Joni Ernst reflects on first year in Washington

Sen. Joni Ernst (left) talks with freshman Taylor Collins during a Republican meet-up outside Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. 

Alex Hanson

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, the first-term Republican who has represented Iowa for more than a year now in Washington, is reflecting on her first year in Congress, saying “she hit the ground running” on issues important to the state.

“The first year was fantastic,” Ernst told the Iowa State Daily in an interview from her office in Washington on Tuesday. She pointed to meeting with about 4,000 Iowans in her D.C. office, introducing and passing several pieces of legislation and completing her first 99-county tour as areas of success.

“I think there have been a number of wonderful accomplishments coming through the Senate,” Ernst said. “I was glad to be a part of a number of those and actually had pieces of legislation that I authored be passed by the United States Senate.”

She also said the first long-term transportation bill that has passed through Congress in awhile, and signed by President Obama, is a point of bipartisanship she is proud of during her first year.

She now moves onto 2016, and while the campaign for president fills headlines in politics, Ernst pointed to a few specific areas she is focused on during the second half of the 115th Congress.

A veterans’ affairs bill on telehealth being passed and signed into law is priority, Ernst said, along with continuing to make sure mental health care for veterans is provided. Sticking with military, Ernst said an overarching goal, not just for this year but for the coming years, is making sure America is secure and focusing on national security.

She mentioned a resolution she authored that would end the expanded definition of the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule used by the EPA, which Republicans have consistently pointed to as an area where government can overreach with burdensome regulations.

The resolution passed the Senate last November, and the House passed it Wednesday morning, sending it to President Obama’s desk.

Ernst is also planning on another 99-county tour in the state, which has already kicked off and included a stop in Ames last week.

As for students, Ernst said she hopes students in Iowa pay attention to everyone running for president. Focus on policy, she said, because students will be graduated and looking for jobs out of school, so it will be important to find a candidate who understands how to get the economy moving.