Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

U.S. Senator Ernst during a conference call on Thursday with members of the Iowa media responded to the attack on Republican lawmakers and staff during a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball game. The attacker wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and four others before U.S. Capitol Police fatally wounded him.

“We are continuing to pray for the recovery of those who were hurt in Wednesday morning’s shooting. And while I don’t know the motives of the shooter, I think it goes without saying that this is a time for unity,” Ernst said. “It is incumbent upon leaders in Washington and across the country to start focusing on ways to unite rather than identifying things that divide us.”

Ernst then highlighted bipartisan bills that she was working on such as the Leadership Recognition Act cosponsored with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  That bill will ensure appropriate compensation for enlisted members of the military.

Ernst also highlighted the status of a future health care reform bill. She said she met with President Donald Trump along with other Senators to inform him that Iowa may soon be without an insurance provider for the healthcare exchange. Should Medica, the sole provider of individual health insurance leave, 72,000 Iowans would lose their health insurance.  She said Republican Senators established an informal work group to build consensus on different ideas, but there is no legislation yet.

“The reality is that status quo is truly unsustainable,” she noted. She said that the work group’s focus is on ideas centered on flexibility and affordability, as well as, discussions about how to handle Americans with preexisting conditions.

KCCI’s Cynthia Fodor asked about protection for members of Congress after Wednesday’s attack. Had Scalise with his Capitol Police protection detail missed the practice there could have been numerous fatalities. Ernst addressed whether all members of Congress should have a security detail.

“Well I do know, and I trust our Capitol Police. We need to be vigilant at all times. I remain vigilant; our staff remains vigilant. Members are vigilant. I don’t know if we are to the level where we all need security details but it does make us think a little more after (Wednesday’s) incident about our awareness. We talk about this all of the time ‘if you see something, say something,’ if something seems unusual we certainly need to raise that to the level of concern that the Capitol Police should be notified. Then they should be able to check into that,” Ernst answered.

“You will see that a lot of us are coming and going as we normally do. But as we normally do also includes vigilance. So we just need to stay alert to our changing surroundings, and if something seems off or different we need to notify the proper authorities,” she added.

Ernst affirmed her support for the special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Congress completing their investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Discussing the new sanctions the Senate voted on for Russia and Iran, Ernst said, “you know I never believed Russia to be our friend.”

She also addressed the overall political climate.

“On a number of the larger issues we see with health care, maybe tax reform some of those topics we may be more divided on, but you can see that work is still getting done in the United States Senate. We continue to work as a body; we got the Iran-Russia sanctions done today. That was a wonderful, bipartisan effort, something that directly impacts the United States as a whole. So we were able to get that done. I announced my bill today with Elizabeth Warren, that is the second bill that we have worked on together as primary sponsors. So you can see that even members that might be ideologically different, we are still coming together to work on things that are important to us. So I think that is important that we keep that in mind. We need to back down on some of the things that divide us and focus more on, even if it only two percent of the things that we will agree on, let’s work on the two percent and then we will find a path forward for the other 98 percent,” Ernst said.

Listen to the call below:

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