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

As prepared for delivery

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. 
National Journal
National Journal Staff
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National Journal Staff
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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