1. What’s the most rewarding job you’ve held?
Joni Ernst: “(Being) a mother is my most rewarding job. It’s not a paid job, but it’s the most rewarding. My paid job that was most rewarding was my service in the reserve and National Guard. I love the fact that I am contributing to my state and my nation.”
2. First job you ever had?
Ernst:“I helped on our farm — again, not paid. Then I also worked for my dad doing construction. In high school I worked at Hardees.”
3. Describe your worldview and what role that would play in your decisions as U.S. Senator:
Ernst:“I operate and grew up with a very conservative philosophy. I believe in small, limited government, a strong national defense at home and abroad and absolutely in traditional family values and also a free market philosophy. Really all of those things are how I grew up and how I view not only my nation but the world.”
4. What is the purpose of the federal government?
Ernst:“We have the Constitution. Our federal government operates from that Constitution. So we care for the people and have laws based on that Constitution. Anything beyond that is not up to our federal government.”
5. What books, family influences and/or historical figures have had the most influence on you?
Ernst:“I am a huge fan of Ronald Reagan. I see him as a very compassionate conservative. He was a leader and a strong leader, so I admire him greatly. My family has had a huge influence. Obviously when I was raised and growing up on the farm (I grew up) with those conservative values. In the military (I was influenced by) Col. Ralph Puckett. He was a Korean and Vietnam era ranger. He’s another phenomenal leader and somebody who I know personally. He is awe-inspiring. He was a very young leader in Korea and his men loved him very much because he was a strong leader and he cared for his subordinates.”
6. What are the issues you consider non-negotiable?
Ernst:“I believe strongly in traditional marriage. I believe in life at conception —those are just more conservative thoughts. I am a huge supporter of the Second Amendment. But beyond those more conservative issues, we need to repeal ObamaCare. If we’re talking more about priorities, repealing ObamaCare, creating more jobs and having a strong national defense.”
7. What is the law and where does the law come from?
Ernst:“If you go back in our history the origin of laws I believe comes from our Creator. That’s where our laws come from. Now it’s up to us as legislators to be able to form that law into applicable laws here in the United States.”
8. At what point do you believe a human life is guaranteed the legal protections of being an American citizen and what would you do to ensure those protections are provided?
Ernst:“Life begins at conception and in the (Iowa) Senate I joined either 20 or 21 of us who pushed an amendment to Article 1 of the state constitution. That joint resolution would’ve defined and defended life from conception and I’m trying to remember how we phrased it, but basically that there was an inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development. We should protect that.”
9. A lot has changed under the current administration with regards to the definition of marriage. What’s your position and what is your end game for the debate?
Ernst: “I would continue to defend traditional marriage between one man and one woman. Beyond that I think as leaders we have to set an example and not be afraid to talk about what we believe in. I know many people have other ideas about what they believe in. We need to be able to speak and do it without hatred. It’s not that we dislike anyone who believes different than we do, but we need to be able to get up and say I believe in traditional marriage. That extends beyond our leadership but also to the leadership of our churches and goes back to our family values.”
10. What is your position on ObamaCare?
Ernst: “That is a priority. I do support the immediate repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. But with some solutions that need to be free market solutions. Those people who are making health care decisions should be our physicians, not bureaucrats. A couple of those solutions people have visited with me about are tax credits for Americans who are purchasing insurance on their own. I know there are employers who have those tax credits for employees who are purchasing it through their employers. Also the portability of their private health care. If I would take a job with an employer and receive health care through that employer when I move to a different job or a different physician I should be able to take that private health care with me.”
11. What about illegal immigration and the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill?
Ernst: “I’m not a fan. I don’t support the Gang of Eight immigration effort. First of all we have to secure the border and I don’t think with this proposal it really prioritizes securing the border. Initially they were talking about immediate legalization without securing the border. We wouldn’t really know who is coming in and we’d be providing them with legalization. I oppose that. It rewards people who have broken our laws and that’s setting a very dangerous precedent. But overall my thought is we do need to take a look at immigration reform, but it shouldn’t be through automatic amnesty. We have to secure the border. One thing I’ve thought about a lot is we don’t allow our states to enforce the immigration laws that are on the books, so what on earth should make me or the American people believe if we pass another 1,200-page bill that we’ll enforce it?”
12. Can we prevent more mass shootings at schools, malls and movie theaters through legislation while preserving the Second Amendment?
Ernst: “I know this is something we have wrangled with even at the state level. One, we have to be able to protect people, but we can’t protect people by enacting a lot of gun laws. When we enact gun laws it is law-abiding citizens who abide by those laws. It is not people who will subvert the system and get firearms illegally. People need to understand that. It’s bad people who do bad things. What we have to do, there are issues I know if we go back and look at Sandy Hook where it was a young man with mental health issues. We just need to be able to offer support to those people who have mental health issues and make sure they’re receiving the help they need. As far as limiting law-abiding citizens and their ability to own firearms, I don’t believe we should do that.”
13. What about the EPA, climate change, cap and trade and that issue?
Ernst: “Sure, our climate has been changing and has gone in cycles ever since the very beginning of this planet. Do I think we in recent history are the ones who are changing our climate? No, I don’t. This has been cyclical. There are many things that change our climate and it all began at the beginning of history. The impact we as humans are having is very, very minimal when you look at the span of history. I believe in climate change, but not the way the leftists are defining it. It’s just natural. The EPA is an agency that was put in place to protect Americans, but it is far over-reaching. Decisions are now made within the EPA that limit our ability to expand and create jobs.It really infringes upon our farmers, who are tremendous conservationists. The EPA goes way too far.”
14. What about the IRS?
Ernst: “I think the IRS is an agency that should be shut down. We could do that through tax reform. I do support tax reform and we’ve talked about many different forms of tax reform. I am intrigued by the Fair Tax and with the Fair Tax that could eliminate the IRS. The Flat Tax also is an interesting tax reform option, but it doesn’t go quite as far as the Fair Tax as far as shutting down the IRS. Overall tax reform has to be fairer, flatter and simpler and more certain for families and businesses.”
15. Have you ever supported raising a tax and if so which ones? Are there any current taxes you would support increasing?
Ernst: “Not currently. The one I did support years ago was the gas tax and I have changed my opinion on that. That’s one I wish I could take back. It’s a non-political answer, but it’s one I’d like to have back. I’ve been blessed to be able to visit with other folks such as U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a new senator from Nebraska, and she came from the Nebraska legislature. What she did in Nebraska was dedicate a percentage of the existing sales tax to road maintenance. That’s something we need to look at also. But I think Iowans and Americans are taxed too much. So on the first day I entered the U.S. Senate race I signed a taxpayer protection pledge by Americans for Tax Reform. I am committed to protecting our taxpayers and making sure we are not imposing any new taxes on Iowans and Americans.”
16. What about the NSA and balancing security with our right to privacy?
Ernst: “As we look at this, I am a huge supporter of our strong national defense. Though I believe in that both at home and abroad, we should take appropriate action when necessary against evil that wants to harm our citizens. But as we look at incidents like Edward Snowden and some of those drones, there are things I am uncomfortable with because there is a lack of clarity when we look at different policies such as the drone and some of what the NSA has done. The bottom line is I disapprove of any government intrusion and unreasonable, unwarranted government intrusion that go against our rights. We need to protect our citizens, but we need to remember we have rights under the Fourth Amendment.”
17. What about the situation in Egypt, which has brought to light the issue of foreign aid?
Ernst: “Because this deals with security, I feel very strongly about the Middle East. I did serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom and I know what it’s like with Islamist nations. If we go back, and I’m in no way a fan of the Muslim Brotherhood or the disposed President Morsi, but what bothered me initially was he was a democratically elected leader. He was deposed after about a year. That created a lot of instability in Egypt, however he was making it much more of an Islamic nation and he was persecuting Egyptian Christians.
So again, I want to make sure people understand I don’t support the Muslim Brotherhood and I don’t support the deposed president. We do send $1.3 billion to Egypt every year and at least in the short term I do support continuing that support to the Egyptian military. I see the Egyptian military as being the peacekeepers in that region. At least that’s what they’re attempting is to keep that nation together. They help maintain three things — they help maintain peace with Israel by way of the Camp David Accord, they also protect the Suez Canal, which is important to the U.S. Navy and sees a lot of oil brought through that region.
By having the Egyptian military so strong it also means Egypt is not a safe harbor for terrorists. If the Muslim Brotherhood should regain control, they would be able to harbor terrorists. I support in the short term, but I’m very skeptical about the amount of foreign aid we provide every year to a lot of countries and I think we do need to review all of that foreign aid. We need to look at those countries and are they allies, do they harbor terrorists and are they strategically important to the U.S? And is the foreign aid getting to those who need it, not just the regime in power? We’re in a bad situation and it’s the lack of leadership coming from the top down in Washington D.C. that has really added to this. We should not be at this point in the Middle East right now but we are because we don’t have a leader.”
18. What role should the federal government have in public education?
Ernst: “I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in our education. I would support the elimination of the Department of Education. I do believe that education should be left to the states and to the local entities. We elect school boards, we should have standards, but it should be up to the states to determine how our children are educated. Populations in Florida are very different from populations in Iowa. And populations in Iowa are very different than populations in New Mexico or California. Lets leave it up to the states and local government.”
19. What’s the role of the courts and what is or what are some of the worst decisions in the Supreme Court’s history?
Ernst: “The role of the courts should be to interpret and apply our laws and determine the constitutionality of our laws. So when they’re making decisions they should be basing their decision on the constitutionality of laws rather than whether those laws will lead to good or bad policy. Unfortunately there are times we view these judges as basing their decisions on whether it is good or bad policy rather than on the constitutionality. That is what has led to what I consider to be unacceptable judicial activism. I think of most recently because of my thoughts on ObamaCare that the Supreme Court got that wrong with the Affordable Care Act. I respect Chief Justice John Roberts, but I disagree with him allowing the insurance mandate to stand under their power to tax. What I see from that is Congress seems to be empowered now. They can penalize Americans as long as they’re calling something a tax because that’s what the Supreme Court upheld. This to me seems to be a case talking about judicial activism because they were really just looking for a creative way to advance Obama’s policies rather than ruling on the constitutionality of it.”
20. Favorite politician in U.S. history?
Ernst: “I would say again Ronald Reagan. And someone who is not necessarily an American, but Margaret Thatcher. She was a very strong person in difficult times, as well as Reagan. I look at politicians in recent history and we’ve got some very dynamic leaders, but history will tell whether they’re on the right path and strong and committed.”