joni-ernst-in-dcU.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) addressed a number of topics on a phone call with members of the press this morning.  She briefly discussed the Republican response to the State of the Union Address that she gave last night.  She said last night’s address was not much about responding to President Obama as it was to have a conversation with Iowans and other Americans.

“Overriding last night’s theme and my message is that we do plan to make Washington focus on the concerns, the very real concerns, that Americans have and find serious solutions to the problems that we are facing.  It really is time for Washington, DC to get back to work,” Ernst said.  “That is what we are doing, we are trying to eliminate the dysfunction we have seen in the past number of years, and work between the House and the Senate and of course we would love to have the cooperation of the President on a number of our initiatives.  It all starts right here.  We are at the beginning of a new session.  We are ready to do that for the American people.”

One of those issues, as Ernst mentioned during her remarks last night is the Keystone XL pipeline.  “The President can no longer delay the Keystone XL Pipeline which really does have overwhelming bipartisan support.  We have a number of Democrats who support this initiative.  Unions support this and the majority of Americans,” Ernst said.

She said that the project would support thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the American economy.  Ernst added that Democrats and Republicans are offering amendments to the legislation which she noted signals a change from how the Senate operated before.

“We have an open process now in Congress where the past number of years any amendments by Republicans have been blocked and much of the voting has also been blocked.  We are voting now.  We are taking those hard votes.  We are discussing amendments so that is an important thing to point out for Iowa and for the American people,” Ernst stated.

[Tweet “”We are voting now. We are taking those hard votes.” – @SenJoniErnst”]

Ernst didn’t address many differences with the President directly beyond the Keystone XL project, but in response to a question she did respond to his request that Congress authorize military action against Islamic State, and that they not pass further sanctions against Iran.

Ernst said she would carefully consider she would carefully consider voting to authorize further military action.  She would want to make sure he uses that authority appropriately in responding to those threats.  “I think that if there was an imminent threat out there Congress would rally around the President,” Ernst stated.

She sharply disagreed with the President on Iran stating that Congress has a role to play.

“I am of the school of thought that we need to show Iran that we are serious about this.  I would like to see additional pressure coming from Congress saying ‘you know what Iran, we have delayed, delayed, delayed and we need you to come to the plate and we need you to follow up,'” Ernst stated.  “We keep moving closer to Iran, they are not giving anything, but the United States keeps giving because Iran keeps delaying and pushing off.  How much further can we go?  I want Iran to understand there will be very real consequences if we don’t reach a deal, and reach a deal soon.”

[Tweet “”We keep moving closer to Iran, they are not giving anything.” @SenJoniErnst”]

“There are others who are in a different school of thought.  ‘We need to work through the process’ and they really just want to handle this with kid gloves.  I understand that, and I understand that we need to negotiate in good faith, but at the same time we need to let Iran know that their nuclear ambitions are not welcome.  I don’t believe that their nuclear capacity would be for a peaceful purpose.  The minute we see Iran achieving their nuclear ambitions there will be others in the Middle East that will wish to have nuclear capabilities also.  It is a hot spot, it is a hot button, and we need to address this quickly,” Ernst added.

You can listen to the entire phone call below.

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