WASHINGTON, D.C. – As 2017 comes to a close, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today released a series of initiatives and victories she led throughout the year on behalf of Iowans.
“Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with folks from any every corner of the state to hear exactly what is on their mind,” said Senator Ernst. “Across Iowa, folks made clear that they wanted to see Washington get to work, from simplifying the tax code, cutting reckless spending, and growing our economy, to protecting the RFS, strengthening our military, and ensuring our veterans receive timely and quality care. We have made significant progress in 2017, and I am looking forward to building on these gains in the new year.”
- Senator Ernst had three bills signed into law as standalones:
- Six Ernst-led bills signed into law as a part of legislation:
- The Iowa Senator helped introduce more than 25 bipartisan bills.
- October marked the completion of Senator Ernst’s third annual 99 county tour as a U.S. Senator. She held 16 public listening sessions and traveled across the state, visiting schools, small businesses, manufacturers, farms, and much more. To find out more about her 99 county tour stops in 2017, click here.
- The office of Senator Ernst also held traveling office hours in all 99 counties, three times over the course of the year to assist Iowans with problems or questions about eligibility involving issues like Social Security, veterans’ benefits, military affairs, passports, immigration issues, and other federal programs.
- Senator Ernst continued to highlight opportunities for Iowa students, hosting two U.S. Service Academy Open Houses in Cedar Rapids and Johnston for those interested in applying to, or learning more about service academies, as well as internships in Washington, D.C. and state offices.
LEGISLATIVE BREAKDOWN BY ISSUE
- RE-NAMED SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Senator Ernst, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, was re-named the Subcommittee Chairman on Rural Development and Energy.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group in introducing legislation to reform the biodiesel tax credit and extend the new policy for three years.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a resolution that expresses the need to vacate the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
- In June, the EPA, Department of the Army, and Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule to repeal the WOTUS rule.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Agriculture Students Encourage, Acknowledge, Reward, Nurture (EARN) Act, which supports young people in agriculture by creating a tax exemption for the first $5,000 of income students 18 years of age or younger earn from projects completed through 4-H or FFA.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced legislation to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act will provide more resources for partners to expand the reach of conservation projects, while cutting red-tape and increasing flexibility to attract new participants.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen and improve the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Level program (ARC-CO), which helps farmers when commodity prices fall to damaging levels.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst, King (I-ME), Donnelly (D-IN) and Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase funding to successful U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs and help U.S. farmers maintain an edge in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. The bill, the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act, aims to revitalize the USDA’s export promotion programs, which generated a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested between 1977 and 2014.
- Senator Ernst fought for and received assurances on biofuel volumes and the EPA’s commitment to follow both the letter and the spirit of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as well as a commitment to not pursue other policies harmful to our farmers across Iowa.
- Sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt asking him to examine a burdensome regulation that makes it more difficult to sell gasoline with ethanol content above ten percent, such as E15 year round.
- Led a letter along with Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Ed Markey (D-MA) to Administrator Pruitt expressing support for the current point of obligation under the RFS, and urging the EPA to finalize its decision to reject the petitions for rulemaking to change it as soon as possible.
- Joined 22 senators in a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to maintain the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and reject proposed changes that would upend the current successful system.
- Continued to push for legislation she cosponsored that would remove unnecessary regulatory hurdles that keep E15, and higher blends of ethanol, from being sold year round across the country.
- Offered commentary at the EPA public hearing for the proposed RFS for 2018, and the Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2019.
- Sent a letter to President Donald Trump expressing her concern over the EPA move to potentially set biodiesel volumes in the RFS for 2018 and 2019 at substantially lower volumes, which could in turn, hurt Iowa farmers, manufacturers, and rural communities.
- Sent a letter with a bipartisan group of senators to Administrator Scott Pruitt calling for a strong RFS as the agency works toward finalizing its rule on biofuels volume requirements for 2018 under the RFS.
- Joined Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) along with a bipartisan group of 28 other senators in urging the EPA to increase its proposed 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for biodiesel to encourage growth in the industry and diversity in the nation’s energy supply, and to abandon its effort to reduce biofuel production in 2018.
- Met with Administrator Pruitt to express her significant concerns over the agency’s recent action to potentially set biodiesel volumes in the RFS for 2018 and 2019 at substantially lower volumes.
- Received key commitments for Iowa from Administrator Pruitt to support the spirit and the letter of the RFS. However, she expressed disappointed that the 2019 biodiesel numbers were held flat at the bare minimum level that the Administrator committed to.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst is an original co-sponsor of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.
- PASSED SENATE: Senator Ernst voted in support of a balanced budget.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: Senator Ernst introduced the Stop Questionable, Unnecessary, and Excessive Allowances for Legislators (SQUEAL) Act, which would eliminate a provision of the tax code that allows Members of Congress to deduct, for income tax purposes, up to $3,000 annually in living expenses incurred while away from their districts or home state.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst introduced the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act. This legislation reforms the outdated system that provides former U.S. Presidents with post-presidency benefits by establishing first-ever limits on the taxpayer support they receive. It has since passed out of committee and awaits a final vote on the Senator Floor.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst supports the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act. This legislation incentivizes federal employees if they report and help identify unneeded or surplus funds within their agency. Once reported, the bill ensures that 90 percent of the unused funds be returned to the Treasury to reduce the deficit or debt.
- Senator Ernst led a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis calling for the Department of Defense (DOD) to comply with mandatory audits, which are long-overdue by the department. In December, the DOD announced it would conduct the audit.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: The bipartisan Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsored, exempts federal and private student loans from federal income taxes if these loans were forgiven due to death or total and permanent disability.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce the bipartisan Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act to increase the amount of information students receive about federal student loans, including their potential ability to repay, before signing up for tens of thousands of dollars in debt to Uncle Sam.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce the bipartisan Teachers Are Leaders Act, which would create partnerships between colleges and high-need schools to develop and support innovative teacher leader roles.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Senators in reintroducing a bill to prevent sexual assault on college campus – the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This bipartisan legislation would protect students, professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault cases, and provide accountability and transparency for institutions.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is a program that provides matching grants to state and local governments for the purpose of acquiring land to develop outdoor recreation facilities.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst was a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill that would establish a pilot energy efficiency grant program to help nonprofit organizations such as schools, hospitals, and religious organizations improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and generate renewable energy.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline project was finally approved under the Trump administration to help create good jobs for the middle class and help become more energy independent by reducing our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: The reality in Iowa is that continuing the status quo simply isn’t an option because ObamaCare is unsustainable, which is why Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017, which was put forth by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Ranking Member, Patty Murray (D-WA), that would improve flexibility, expand choice, and help stabilize state health insurance markets for 2018 and 2019.
- Additionally, Senator Ernst voted three times in 2017 to repeal ObamaCare in an effort to replace it with affordable, patient-centered health care.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Cory Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act, paving the way for contraceptives to be sold over-the-counter without a prescription. Additionally, Congresswomen Mia Love (R-UT) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- IMPROVING FEDERAL RESPONSE TO OPIOID CRISIS: On November 13, 2017, the GAO released the findings of a study into the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) implementation of regulations that create potential barriers to the participation of local pharmacies in federal drug take-back programs. The report was requested by Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley in March of 2016. GAO found low voluntary participation among pharmacies, citing high costs and confusion over compliance with federal regulations. Prescription drug take-back programs are a necessary and effective part of an all-of-the-above strategy in combatting the opioid epidemic, and Senator Ernst is continuing to look at ways to increase participation moving forward.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst re-introduced Sarah’s Law along with Senators Grassley, Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). This legislation honors Sarah Root, an Iowan killed by a drunk driver in the country illegally. Sarah’s Law would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take custody of an individual who is in the country illegally and is charged with a crime resulting in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.
- This legislation was partially enacted this year through an executive order, which ensured that those charged with criminal offenses are considered priorities for enforcement.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Law Enforcement Heroes Act, which would allow law enforcement grant funds to be used to prioritize the hiring and training of veterans.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Thin Blue Line Act, which would make killing or targeting law enforcement officers, firefighters, or other first responders an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations.
- PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE: Joining Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Senator Ernst helped reintroduce the Fair Chance Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at securing employment by prohibiting federal contractors and federal agencies from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant until an applicant receives a conditional offer of employment. This bipartisan legislation passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on September 25, 2017.
- RE-INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Grassley re-introduced legislation to grant the Meskwaki Settlement power to enforce laws for certain crimes committed on its land, bringing its authority in line with that of the vast majority of Indian country.
JOBS, ECONOMY, AND REGULATIONS
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which will reform the outdated tax code and provide much-needed relief and opportunity for Iowans. The president signed it into law on December 22, 2017.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN NDAA: Earlier this year, Senator Ernst and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to direct the Small Business Administration to conduct a comprehensive study on women-owned small business (WOSB) participation in multiple award contracts (MACs) from the federal government. This study will address concerns that WOSBs are underrepresented in MACs, and will also examine the participation of all other socio-economic categories of small businesses, including service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and those participating in the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program. This legislation was included in the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: The bipartisan Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsors, would lower federal excise taxes on the brewing industry as well as reduce compliance burdens and regulations on brewers, cider makers, vintners, and distillers.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the Prove It Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to improve transparency and strengthen the voices of small businesses in the rulemaking process by giving the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy (the small business watchdog for federal rules and regulations) an opportunity to ask agencies to prove their regulatory analysis when proposing a rule that may be economically harmful to small businesses.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, legislation that would require Congress to carefully review and approve major rules and regulations issued by federal agencies that have an economic impact of $100 million or more annually.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the RED Tape Act, legislation that would require a federal agency to remove two regulations from the Federal Register for every new one promulgated.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored of the bipartisan Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act, legislation that aims to protect amateur motorsports enthusiasts and parts suppliers from regulations that could negatively impact the sport and the industry that supports it.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Leveraging and Energizing America's Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act, which would provide a tax credit to businesses who hire apprentices.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: The CLEAR Relief Act, which Senator Ernst co-sponsors, is a bipartisan bill that seeks to reduce the regulatory burden on small banks.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst cosponsors the Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk Act (TAILOR) Act, which requires financial regulatory agencies to tailor regulatory actions in a way that limits their burden on small, low-risk institutions.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced a bipartisan bill to hold federal agencies accountable to act on recommendations that save taxpayer money and make government more efficient.
- NAMED SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: Senator Ernst, the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was named the Subcommittee Chairman on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Thirty-seven of Senator Ernst’s provisions were included in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Summary of Ernst Bills Included in FY ‘18 NDAA:
Summary of Additional Ernst Provisions Included in FY ‘18 NDAA:
- Ensures appropriate compensation for enlisted servicemembers. This derives from the bipartisan Leadership Recognition Act which, in part, addresses these discrepancies by ensuring fair compensation among senior enlisted advisors.
- Authorizes the Secretary of the Army to award the Personnel Protection Equipment award of the Army to former members of the Army. The Personnel Protection Equipment award is given to servicemembers whose lives were saved by their equipment, such as helmets or body armor.
- Increases the procurement of commercial off-the-shelf personal protective equipment, like body armor. Iowa is home to many companies that build military equipment, and even some who make the strongest body armor in the world.
- Restricts the Department of Defense from the use of reverse auctions and lowest price technically acceptable contracting methods when procuring critical safety items, like parachutes. This ensures the best parachutes are purchased for our servicemembers, not just the most cost-effective.
- Modernizes authority to help the country of Colombia to ensure the country is able to counter armed groups and terrorist organizations. Senator Ernst has been a leader in calling for the U.S. to address the rise of groups, like ISIS, in Latin America.
- Reviews the Department of Defense’s effort to combat the funding of terrorism through the illicit trafficking in commodities, to include tobacco.
- Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to provide assistance to partner forces to support U.S. special operations to combat irregular warfare threats.
- Extends the authority for and increases the funding of lethal and non-lethal support to Ukraine to deter Russian aggression.
- Extends the ban on military cooperation with Russia.
- Prohibits any funding for activity that would recognize the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea.
- Extends U.S. anti-tunnel cooperation activities with Israel.
- Supports U.S assistance to the Kosovo Security Force as it makes its transition to a multi-ethnic army for the Republic of Kosovo.
- Requires the Secretary of the Navy to provide quarterly updates on the progress of the Navy’s Physiological Episode Team and their efforts to combat physiological episodes in jets. Physiological episodes create an unsafe, and potentially lethal, flying environment.
- Encourages the Department of Defense to expand its efforts beyond lightweight polymer ammunition casing into polymer magazine pallets, rounds, and other related equipment.
- Allows the U.S. Marine Corps to award M-1 rifles as trophies for marksmanship competitions.
- Recognizes computer-based human simulation testing Human Simulation Report Language, like that found at some of Iowa’s leading universities. Human simulation research lowers costs to enhance warfighter mobility, survivability, welfare and training.
- Recognizes military paint training facilities that perform painting and coating operations for the Department of Defense, a key program also found at some of Iowa’s leading universities. These training programs save the Department time and funding resources.
- Acknowledges injuries sustained by helicopter crewmembers due to the type of restraints in use. It encourages the Army to use the Mobile Aircrew Restraint System currently in use by the Air Force to reduce the number of injuries to crewmembers.
- Provides a technical change to last year’s provision for companies like Uber and Lyft to have access to bases.
- Supports Department of Defense to start ride-share pilots on base to cut down on DUIs.
- Underscores the importance of protecting the religious liberty of members of the Armed Forces and directs the Department of Defense – in consultation with commanders, chaplains, and judge advocates – to develop and implement a comprehensive training program on religious liberty issues.
- Recognizes the risk of Foot and Mouth Disease, or other foreign animal disease, to our food production economy and our national security. It directs the Department of Defense and Department of Agriculture to analyze our ability to respond to such an attack.
- Requires a report on the adoption of project, program, and portfolio management standards within the Department of Defense.
- Recognizes our adversaries’ use of low-cost Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and the United States’ need to expand its capability to protect against UAS threats.
- Requires a report on the Department of Defense’s implementation of direct hiring authorities for military spouses.
- Requires the Secretary of the Army to transfer excess and unused equipment from the Defense Distribution Depot to Rock Island Arsenal to be used to build new warfighting equipment.
- Authorizes the expedited procurement of a commercially available off-the-shelf item or non-developmental item for a 7.62mm rifle capability.
- Cosponsored a report on the audit of the full financial statements of the Department of Defense.
- Cosponsored an amendment that encourages government entities to relocate to existing military installations with excess space, like Rock Island Arsenal, before leasing commercial space.
- Temporary reutilization authorization for arsenals, depots, and plants.
- Requires the Secretary of the Army to establish a make-or-buy guidance illustrating what products should be made at organic industrial bases versus purchased from outside vendors.
- Clarifies and revises the definition of a commercial item, to address concerns from small businesses who seek to sell items to both the Department of Defense and everyday Iowans.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Senator Ernst cosponsored the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, introduced by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). This legislation was passed in its final form as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, H.R.3364, which the President signed into law. This law directs sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reintroduced the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act. If enacted, it would put military sexual trauma (MST) survivors in control of their health care by giving them the opportunity, flexibility, and discretion to choose treatment options that best suit their needs.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst, Chairman of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee on the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), introduced the DoD Emergency Response Capabilities Database Enhancement Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation that updates a current law and requires the Department of Defense to track cyber capabilities important to national security and domestic response found in the National Guard and Reserve forces within one year.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the bipartisan Leadership Recognition Act to ensure appropriate compensation for enlisted servicemembers.
- PASSED SENATE: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act, which passed the Senate. This bill amends the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 to impose additional sanctions on the terror group.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined Senate colleagues in co-sponsoring the bipartisan Combatting BDS Act, which allows state or local governments to enforce measures to restrict investments in an entity, which engages in BDS activity.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst also co-sponsored the bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from complying with unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by foreign countries and those imposed by international government organizations.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst and Marco Rubio (R-FL), members of the Senate Opportunity Coalition, introduced the Economic Mobility, Prosperity, and Opportunities with Waivers that Enable Reforms for States (EMPOWERS) Act, to give states the flexibility to modernize programs to help families and individuals find long-term success. The EMPOWERS Act would create pathways to opportunity by giving states the flexibility to pursue pilot projects that better address the challenges faced by low-income families and individuals.
- SIGNED INTO LAW IN TAX REFORM: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Investing in Opportunity Act (IIOA). The IIOA incentivizes investment in economically distressed areas by allowing trillions of dollars in private capital to be used to encourage small businesses, support entrepreneurs, and to develop dilapidated properties in zip codes most in need of a resurgence.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Senator Ernst and Representative Black’s bicameral legislation to restore states’ ability to make funding decisions for Title X providers was signed into law by the president. The legislation overturned an eleventh-hour rule issued by the Obama administration that would have forced states to provide entities like Planned Parenthood with federal Title X dollars.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst, joined by 23 other Senators, introduced the Protect Funding for Women’s Health Care Act, which would prohibit federal taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood of America and its affiliates. The legislation ensures that Federal funding for women’s health services is reserved in full.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Joni Ernst joined Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and other Senate colleagues and pro-life leaders to introduce the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The legislation would provide common-sense protections for unborn children at 20 weeks after fertilization, a point at which there is significant scientific evidence that abortion inflicts tremendous pain on these vulnerable human beings.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and twenty-eight other Senators in introducing the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow concealed carry handgun permit holders to carry in other states that allow residents to conceal carry.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored a measure to reverse a last-minute final rule issued under the Obama administration, which would allow the Social Security Administration (SSA) to report certain individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in a way in which Iowans’ Second Amendment and constitutional due process rights could be violated.
- Senator Ernst joined a group of senators in urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives to review an Obama Administration decision that permitted the sale of bump stock devices. They have since initiated a rulemaking seeking to clarify whether bump-stocks constitute a machine gun.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Ernst, Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Rob Portman (R-OH), introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure the American recreational vehicle industry, as it continues to expand and create jobs in American communities, has access to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) duty-free trade program. The bill would more accurately characterize current domestic economic production by requiring a review of trade data from the last three calendar years, as opposed to antiquated data from 1995, as currently required.
- Senator Ernst sent a letter to President Trump expressing her concern over reports that the U.S. might withdraw from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and urged him to maintain the agreement.
- NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (NAFTA) EFFORTS:
- December 5, 2017: In a meeting at the White House with President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Senator Ernst stressed the importance of ensuring that any changes made to NAFTA do not negatively impact the agricultural industry.
- November 20, 2017: Ernst joined her colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking the administration to conduct a robust economic analysis to evaluate how any changes to NAFTA would affect changes to the nation’s crop and livestock sectors.
- June 28, 2017: Ernst joined 16 of her colleagues in the Senate in urging Lighthizer to strengthen agricultural trade as the administration prepares to begin negotiations to update NAFTA.
- May 15, 2017: Ernst sent a letter along with several Senate colleagues to Lighthizer stressing the positive economic impacts of NAFTA as the administration considers taking a fresh look at the agreement.
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
- Senator Ernst continued to highlight and urge the prioritization for funding for the Cedar Rapids flood mitigation project.
- During several Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearings, she questioned the head of the Army Corps of Engineers on working towards a solution for the city. Her questions focused on how the Corps’ cost-benefit metrics for federal assistance favors coastal regions with a high property value, which often leaves rural areas, such as Cedar Rapids, at a disadvantage.
- Senator Ernst also organized a meeting with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to discuss funding for the Cedar Rapids project.
- At an EPW hearing, Senator Ernst received commitments from the nominee to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Mr. R.D. James, to reevaluate and improve the current benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) metrics used by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine which flood mitigation projects receive funding, in an effort to make those funds more accessible to rural states like Iowa.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst was a co-sponsor of the Rebuild America Now Act, which aims to expedite the completion of infrastructure projects, with a focus on streamlining the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Often, the lengthy and complex NEPA review process is blamed for infrastructure project delays, which also increase construction costs.
- At EPW hearings on infrastructure, Senator Ernst stressed the importance of recognizing the differences between the infrastructure needs of rural states and more populated, coastal states. Her questions focused on the importance of transportation infrastructure to the agricultural economy, and the challenges associated with public-private partnerships in rural states.
COMBATTING SEXUAL ASSAULT & HARASSMENT, STANDING UP FOR SURVIVORS
- SIGNED INTO LAW THROUGH NDAA: Along with the support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Ernst introduced bipartisan legislation known as the Educating Servicemembers in Training On Prevention (E-STOP) Act. This legislation would implement educational steps to thwart military sexual assault by mandating in-person, comprehensive sexual assault prevention training, and teaches proper use of social media for newly enlisted servicemembers in all branches of the U.S. military before they depart for basic training.
- SIGNED INTO LAW THROUGH NDAA: Additionally, Senators Joni Ernst and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) teamed up to offer bipartisan legislation to create a career track for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in order to improve expertise within the military justice system. As Senator Ernst explained, “Improving the military justice system will ensure victims of sexual assault and other crimes receive legal advice from well-qualified, experienced JAG’s in the military justice system. Our servicemembers – both victims and defendants – deserve the best.”
- PASSED SENATE: Senator Ernst helped lead efforts on bipartisan legislation known as the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act. The legislation to require amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce the bipartisan Congressional Harassment Reform Act. This legislation would work to combat sexual harassment and discrimination in Congress, and would help bring more transparency and accountability to the sexual harassment reporting process on Capitol Hill.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst helped introduce a bipartisan Senate resolution mandating Senate Members and employees participate in periodic sexual harassment training. In the days following, near-identical legislation passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.
- RE-INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Joni Ernst and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) re-introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act. The Military SAVE Act amends the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to allow veterans who are military sexual trauma (MST) survivors to choose health care providers outside the VA, regardless of certain eligibility requirements.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Senators in reintroducing a bill to prevent sexual assault on college campus – the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. This bipartisan legislation would protect students, professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault cases, and provide accountability and transparency for institutions.
- CO-SPONSORED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the bipartisan Senior$afe Act, which seeks to protect senior citizens from financial exploitation and fraud.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst led Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Credit for Caring Act, which would provide up to a $3,000 nonrefundable tax credit to working family caregivers for qualified expenses. According to AARP, there are an estimated 40 million family caregivers in the United States, and 317,000 in Iowa. Most of these caregivers spend approximately 18 hours per week providing critical support to a family member.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: The Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Joni Ernst and Joe Manchin (D-WV), was signed into law by President Trump. This legislation authorizes the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to begin the process of pursuing the construction of a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial will honor our men and women in uniform, the fallen servicemembers, their families, and all those who have been impacted by our nation’s longest war.
- SIGNED INTO LAW: Senators Ernst and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. This bill was signed into law by President Trump on October 27. The legislation will strengthen penalties on those who retaliate against whistleblowers, add protections for probationary employees, and ensure that federal employees have a greater knowledge of whistleblower protections.
- PASSED SENATE: Senator Ernst led 25 Senate colleagues in introducing a bipartisan Senate Resolution to honor Sailors and Marines who sacrificed their lives for ship and shipmates while serving onboard USS Forrestal 50 years ago, and to commemorate the efforts of those who survived, including now-Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
- PASSED COMMITTEE: Senators Joni Ernst and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) reintroduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2017 (VETS Act). This bipartisan legislation seeks to improve health care access – including mental health treatment – for disabled or rural veterans by expanding telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VETS Act will help ensure that veterans can receive the timely and quality care they deserve from the comfort of their own homes. The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs passed legislation that includes the bipartisan VETS Act.
- RE-INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senators Joni Ernst and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) re-introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act. The Military SAVE Act amends the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to allow veterans who are military sexual trauma (MST) survivors to choose health care providers outside the VA, regardless of certain eligibility requirements. The option to access non-VA care applies to injuries directly related to military sexual trauma while serving in the military on active duty or in training.
- RE-INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst re-introduced the Prioritizing Veterans Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2017. This bill expands eligibility for health care under the Veterans’ Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to include certain veterans seeking mental health care. This bill also grants a veteran instant authorization of non-VA care if the veteran provides an electronic or hard-copy statement in writing that they are not receiving adequate or timely mental health care at the VA.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Ernst introduced S.1461, the Health Equity and Access for Returning Troops and Servicemembers (HEARTS) Act. The HEARTS Act works to give medically retired servicemembers more flexibility when choosing their health insurance plans, and rectifies an unintended burden currently plaguing wounded servicemembers who return to work after recovering from their injuries.
- INTRODUCED LEGISLATION: Senator Joni Ernst joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in introducing bipartisan legislation to re-issue the “Gold Star” stamp recognizing and honoring families who have lost a child or family member in service to the nation.
- Senator Ernst remains focused on making sure Iowa veterans receive timely and quality care: