Sen. Joni Ernst says experience in Washington, D.C., has required her to be tough, aggressive, creative

Cedar Rapids Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sen. Joni Ernst believes Iowa needs a “strong and powerful voice” in the U.S. Senate.

Sometimes, the Republican from Red Oak has to use that voice to get through to her GOP colleagues.

Ernst delighted more than 100 Republicans with her story about telling U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to pipe down.

During a state GOP reception for the first-term senator and Gov. Kim Reynolds in the 102-year-old Hughes Family Farm barn outside Cedar Rapids on Friday night, Ernst delighted the audience with her story about Cruz.

Ernst said she doesn’t always get what she wants, “but we can’t take no for an answer.”

That was the case during a White House meeting to discuss ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard. In addition to Iowa ethanol producers, Ernst said Big Oil was represented along with steelworkers supporting the oil industry.

Cruz was in the meeting, too.

“Ted likes to talk. So instead of letting the people we flew in to Washington to tell their stories, Ted kept talking. I finally had to slap my hand on the table and said, ‘Ted, shut up.’

“You really do have to be a little bit aggressive,” Ernst said. “When you have to be tough, even when it’s members of your own party, you got to be tough.”

Ernst and Reynolds answered questions posed by Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann about their careers as well as their plans for the future.

Ernst is running for re-election to continue to work with others to find a path forward as members of the Iowa congressional delegation did to get $117 million in flood mitigation funds for Cedar Rapids after the historic 2008 flood. The traditional approach of lobbying the congressional appropriators and appropriate agencies didn’t work.

“We had to be creative and we found a way to get that funding and get it done,” she said, noting that the city, and Army Corps of Engineers just broke ground on another stage of flood protection work.

Reynolds is looking ahead to the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January, “to continue to work on what we’ve been working on.”

She bragged about ending the fiscal year with a $289 million surplus with all the state’s cash reserves full.

“That’s on top of making significant new investment in workforce development which is critical to this state,” Reynolds said.

Her 2020 agenda will include investment in education and an integrated, coordinated health care system.

“We’ll come back rarin’ to go with some really big and bold initiatives,” she said.