Full Text: Joni Ernst’s Republican Response to the State of the Union

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Joni Ernst rehearses the Republican party's response to Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. 
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Jan. 20, 2015, 4:41 p.m.

Good even­ing.

I’m Joni Ernst. As a moth­er, a sol­dier, and a newly elec­ted sen­at­or from the great State of Iowa, I am proud to speak with you to­night.

A few mo­ments ago, we heard the Pres­id­ent lay out his vis­ion for the year to come. Even if we may not al­ways agree, it’s im­port­ant to hear dif­fer­ent points of view in this great coun­try. We ap­pre­ci­ate the Pres­id­ent shar­ing his.

To­night though, rather than re­spond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your pri­or­it­ies. I’d like to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the new Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress you just elec­ted, and how we plan to make Wash­ing­ton fo­cus on your con­cerns again.

We heard the mes­sage you sent in Novem­ber — loud and clear. And now we’re get­ting to work to change the dir­ec­tion Wash­ing­ton has been tak­ing our coun­try.

The new Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress also un­der­stands how dif­fi­cult these past six years have been. For many of us, the sting of the eco­nomy and the frus­tra­tion with Wash­ing­ton’s dys­func­tion wer­en’t things we had to read about. We felt them every day.

We felt them in Red Oak — the little town in south­west­ern Iowa where I grew up, and am still proud to call home today.

As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our fam­ily farm. I worked con­struc­tion with my dad. To save for col­lege, I worked the morn­ing bis­cuit line at Hardees.

We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a les­son my moth­er taught me every rainy morn­ing.

You see, grow­ing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry.

But I was nev­er em­bar­rassed. Be­cause the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iow­ans with bread bags slipped over their feet.

Our par­ents may not have had much, but they worked hard for what they did have.

These days though, many fam­il­ies feel like they’re work­ing harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

Not just in Red Oak, but across the coun­try.

We see our neigh­bors ag­on­ize over stag­nant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by can­celed health­care plans and high­er monthly in­sur­ance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while grow­ing more fear­ful about the kind of fu­ture they’ll be able to leave to their chil­dren.

Amer­ic­ans have been hurt­ing, but when we de­man­ded solu­tions, too of­ten Wash­ing­ton re­spon­ded with the same stale mind­set that led to failed policies like Obama­care. It’s a mind­set that gave us polit­ic­al talk­ing points, not ser­i­ous solu­tions.

That’s why the new Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity you elec­ted star­ted by re­form­ing Con­gress to make it func­tion again. And now, we’re work­ing hard to pass the kind of ser­i­ous job-cre­ation ideas you de­serve.

One you’ve prob­ably heard about is the Key­stone jobs bill. Pres­id­ent Obama has been delay­ing this bi­par­tis­an in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject for years, even though many mem­bers of his party, uni­ons, and a strong ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans sup­port it. The Pres­id­ent’s own State De­part­ment has said Key­stone’s con­struc­tion could sup­port thou­sands of jobs and pump bil­lions in­to our eco­nomy, and do it with min­im­al en­vir­on­ment­al im­pact.

We worked with Demo­crats to pass this bill through the House. We’re do­ing the same now in the Sen­ate.

Pres­id­ent Obama will soon have a de­cision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good Amer­ic­an jobs?

There’s a lot we can achieve if we work to­geth­er.

Let’s tear down trade bar­ri­ers in places like Europe and the Pa­cific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in Amer­ica over there so we can boost man­u­fac­tur­ing, wages, and jobs right here, at home.

Let’s sim­pli­fy Amer­ica’s out­dated and loop­hole-rid­den tax code. Re­pub­lic­ans think tax fil­ing should be easi­er for you, not just the well-con­nec­ted. So let’s iron out loop­holes to lower rates — and cre­ate jobs, not pay for more gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

The Pres­id­ent has already ex­pressed some sup­port for these kinds of ideas. We’re call­ing on him now to co­oper­ate to pass them.

You’ll see a lot of ser­i­ous work in this new Con­gress.

Some of it will oc­cur where I stand to­night, in the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee room. This is where I’ll join com­mit­tee col­leagues — Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats — to dis­cuss ways to sup­port our ex­cep­tion­al mil­it­ary and its mis­sion. This is where we’ll de­bate strategies to con­front ter­ror­ism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those rad­ic­al­ized by them.

We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been re­minded of ter­ror­ism’s reach both at home and abroad; most re­cently in France and Ni­ger­ia, but also in places like Canada and Aus­tralia. Our hearts go out to all the in­no­cent vic­tims of ter­ror­ism and their loved ones. We can only ima­gine the depth of their grief.

For two dec­ades, I’ve proudly worn our na­tion’s uni­form: today, as a Lt. Col­on­el in the Iowa Army Na­tion­al Guard. While de­ployed over­seas with some of Amer­ica’s finest men and wo­men, I’ve seen just how dan­ger­ous these kinds of threats can be.

The forces of vi­ol­ence and op­pres­sion don’t care about the in­no­cent. We need a com­pre­hens­ive plan to de­feat them.

We must also hon­or Amer­ica’s vet­er­ans. These men and wo­men have sac­ri­ficed so much in de­fense of our freedoms, and our way of life. They de­serve noth­ing less than the be­ne­fits they were prom­ised and a qual­ity of care we can be all be proud of.

These are im­port­ant is­sues the new Con­gress plans to ad­dress.

We’ll also keep fight­ing to re­peal and re­place a health care law that’s hurt so many hard­work­ing fam­il­ies.

We’ll work to cor­rect ex­ec­ut­ive over­reach.

We’ll pro­pose ideas that aim to cut waste­ful spend­ing and bal­ance the budget — with mean­ing­ful re­forms, not high­er taxes like the Pres­id­ent has pro­posed.

We’ll ad­vance solu­tions to pre­vent the kind of cy­ber­at­tacks we’ve seen re­cently.

We’ll work to con­front Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar am­bi­tions.

And we’ll de­fend life, be­cause pro­tect­ing our most vul­ner­able is an im­port­ant meas­ure of any so­ci­ety.

Con­gress is back to work on your be­half, ready to make Wash­ing­ton fo­cus on your con­cerns again.

We know Amer­ica faces big chal­lenges. But his­tory has shown there’s noth­ing our na­tion, and our people, can’t ac­com­plish.

Just look at my par­ents and grand­par­ents.

They had very little to call their own ex­cept the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sac­ri­ficed, and they dreamed big dreams for their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

And be­cause they did, an or­din­ary Iow­an like me has had some truly ex­traordin­ary op­por­tun­it­ies — be­cause they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or priv­ilege to make a dif­fer­ence. You just need the free­dom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.

The new Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress you elec­ted is work­ing to make Wash­ing­ton un­der­stand that too. And with a little co­oper­a­tion from the Pres­id­ent, we can get Wash­ing­ton work­ing again.

Thank you for al­low­ing me to speak with you to­night.

May God bless this great coun­try of ours, the brave Amer­ic­ans serving in uni­form on our be­half, and you, the hard­work­ing men and wo­men who make the United States of Amer­ica the greatest na­tion the world has ever known.

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