Ernst finds a spot in D.C.

Source: The Daily Iowan

By Rebecca Morin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Fridays, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sends a little Iowa hospitality — popcorn specially popped from a personal machine in her office located in Russell Senate Building — down the hall to the Military Liaison Offices.

Ernst, who is the first woman veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, told The Daily Iowan in an interview at her offices at the Russell Senate Building in Washington D.C. that she makes it a point to go down to the office and say thank you to those who served for the United States.

“I physically go in and say ‘thank you for what you do,’ and they’ve told me that ‘you’re the only senator that has ever been in here,’” she said. “I think it’s important, that’s who we are, we want to show people that we care a lot about them. They don’t get that from the Washington regulars, they will get it from our office.”

It’s been almost a year and half since Ernst began her tenure as Iowa’s newly elected senator, following the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Ernst was thrust into the limelight her first few weeks on the job in 2015.

She was the state’s first woman senator; she presided over Congress during discussions of the Keystone XL pipeline; she delivered the GOP response to the State of the Union.

Since then, however, Iowa’s freshman senator has shied away from the spotlight.

Instead, the 45-year-old has focused on bills and resolutions on education — where she was a part of passing a bipartisan bill called Every Student Succeeds Act, a transportation infrastructure bill that was signed by President Obama — and working with the Veterans Association through her duties on the Armed Services Committee.

Ernst said there is an expectation of a “good ol’ boy” network but has found that not true, noting how she got senators to sign on to a resolution her waters of the U.S. expanded definition.

“I think if you’ve willing to work hard, they don’t say ‘oh she’s one of the six Republican women’ or ‘one of the 20 women in the Senate,’ but that she’s a productive member of the Senate,” she said.

In addition, she said her experience serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, has allowed her to bring in a new perspective when generals speak to the Armed Services committee.

“Often, you hear from four-star generals, they’re far removed from normal Joe Snuffy that is out serving in the United States Army, or as an airman or a sailor, and sometimes I have to remind them this is how it’s impacting Spc. Smith on the ground.”

Jeff Jorgenson, GOP county chairman of Pottawattamie County, said a lot is expected from Ernst, especially in preparing to one day be Iowa’s senior senator.

“Sen. Grassley at some point will be retiring,” he said. “And she is going to be the senior senator. We expect her to follow in the footsteps of Sen. Grassley with a lot of the positions he has taken in the past years.”

Jorgenson added he hopes she aligns with Grassley’s positions on the Second Amendment and religious liberty.

“I think she’s up for the task; I really do,” he said.