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Ernst on shutdown: Congress must come together

Senator speaks on various topics

February 3, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

The Estherville News and other members of the press spoke with Sen. Joni Ernst (R ), Red Oak Thursday about immigration, the government shutdown, foreign policy, and other matters.

Senator Joni Ernst kicked off her 99 county tour last week. Ernst said she had the opportunity to speak with health care workers, people working in small businesses, and had town hall meetings at University of Northern Iowa and in her hometown of Red Oak.

"I was fortunate to talk to people of all different ages and backgrounds. Lots of folks showed up in spite of the bad weather," Ernst said.

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Ernst was asked if she would support a second shutdown if Congress cannot fund the next fiscal year by the Feb. 15 deadline.

"I didn't support it the first time," Ernst said.

Ernst said the solution is a clear resolution and a path forward. Ernst said President Trump has given on so many areas, and has given great concessions in order to allow Democrats and the GOP to come together before Feb. 15.

"There are multitudes of suggestions coming forward from the GOP, but absolute refusal to bend at all from Democratic colleagues. We need to come together and find solutions to keep the government operating," Ernst said.

Ernst has co-sponsored two separate bills to prevent government shutdown in the future. Ernst said there are other continuing resolutions, which would keep the government going in the event of another appropriations stalemate.

One of these is a no budget/no recess bill that states if the government is not operating or Congress has not completed a budget by April 1, and hasn't completed appropriations before Aug. 1, members of Congress are not allowed to travel.

"When we are kept together as a group to continue work on the budget, we would not be able to return to our states and districts, travel with our families, or travel on official business. We would stay in attendance doing our jobs," Ernst said.

"The matter at hand is to complete appropriations for Homeland Security and National Security and keep the government open. Let's make sure as Congress we are providing a pathway forward," Ernst said.

Ernst added, "We saw a lot of families hurt through the government shutdown. The president made it very clear we needed appropriations for border security. The left says there's no plan. There is a plan."

Ernst referred to a 33-point plan created by Homeland Security.

"They have already prioritized work for us. We can look at how many dollars to appropriate, how many miles for a physical border structure, how many new technologies we need. It's all outlined already. Congress must decide what we would like to allocate moving forward and pass a plan that works for the American people," Ernst said.

Ernst said it is the three-year anniversary of the death of Sarah Root, an Iowa woman who died after a car crash with a drag racing drunk driver. The driver was an illegal immigrant. Due to a loophole in the law of the time, the driver posted bail, disappeared and remains at large.

"I'm reintroducing Sarah's law to allow law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants who are charged with killing or seriously injuring someone. We have an obligation to ensure no one falls victim to this again," Ernst said.

Ernst explained how Sarah's law fits in with both the shutdown and with the issue of border security.

"All of this stuff works together," Ernst said. "It needs to be moved as a discussion moving forward. If we're making changes to the legal immigration system, honor the American people by making sure the border is secure."

Ernst said the U.S. needs new technology, additional border security agents, and that people known as Dreamers or DACA, who were brought here as children and have grown up in the U.S. need a path forward to citizenship or long term legal residency as part of the greater package of immigration reform.

Ernst addressed two issues with which she disagrees: Fourth Dist. Representative Steve King's recent comments about nationalism and President Trump's position on Syria.

"Steve King has been re-elected by the people in the Northwest district. They seem to support him widely. What we heard from this particular report was very alarming and at a time we are trying to work through very difficult issues and legal immigration versus illegal immigration. Language that is derogatory toward anyone is not acceptable. We really do need to regulate our speech. Let's refocus on issues, not religious or ethnic difference. If we focus on issues, we don't' need extraneous conversations," Ernst said.

Ernst said of Trump and the pullout of troops from Syria: "There are specific issues I disagree with President Trump and his assessment overall, specifically in Syria. He has stated ISIS has been defeated and intelligence shows they have not. Just after he decided to withdraw troops from Syria, his decision left a service member from the United States dead. Any withdrawal needs to be done in a measured approach. If we are pulling out of the region, we must have the resources to maintain presence and make sure security is as strong as when we were there," Ernst said.

Ernst said she spoke with the president directly in the oval office and voiced her opposition.

"We should be following through as a nation should do to protect its own," Ernst said.



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