Joni Ernst

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Iowa's U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’s hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation she says will help people facing steep premium increases for individual health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.

About 72-thousand people in Iowa face increases of nearly 60% after the state withdrew its proposal for a stopgap plan that would have provided relief. In this interview with River to River host Ben Kieffer, Ernst says the current situation puts a lot of Iowans in a bind.

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Sen. Joni Ernst told a loud crowd at the University of Iowa that it’s unlikely the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will come up for a vote.

The audience cheered when Ernst said the Graham-Cassidy bill likely won't go to a vote before a Sept. 30 procedural deadline. Sen. John McCain of Arizona announced his opposition to the bill shortly before Ernst’s appearance in Iowa City.

An audience member asked Ernst if the bill could "spring back to life."

Ernst said she can’t answer that.

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Senator Joni Ernst voted against a measure Thursday that lumped federal aid for hurricane victims with budget and debt ceiling extensions.

President Donald Trump made a deal to that effect Wednesday with Democratic leaders. It pairs about $15 billion in disaster aid with an agreement to keep the government until Dec. 8.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Ernst said combining those issues into one bill is "a bad way of doing business." 

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst says she wants the federal government to continue making payments for Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop making "cost-sharing reduction" payments.

That uncertainty has led the only health insurance company left on Iowa’s exchange to propose a nearly 57 percent rate hike for 2018. Medica originally requested a 43 percent increase. 

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

At a town hall Tuesday in Washington, Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst took several questions about the so-far unsuccessful Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some questioners asked Sen. Ernst to support "Medicare for all," while others said they want no government involvement in health insurance.

Ernst says bipartisan groups of lawmakers are working on healthcare solutions after "repeal and replace" legislation failed several times in the Senate this year.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Sen. Joni Ernst held a town hall meeting in Harlan before heading back to Washington from the July 4 recess. Most of the questions she fielded focused on the Senate Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said if the slim Republican majority can’t come together, a bipartisan solution might be next. Some of the town hall's attendees favored compromise.

But while speaking with reporters, Ernst didn’t seem receptive to that idea quite yet.

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Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she is studying the controversial health care bill unveiled in the Senate yesterday.    

But the freshman Republican is not ready to say whether she’ll vote for the measure that reduces health care benefits for Americans currently on Obamacare, and cuts federal dollars for low-income and disabled Americans.   

“It was just released yesterday,” Ernst said at a statehouse news conference, “so we have 142 pages to go through. I want to make sure that I've had time to go through it, talk to my staff, talk to folks around Iowa.”    

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Vice President Mike Pence arrived by motorcycle to the third annual Roast and Ride in Iowa. Sen. Joni Ernst’s yearly fundraiser is a 49-mile motorcycle ride, followed by a barbecue meal and political speeches. 

While speaking to a friendly crowd, Pence didn't address any of the recent controversies surrounding the investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election. Instead, he boasted of the administration’s accomplishments. 

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst told constituents in Elkader Monday that health care has been the biggest topic at town hall meetings, and Congress needs to work hard on new health care legislation.

She says she is worried the one remaining statewide health insurance carrier on Iowa's individual market will be free to raise its prices or will also pull out of the state.

Ernst says there is a new plan in the works to replace the Affordable Care Act, and she hopes it is ready before open enrollment starts for 2018.

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa's U.S. senators are back in the state this week, drawing large, sometimes raucous crowds at town hall meetings. Attendance at Sen. Charles Grassley's gathering in Hancock county was reportedly more than 100. Sen. Joni Ernst drew a similar crowd at her event in Macquoketa.

Some Iowa attendees held signs supporting the Affordable Care Act and chanted "Do your job," and "Work for us." But do such protests make a difference to elected officials?

Clay Masters / IPR

There’s one issue both major presidential candidates seem to be in agreement on. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say they’re opposed to President Obama’s multinational trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the swing state of Iowa, many agricultural groups are in favor of the TPP for new markets it will open for exports like Iowa pork.

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Iowa’s senior U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says his senate colleague Joni Ernst would bring a lot to the GOP ticket as Donald Trump’s running mate.

Ernst met with Trump in New Jersey on Monday, and afterwards said she and Trump had, "a good conversation."

Ernst is reportedly being considered for the number two spot on the GOP ticket.

Grassley says Ernst’s military and legislative experience, and her expertise as someone from a rural, agricultural state would be assets to the New York real estate mogul.