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Ernst talks immigration, telework and more at Boone town hall

U.S.+Sen.+Joni+Ernst+%28R-Iowa%29+listens+to+a+question+from+an+attendee+of+her+town+hall+in+Boone+on+Feb+23%2C+2024.
Katarina Kotek
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) listens to a question from an attendee of her town hall in Boone on Feb 23, 2024.

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) answered questions about topics ranging from telework to immigration at a town hall meeting at the Central Iowa Expo building in Boone on Friday.

Ernst on Trump, Grassley

When asked about name-calling by former President Donald Trump toward members of the Republican Party, Ernst said President Joe Biden also does it but that “we need to stop.”

“I think we’ve kind of lost that [former President Ronald] Reagan-esque Republican that was out there [and] that was willing to talk to other people regardless of party and find solutions that made sense for America,” Ernst said. “But I still believe in my party, I do.”

Sen. Joni Ernst introduces Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley at Jethro’s in Ames on Jan. 14, 2024. (Cleo Westin)

The first female combat veteran elected to the Senate has still yet to make a presidential endorsement but according to previous reporting by the Daily, Ernst introduced former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at a campaign event in Ames one day before the Iowa Caucuses.

The two-term senator serves alongside the oldest sitting senator, 90-year-old Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). However, she said any concern about his age is not comparable to Biden serving as America’s oldest president at 81 years old.

“[Grassley] can remember things from 1984, details of bills that – for heaven’s sakes – I couldn’t remember from probably two months ago,” Ernst told the Daily after the town hall. “So he is all over it. But you do look at President Biden and he does have challenges. That’ll be up to the American people, whether they want to keep someone like that in charge of our nuclear powers.”

Criticism of federal agencies

Ernst told attendees of the town hall that she is “pro-immigration, legal, legal, pro-legal immigration” but said the way federal agencies work is “very, very, very frustrating.”

“Just to even get an answer, even as a senator, to get an answer from a federal agency is like pulling teeth,” Ernst said. “Even when I’m co-writing a letter in a Democratic administration, co-writing a letter with a Democrat, that is the chair of a committee providing oversight for an agency, they will not respond to us.”

Also on oversight, Ernst said there is no oversight of federal employees who telework. According to a tally by the Daily, the senator said “telework” twelve times during her hour-long town hall.

“We have veterans’ suicide hotlines that the calls are not being answered,” Ernst said. “I actually talked to a veteran that had called and did not get a response so he tried to kill himself, but he’s still with us.”

The Iowa State graduate also gave a detailed example of a Veterans Affairs crisis line employee taking calls in a bathtub.

“He was in the bathtub, taking a bath, a bubble bath, had his hairy legs hanging over the edge of the tub actually got caught by one of his fellow co-workers because he took a picture of his hairy legs hanging out of the bathtub with the laptop right there.”

Immigration, impeachment trial of DHS Secretary

In addition to her comments about supporting legal immigration, Ernst said that since Biden took office, 10 million people have entered illegally and compared the 302,000 crossings in December to the population of Des Moines.

“It’s just continuing to grow and grow and grow and we don’t know where people are coming from, many [are] from China now,” Ernst said. “The group of individuals I encountered when I visited the border in California, were from Turkey and China. So yes, it is out of control.”

On Feb. 13, the U.S. House voted 214-213 to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. When asked by Daily, Ernst said she wants the Senate to take up the trial.

“I do think that [Mayorkas] has not used his authority at the border to make sure it’s more secure,” Ernst told the Daily. “So I would be interested to hear a trial or hear you know about the impeachment but I believe that [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer will move on despite that.”

Ernst was not among the six Republican senators who joined Democrats to confirm the appointment of Mayorkas in January 2021.

Russo-Ukrainian war

Ernst said the U.S. should stop providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and seemingly correlated the killing of Russian soldiers to providing Americans with jobs.

“In Ukraine, I’m all about the munitions,” Ernst said. “I’m all about the platforms to deliver those munitions and take out the Russians. I’m all about that, we can do that, that’s American jobs right there.”

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    Sam | Feb 25, 2024 at 1:57 pm

    Ernst is the type of Republican that we need in this country. Candidates that are willing to work FOR constituents even if it involves stepping across the aisle to get things done.

    I come from a family of Navy vets and retirees, and it truly horrifies me to hear that the people who are supposed to be there for our veterans are not only slacking on the job, but actively SHARING that they are doing so.

    Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, it’s important to understand the importance of standing up for ALL of the Americans that you represent.

    Reply