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Senator Ernst visits Linn County
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · March 23rd, 2017

The packed house was divided, as political enthusiasts of all races, religions, and parties, waved signs and raised voices throughout Sinclair Auditorium during a Linn County forum with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Many audience members asked the Senator questions about proposed changes in federal government policies during the Friday, March 17, session at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.

Opposition to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) with The American Health Care Act (AHCA) seemed strong among many, as major increases for senior citizens in the newly drafted House legislation was cited. Ernst said ObamaCare is failing and the process for changing the law has only begun.

The Senator told of a constituent who said she would rather pay the health care fine than sign up for ObamaCare. The taxpayer said she will go without coverage, because her premium would be $400 per month with a $9,000 deductible. Ernst gave this example as one reason ObamaCare is not working for everyone.

Also, once the Senate receives the "package from the House," she said they will "debate it, oppose it, and amend it." She said it is important to consider the broadest plan with many options, as well as pre-existing conditions and keeping children on parents' policies until age 27.

One audience member asked why all Americans are not given the same health care as Senators. To this, Ernst, a retired Iowa National Guard lieutenant colonel said as a Senator, she personally does not "take the fancy Senate plan, but is insured under the military's TRICARE policy like "every other vet across the state." She also said she serves on the Senate Committee on Armed Services in Washington D.C. and is watching the Veteran's Administration closely.

Besides health care, more funding for the US military was addressed. The question was asked if war is more likely with the rebuilding of the US military. As a veteran, Ernst is only in favor of going to war as a final consequence, but an increase in readiness is necessary in light of America's depleted and outdated equipment. Current funding is largely used for personnel, and only half of the current planes can be flown today. Out of "58 brigade teams, only three are fully trained to respond to any issue," she warned.

A stronger Federal Government stance against terrorism and illegal foreigners seemed to please some, while others with a different view emotionally cried out against reported religious targeting and held up a "No Wall" sign during the event.

On the subject of abortion, Ernst addressed the current law where no tax dollars can be used to fund abortions. Planned Parenthood is a major abortion provider that receives funding from the Federal Government only for women's wellness programs they say. But Ernst said the money the company receives is fungible, and therefore could be used for abortions. This is why the Republicans are offering to continue funding only if Planned Parenthood stops offering abortion services.

Ernst also said she supports renewable energy in answer to a global climate change question. Another audience member said he thinks climate change is ridiculous and the focus should be on health care.

Gun violence and drugs were hot topics as well. Too many criminals are gaining access to guns, Ernst said. "We need to enforce the laws we already have," and mental health issues need to be addressed as well. People need access to mental health care including veterans who are sometimes waiting 45 days before seeing a provider.

In addition, Ernst said she does speak out when she does not agree with Pres. Trump. She said she pushed back against the Trump Administration on TPP in hopes of protecting commodities. She also disagrees with him on Russia. "Russia is not our friend," she said. And, in response to a question regarding Trump saying the former Obama Administration wire-tapped the Trump Tower prior to his election. Ernst said it is best to be careful when making statements.

Sen. Ernst received an ovation from the audience for having the courage and willingness to hold the session.
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