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Joni Ernst Throws Down The Republican Gauntlet After The State Of The Union

Arielle Samuelson |
January 20, 2015 | 11:24 p.m. PST

Arts and Culture Editor-at-Large

Iowa senator Joni Ernst soldiered on and kept a smile fixed on her face as she delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.

“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,” said Ernst.

The GOP response followed on the heels of President Obama’s declaration to the nation that he will work hand-in-hand with Republicans in his last two years and that, “A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.” 

SEE ALSO: Obama Gives 6th State Of The Union Address

Ernst’s reply was decidedly less familial. She opened by leveling the power between Republicans and the president by saying, “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.”

With the gravity of the presidential State of the Union reduced to an opinion on par with the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, Senator Ernst and the Republican party drew the battle lines for the last half of President Obama’s presidency.

A freshman senator, two weeks into her term on the Hill, Ernst is the fresh new face of a GOP-lead Congress in the wake of the November 2014 midterm elections. The Republican party has a history in previous years of tapping speakers, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who they hope will present a more diversified face to their constituents.

The first senator to deliver the GOP address in her first year, Ernst has collected many “firsts”- she is the first woman in Iowa to be elected to the House, and the first female veteran to be elected to the Senate.

SEE ALSO: Obama's Call To Action In The State Of The Union

“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 Hardee’s.”

Self-described as a mother, an Iowa-bred farm girl, and a soldier, Senator Ernst was a clever choice for a first volley between parties in the lead-up to the presidential elections in 2016. Her rah-rah delivery helped disguise the continued division, which became obvious in the promise to “correct executive overreach,” following the president’s statement that he would veto bills that set back his administration’s agenda on Iran and immigration reform.

“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… That’s why the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again,” said Ernst.

While the Republican response took the Democrats to task for raising taxes, the Affordable Care Act, delaying action on the Keystone XL pipeline, and the recession, they agreed on more than a few points. 

Both Ernst and the president supported fighting terrorism (although they may disagree on how), preventing cyber attacks, sending more American goods overseas, and better care for veterans (a necessary nod in the wake of the VA scandal).

But that doesn't mean the bipartisan politics are going away any time soon.

We've compared President Barack Obama's and Senator Joni Ernst's statements Tuesday night below.

Reach Web Producer Arielle Samuelson here. Follow her on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.