Sen. Joni Ernst returned from Washington, D.C. today for a final week of campaigning on the heels of a Supreme Court confirmation vote that took precedence over delivering a much-needed coronavirus stimulus package.
Rather than hold a large event of her own, Ernst will join President Donald Trump tonight in Omaha, Nebraska for a “Make America Great Again Victory Rally.” Ernst did not attend Trump’s Oct. 14 Des Moines rally because the Senate Judiciary Committee was in the midst of Supreme Court confirmation hearings. New York Times coronavirus data show Nebraska with the ninth-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita currently, with more than 5,500 cases reported in the last seven days.
Ernst’s return to the campaign trail comes in the wake of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Barrett’s confirmation marked the first time since 1869 a justice received no votes from the Senate’s minority party. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican on Monday to vote against Barrett.
While Ernst has praised Barrett as a “brilliant legal scholar,” a “constitutional jurist” and a sterling example of “what a mom can do,” Democrats seized on the vote as another example of Ernst putting “party loyalty ahead of her responsibility to Iowans.”
“Instead of passing a robust phase four stimulus package to get hardworking Iowans the help we urgently need,” Theresa Greenfield said in a statement, “Ernst spent the last month doing exactly what she promised not to — flip-flopping on her pledge not to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year and rushing to confirm a nominee to a lifetime seat while Iowans are already voting, putting Iowa’s Medicaid expansion and protections for Iowans with pre-existing conditions at greater risk than ever before.
“Senator Ernst’s vote this evening is another reminder that health care is on the ballot this year,” Greenfield said, “and that we can’t trust Ernst to put Iowa first.”
Votes are not scheduled again until Nov. 9, when senators will vote on another of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s district court nominees. Barrett’s confirmation marked the 220th judge or justice McConnell has shepherded through the Senate since Donald Trump won the presidency four years ago.
While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have tried to negotiate a coronavirus stimulus package, McConnell has been absent from the discussions. McConnell’s tenure as majority leader always has been about reshaping the federal judiciary, and the coronavirus pandemic proved no impediment.
Last week, reporting emerged that McConnell had told the White House to end coronavirus stimulus negotiations with Pelosi over “concerns there would not be enough GOP votes to back a package and worries that voting on such legislation could negatively affect the timing” of Barrett’s confirmation vote.
“What we can do, consistent with the Constitution, consistent with the fact that this is a Republican president and a Republican Senate, is confirm the vacancy to the Supreme Court,” McConnell said Monday night on Fox News when asked about stimulus negotiations, saying Pelosi “has not been able to agree to anything remotely reasonable.”
Knowing there are members in the Senate Republican caucus who do not want to spend trillions more combating the pandemic, McConnell was content to plow ahead with a vote he knew the GOP would support.
“As Senator Ernst enthusiastically put Iowans’ health care at risk amid a pandemic, she’s done nothing as Mitch McConnell shut down bipartisan negotiations on phase four COVID-19 relief,” Iowa Democratic Party chair Mark Smith said in a statement. “Senator Ernst’s partisan politics as Iowans face the worst crisis in a generation are inexcusable and outrageous. As voters cast their ballots over these final days, they will remember how Senator Ernst left us behind when she went to Washington.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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