Senator Joni Ernst’s First 100 Days

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today marks the 100th day since U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) was sworn in to serve as Iowa’s newest Senator. In less than 3.5 months, Senator Ernst has worked tirelessly to meet with and represent the people of Iowa, visiting more than half of Iowa’s counties on her 99 county tour, meeting with more than 1,200 Iowans in D.C., and introducing her first piece of legislation to expand mental health care services for veterans.

Watch the video below for more on Senator Ernst’s work in her first 100 days.

Sen. Ernst’s First 100 Days of Legislative Activity

Major Official Speeches

Delivery of the Republican Address: Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) delivered the Republican Address to the country following the President’s State of the Union address. Senator Ernst laid out the new Republican Congress’ plans to get Washington back to work for Iowans and people across the country. 

Senator Ernst’s Maiden Speech: The Senator delivered her maiden speech on the Senate floor in March with a focus on military service, national security, and her first legislative proposal designed to increase mental health options for veterans.

Authored Legislation

Senator Ernst’s First Bill: The Senator’s first piece of legislation works to expand mental health services for veterans to ensure they are never forced to wait at the VA or get insufficient help.

Senator Ernst Introduced Four Senate Budget Resolution Amendments: The Senator introduced four amendments to the budget resolution:

  • Prohibiting use of taxpayer dollars for first class airplane travel by members of Congress
  • Improving mental health care services for veterans
  • Protecting taxpayers by reforming the allowance and perks available for former Presidents, and
  • Ensuring public comments are utilized more effectively in the federal rulemaking process.

Press Conferences

Members of SASC Urge Administration to Arm Ukraine: Senator Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Senate Armed Services Committee members in a press conference calling attention to the situation in Ukraine, a sovereign nation and friend of the United States. The bipartisan group of Senators urged President Obama to act with this united Congress to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Human Trafficking Legislation: Senator Ernst participated in a press conference with several leaders of the Republican Party encouraging passage of legislation aimed at reducing human trafficking and discussing partisan obstructionism of the bill by Democrats.

Letter 

LETTER – Arm Sales to Jordan: Senator Ernst signed a letter with all other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee urging expedited consideration of the cases associated with providing military assistance to Jordan.

LETTER – Sex Trafficking: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by all women Senators to Senators Grassley and Leahy (Judiciary Committee Chairman/Ranking Member) urging them to hold hearings on the problem of sex trafficking in the United States. A hearing was subsequently held on the matter.

LETTER – VA 40-mile rule: Senator Ernst signed a letter asking the VA to review how it calculates the 40-mile rule regarding the Choice Card program. The VA originally calculated if you are within the 40-mile range by air/direct map calculation rather than by driving distance. The letter asked them to take into account driving distance to ensure veterans have greater access to services closer to home rather than being forced to drive great distances to VA facilities. The VA subsequently adopted the driving distance rule.

LETTER – CoOportunity: Senator Ernst signed a letter with Senators Grassley and Fischer regarding the situation with CoOportunity Health. The letter asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to review options for people negatively impacted by the collapse of the company. Specifically some people had paid out-of-pocket deductibles to CoOportunity already this year and will have to pay such deductibles entirely again to their new provider.

LETTER – Knoxville VA CBOC: Senator Ernst signed a letter with Senator Grassley and Representative Loebsack to Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald and General Services Administration Chief Tangherlini regarding delays and unanswered questions about the Knoxville Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Specifically there has been a delay in awarding a new CBOC lease and the city has been unsuccessful in getting satisfactory answers as to why. The VA responded via email indicating they are in the pre-award clearance process with an award expected in Summer 2015, which means they expect to be able to start seeing patients in the new facility in Summer/Fall 2017.

LETTER – Medicare Advantage Payments: Senator Ernst signed a letter with a group of 53 bi-partisan Senators (including Senator Grassley) urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to maintain current payment levels to providers under the Medicare Advantage program. This program provides seniors a private sector alternative to the traditional Medicare program, and about 15% of Iowa seniors on Medicare choose this option. The letter was led by Senators Crapo and Schumer.

LETTER – Invitation for Afghan President Ghani to Speak: Senator Ernst signed a letter with a bi-partisan group of members of Congress urging House Speaker Boehner to invite Afghan President Ghani to address a joint session of Congress. The letter was led by Senator Graham. Subsequently the Speaker invited him and Ghani accepted.

LETTER – AR-15 Ammunition Ban: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by Senator Grassley (and others) to the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regarding a recent regulatory effort to ban certain types of ammunition that are extremely common. Shortly after the letter was sent, the agency backed down from its proposal.

LETTER – UN Arms Trade Treaty: Senator Ernst signed a letter with other freshman Senators opposing the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty. This comes on the heels of a letter last fall with a majority of all Senators opposing.

LETTER – Des Moines VA Mental health: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the VA Inspector General asking that it look into the mental health treatment practices of the VA Central Iowa Health Care System after the death of veteran Richard Miles.

LETTER – Iran: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by nearly all Republican Senators to the leaders of Iran, articulating that Congress has the authority to weigh in on any Iran nuclear deal.

LETTER – Iraq Shia Militia: Senator Ernst signed a letter to President Obama calling for a detailed response regarding circumstances in which‎ equipment has potentially been provided to Iraqi Shia militia groups supported or controlled by Iran. The letter details Iran’s past efforts to undermine U.S. and Iraqi interests through their relationship with Iraqi Shia Militia groups, and urges the Obama Administration to increase its oversight to ensure Iranian supported Iraqi Shia Militia do not obtain U.S. military support or equipment.

LETTER – Turkish Media Crackdown: Senator Ernst signed a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding concerns about human rights violations in Turkey, specifically regarding a media crackdown in that country.

LETTER – Dietary Guidelines: Senator Ernst signed a letter regarding the recommendations to the USDA and HHS about updates to recommended dietary guidelines. The recommendations included taking into account sustainability of food sources as well as not appropriately considering the impact of lean red meat in diets.

LETTER – DoD Women’s History Month: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by nearly all of the women in the Senate inviting their colleagues to attend a Department of Defense’s Women’s History Month event. Lieutenant General Flora Darpino, Army Judge Advocate General, delivered the keynote address discussing her personal experience as a senior female leader in the Army and how the achievements of women in the Armed Forces have helped break the military’s brass ceiling.

LETTER – Sex Trafficking Zero-Tolerance Policy: Senator Ernst signed a letter led by Senator Grassley and signed by many of her colleagues in Congress, urging the State Department to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding employees who are found to have been involved with these types of situations.

LETTER – American Battle Monuments Commission: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the American Battle Monuments Commission regarding their Floral Fund Program which has provided floral and photography services to the families of our fallen, who are buried overseas.

LETTER – Labor Dispute Impacting Exports: Senator Ernst signed a letter sent by the entire Iowa Congressional delegation to President Obama regarding a labor dispute on the west coast which impacted agricultural exports. Specifically, the seven month dispute caused a backlog of shipments to Asia, hurting Iowa agricultural producers (especially pork producers) and caused slowdowns at food processing facilities. The dispute was eventually resolved.

LETTER – Renewable Fuel Standard: Senator Ernst signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding establishing biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). As many are aware, the EPA has yet to establish required levels for 2014 or 2015 which is causing great uncertainty in the marketplace. This is a bi-partisan letter led by Senators Blunt, Klobuchar, Grassley and Murray.

Co-Sponsorship

CO-SPONSOR – Workplace Advancement Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation regarding the prohibition of wage discrimination and prevention of retaliation from employers against employees who inquire, discuss or disclose compensation information.

CO-SPONSOR – 40-hour Work Week: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation which would change the definition of full-time work under Obamacare to 40-hours per week. Currently the law says it is 30-hours per week, which incentivizes employers to reduce hours to keep the number of “full-time” employees under certain thresholds.

CO-SPONSOR – Repeal IPAB: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation which would repeal the Independent Patient Advisory Board (IPAB) created under Obamacare. This board is made up of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who are appointed by the president and are tasked with making substantial changes to Medicare—without full transparency and accountability to America’s seniors and their elected officials—based on arbitrary global budget targets.

CO-SPONSOR – NLRB Ambush Election Rule: Senator Ernst co-sponsored a resolution of disapproval against the National Labor Relations Board “ambush” election rule. The rule would shorten the time between a request to organize a labor union and the actual vote, putting businesses at an unfair advantage to make their case against unionization. This legislation was passed by the Senate, but ultimately rejected by President Obama.

CO-SPONSOR – Stop IRS Targeting: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2015. This bill seeks to prevent further IRS targeting of conservative groups by reverting IRS standards and definitions for tax-exempt social welfare organizations under Section 501(c)(4) to the standards and definition in place on January 1, 2010 – prior to the agency’s inappropriate targeting.

CO-SPONSOR – VA Accountability: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015. This bill would grant the VA Secretary more authority to properly punish those senior executives who are found to have been involved in the wait list scandal which caused significant delays (and even deaths) within our VA system.

CO-SPONSOR – Welcoming Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding a speech before Congress in March. This resolution reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to stand with Israel during times of uncertainty. It reaffirms this body’s strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself from threats to its very survival.

CO-SPONSOR – Iran Sanctions: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015. This legislation is sponsored by Senators Kirk and Menendez and would impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiators fail to reach a final deal by June 30on Tehran’s nuclear program. This legislation is sponsored by half the Senate in a bi-partisan fashion.

CO-SPONSOR – LOCAL Level Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored the LOCAL Level Act. This bill strictly forbids the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula, and assessments through the use of incentives, mandates, grants, waivers or any other form of manipulation. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) is the lead sponsor of this bill.

CO-SPONSOR – Small Business Tax Credit: Senator Ernst is the lead Republican co-sponsor on legislation extending the small business tax credit given to employers who pay differential pay to Guard and Reservists called to active duty.

CO-SPONSOR – Iran Nuclear Deal Approval:  Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senators Corker and Menendez that requires Congressional approval of any nuclear agreement with Iran.

CO-SPONSOR – Boys Town Commemorative Coin: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation providing a commemorative coin (at no cost to taxpayers) for the 100th anniversary of Boys Town. This legislation was subsequently passed by the Senate.

CO-SPONSOR – Federal Vehicle Repair Cost Savings Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senators Peters and Lankford requiring the federal government to use parts on its own vehicle fleet that are equal in safety, but cheaper than, certain on the shelf parts. The goal of the legislation is to ensure taxpayers are saving more money and that the government is not unnecessarily wasting money on parts.

CO-SPONSOR – Inspector General Empowerment Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senator Grassley regarding the powers of inspectors general within various federal agencies. It most notably would increase their subpoena power to help better ensure they can do their work effectively. 

CO-SPONSOR – Balanced Budget Amendment: Senator Ernst co-sponsored Senator Hatch’s Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. This legislation would require the federal government to have a balanced budget, in addition to other requirements such as a 2/3 vote to increase taxes to ensure that Congress simply does not (easily) choose to raise taxes to balance the budget, and a limitation on spending.

CO-SPONSOR – REINS Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation that requires Congressional review/approval of costly/impactful regulations. This legislation is designed to exert more control over the regulatory process.

CO-SPONSOR – Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation that would develop a special designation for providers that demonstrate strong knowledge of military culture and of medical treatments focused on the needs of troops and veterans. It would create a joint, searchable online registry of providers that earn this designation and update all DOD and VA online provider lists to indicate providers that have gained this voluntary designation.

CO-SPONSOR – Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation to prevent recidivism by encouraging foreign countries to properly monitor former detainees. Specifically, it prohibits foreign assistance provided under the Foreign Assistance Act or Arms Export Control Act to a country if a detainee subsequently appear on the Administration’s detainee recidivist report.

CO-SPONSOR – Campus Accountability and Safety Act: Senator Ernst co-sponsored legislation by Senator Gillibrand regarding sexual assault prevention on university campuses. This bill works to improve campus prevention, training, and support for situations surrounding campus sexual assaults.

Appointment

APPOINTMENT – West Point Board of Visitors: Senator Ernst was appointed by Chairman McCain to serve on the West Point Board of Visitors which reports to the President of the United States on recommendations relating to all aspects of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  These can include: morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and any other matters relating to the Academy that the Board decides to consider.