One question has dogged Iowa’s Joni Ernst throughout her come-from-behind election to the Senate: what kind of senator will she be?
Throughout the campaign, Ernst, a favorite of both establishment and tea party Republicans, has given few hints, relying more on her narrative and personal “charisma” than on strong policy positions to carry her to an upset.
But there have been times when Ernst may have tipped her hand. Here are seven important moments to know about as she prepares to take office.
1. Agrees With Nullification
In July The Daily Beast unearthed a clip of Ernst saying in 2013 that Congress should not pass laws “that states would consider nullifying.”
“So bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators —as senators or congressmen— that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line,” Ernst said.
The comments seemed to allude to a discredited argument that states are able to void federal laws that they disagree with.
2. Calls For Arresting Federal Officials Over Obamacare
In a similar vein, Ernst filled out a 2012 libertarian-aligned Campaign for Liberty survey that asked if she would “support legislation to nullify ObamaCare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare?”
Ernst answered “yes.”
3. Buys Into Glenn Beck’s Favorite Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory
At a county GOP event in January in Iowa, Ernst was asked about the Agenda 21 community planning provision in an old United Nations treaty. The non-binding sustainable development plan that was approved in 1992 has become a favorite conspiracy theory on the far right as a sign of an upcoming New World Order. The conspiracy theory is a favorite of conservative pundit Glenn Beck.
During the event, Ernst suggested she’d taken the idea seriously.
“The United Nations has imposed this upon us, and as a U.S. senator, I would say, ‘No more. No more Agenda 21.’ Community planning —to the effect that it is implementing eminent domain and taking away property rights away from individuals— I don’t agree with that,” Ernst said.
4. Claims Ebola Statistics Are Merely ‘Your Opinion’
Near the end of the campaign, Ernst was asked for her opinion on President Barack Obama’s handling of Ebola in the United States. Ernst started out saying that Obama had been “very hands off.” A reporter pointed out that just one person in America had Ebola. Ernst brushed that fact off as just another opinion.
“OK, you’re the press and you’re giving me your opinion,” Ernst said.
5. Insists There Were WMDs In Iraq
In an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board that was flagged by Mother Jones, Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, said she does “have reason to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the intelligence that was operated on. I was at a level to question that.” When pressed in that interview Ernst didn’t back down and noted that her husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that’s a hot-button topic in that area.”
6. She Thinks Climate Change May Not Be Man Made
During a debate, Ernst was asked about her opinion on climate change. Her response, at first, was vague, but she eventually said that she does believe “our climate is changing.”
“But again, I’m not sure what the impact of man is upon that climate change,” Ernst said. In May, Ernst said she had not seen undeniable proof that climate change is “entirely man-made.”
7. She Wants To Repeal Obamacare
Ernst has offered a rather puzzling view on Obamacare. As TPM pointed out, she’s said she wants to repeal Obamacare (like, essentially, every Republican in Congress claims) but also “protect” the benefits Iowans have gained from expanded Medicaid through Obamcare.
It’s a position that’s hard to make sense of. The Medicaid expansion in Iowa came about through federal funding authorized by Obamacare. If Obamacare was indeed repealed, as Ernst would like, then there would be no more federal funding for the beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion through Obamacare.