Joni Ernst Under Fire For Failure To Mention Obama Amnesty In SOTU Response

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is coming under fire for her failure to address what many consider to be one of the biggest constitutional overreaches by a president in U.S. history in her prime time response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Ernst didn’t mention the fact that Obama just weeks earlier announced an executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens that Obama himself has said at least 22 times over several years he didn’t have the authority to do. She also didn’t note that, largely because of Obama’s big government policies, the nation is $18 trillion in debt.

“The president’s unconstitutional amnesty was a glaring omission from her speech,” Rosemary Jenks, anti-amnesty grassroots group NumbersUSA’s director of government relations, told Breitbart News when reached by phone on Wednesday.

David Bozell, the president of conservative grassroots group ForAmerica, blames the GOP establishment—specifically Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner—for Ernst’s failure, since they and others in GOP leadership are intricately involved in the process of writing the official Republican response speech. In a phone interview, Bozell said:

Mitch McConnell and company—what they were put in office to do is put together a legislative game plan and lay down a marker and they ran 10,000 ads promising they would stop executive amnesty in the last month of October alone. Sen. Ernst, with respect to her response, I know she’s a smart enough woman to understand that the voters are not going to differentiate between those who decree executive orders and those who fund them. They were put into office to not apply taxpayer resources toward unconstitutional presidential overreach. If they have any thoughts of doing anything other than that, voters will respond in kind in very short order. The Republican Party specifically in the Senate needs to stop being cowards and stop looking for somebody to bail them out like the Judiciary—as Sen. [Ron] Johnson [of Wisconsin] was quoted in the National Review over the weekend saying the best hope we have is through the Judiciary. You’re essentially rendering yourself useless.

Ernst spokeswoman Brook Hogueson pointed out to Breitbart News that the senator did mention Republicans oppose Obama’s executive overreach as a general matter in the response. “We’ll work to correct executive overreach,” Ernst said in the speech.

But when asked why Ernst didn’t specify executive amnesty in that line—Republicans party-wide consistently hit Obama for “executive overreach” on everything: foreign policy, healthcare, IRS handling of conservative nonprofit groups, environmental policy and more—Hogueson didn’t respond.

Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian hammered Ernst for that throwaway line about nondescript “executive overreach” in a National Review column, writing that Ernst “made no mention of the issue at all, with only a cryptic promise ‘to correct executive overreach,’ despite Boehner’s always-implausible claim that he would fight ‘tooth and nail’ to roll back Obama’s Chavezist decrees.”

Ernst’s speech in response to the State of the Union “is higher profile than the average press conference for sure,” Bozell said, giving Ernst a bigger bully pulpit to oppose Obama’s amnesty if she was interested in doing so.

“This has been the consistent criticism of the GOP leadership operation for the last four to six years,” Bozell continued, adding that the GOP’s multiple responses party-wide makes GOP leadership look like “keystone cops.”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a newly elected pro-amnesty Republican, delivered a speech in Spanish that pushed for amnesty—and McConnell delivered a prebuttal to Obama from the Senate floor earlier on Tuesday that like Ernst’s speech didn’t mention the executive amnesty. Only the Tea Party response, by Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL) in an event hosted by the Tea Party Express, offered any kind of substantive argument against amnesty and in favor of the rule of law when it comes to immigration.

“This kind of keystone cop apparatus would not happen under Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” Bozell added later in the interview. “So maybe they [Boehner and McConnell] grow into these [leadership] roles. I hold out hope they will grow into them, but I really think it’s going to be incumbent upon the new class to show the American people they’ve got the policies to lead.”

In addition, while none are publicly bashing Ernst some Republicans are angry with her failure to hammer Obama’s amnesty in the televised speech.

“The state of the union response apparently was delivered in an alternate universe where the President has not just liquidated America’s borders and the Constitution with a vast lawbreaking amnesty,” one congressional GOP aide told Breitbart News.

“Awesome woman, not ready for primetime. They should have never put her up to that. That was unfair to her,” another congressional GOP aide added.

A House GOP aide said, too, that it’s “strange” that Ernst chose not to hone in on Obama’s executive amnesty in his first visit to Congress since enacting the executive amnesty.

“It’s strange that in the president’s first visit to Congress since trying to eliminate it that the GOP’s official response wouldn’t even mention it,” the House GOP aide said.

Another House GOP aide said that if Ernst’s rebuttal speech was “honest” it would have included a response to Obama’s executive amnesty.

“Most Americans oppose President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration – they feel it’s the wrong approach,” that aide said in an email. “SOTU is an opportunity for President Obama to paint a favorable picture of himself. An honest rebuttal should have included some mention of one of the actions that has most disturbed the American people.”

That House GOP aide added too that Ernst’s decision to ignore the national debt being at $18 trillion is unbelievable.

“I think she hit some of the right notes, but where was her mention of the debt? It was heartening to hear her say we need to balance the budget, but $18 trillion would have been an important figure to mention,” the aide said.

When Ernst was running for office in Iowa against now former Rep. Bruce Braley, she said in one debate that she’d not only be open to tax increases—but that she wouldn’t roll back Obama’s first executive amnesty, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, for so-called DREAMers.

“No, I would not. No, I would not,” Ernst said when asked if she’d repeal DACA.


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