With her famous hog castration ad, she promised to make Washington, D.C. “squeal.” But during an Iowa Senate debate last fall, Ernst said that she would not support repealing Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers.
Last year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the House Republican Conference Chair, responded to Obama’s State of the Union by pushing for immigration reform legislation while letting Obama off the hook by not even mentioning Benghazi, the IRS’s targeting of conservatives, and Obama’s executive amnesty for certain DREAMers.