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Ernst: Bring Our Hostages Home Now

“American lives are on the line, and now is the time for choosing.”

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) spoke on the Senate floor, calling on the United States to put more pressure on Iran-backed Hamas to free the six Americans held hostage in Gaza.

Ernst recalled meeting with the hostage families after their loved ones were taken by Hamas on October 7. Armed with their stories, she recounted returning to the Middle East leading a bipartisan, bicameral delegation solely focused on bringing our citizens home.



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Ernst’s full remarks:

“These are the faces of the six Americans who have been at the mercy of Iran-backed Hamas for over 100 days.

“They are brothers, sons, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers.

“They range in age from 18 to 62.

“Their families have been sick with worry, they’ve been sick with fear, day after day, not knowing whether their loved ones are even alive.

“As they cry out for answers and action, the families have once again returned to Congress, looking for hope and looking for leadership.

“These requests should not go unanswered.

“During Hamas's October 7th terrorist assault on Israel, I was in the Middle East, leading a bicameral, bipartisan delegation to bring a message of peace and optimism for further normalization in the region.

“But Hamas shattered this dream for millions in the region and beyond.

“We woke up to this terrible news on October 7th, knowing that the world was altered, and plans had changed.

“The delegation unanimously agreed that we needed to go into Israel immediately, as the first group on the ground to stand with our ally in the face of this devastation.

“In Israel, we met with families in anguish after Hamas had taken our citizens, American citizens, hostage and had killed over 30 Americans in the initial assault.

“Since then, I have remained in constant contact with these hostage families.

“I heard their calls on behalf of their loved ones: Bring them home! Bring them home now!

“The response has only been words.

“Where is the action from this administration?

“And where is the outrage from our fellow Americans?

“Still, over 100 days later, many do not know the status of their loved ones.

“That's why I returned, with the same delegation from October, plus one, to the region at the beginning of this year.

“To build upon our work and press for the release of our American hostages.

“To tell the families and the heads of state in the region that the safe return of hostages is our number one priority.

“Back in Israel, we saw firsthand the impact of Hamas's brutality at Kibbutz Nir Oz – a place that pre-October 7th, could be described as an oasis in the desert – a gentle farming community of peace-loving people.

“We were guided through the wreckage by a gentleman, who called this Kibbutz home and whose own son is an American being held hostage.

“In this community of peace-lovers, Hamas burned homes, terrorized children. They killed the innocent, put bullets into bedrooms and violated the very foundation of peace that the Kibbutz stood for.

“Armed with the heart-wrenching stories from each of the hostage families, our delegation traveled to Egypt, to Qatar, and Bahrain.

“Our message was clear: bring Americans home.

“This was the message I delivered to the senior leaders and hostage negotiators in each of those countries – it is a message backed by the entire bicameral, bipartisan delegation.

“We pressed our partners in the region to bring Hamas back to the negotiating table and release our citizens immediately.

“Still, we must do more.

“These hostage families deserve answers immediately.

“And it is clear they are desperately looking for action from President Biden and his team.

“Shockingly, we are witnessing the absolute wrong action from the Biden administration staff.

“As American hostages sit in Gaza in tunnels, captives of Hamas, some of the Biden administration staff are staging walkouts and demanding a cease-fire with Hamas.

“It is unbelievable they are standing up for terrorists torturing our American brothers and sisters.

“Without a doubt, these staff members should be fired.

“Where is their outrage against Hamas?

“Where is the protest demanding that Hamas release their fellow citizens?

“In the face of the vacuum created by this administration, Congress has a role to play in bringing Americans home – and that’s a role that I have stepped into.

“And congressional pressure is working.

“Already, the world is witnessing some of the effects of this call to action.

“After meeting with leaders in Qatar, Qatari negotiators reportedly paved the way for Israel to send medicine to the hostages in Gaza for the first time since October 7th.

“I am glad to see Qatar has responded to our calls to action. However, this is only a first and a very modest step.

“More action is required, and I will continue to fight to get Americans home immediately.

“After all, every day that Hamas holds Americans captive is a win for evil.

“That is why I will continue to hold our partners' feet to the fire to reunite families.

“I encourage every member in this body and every American to join me in pressuring Hamas to free our citizens.

“American lives are on the line, and folks, now is a time for choosing.

“As these hostage families call out for the strength of America to reunite them with their loved ones, there should only be one response:

“Bring our hostages home now!