Joni Ernst, 46, was elected to the U.S. Senate to represent Iowa during the 2015 midterm elections after a term in the Iowa State Senate. She’s the first woman ever elected to represent the Hawkeye State in Congress and the first female veteran ever to serve in the Senate. Prior to pursuing politics, Ernst was a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and served in Kuwait during the Iraq War. She retired from the military in 2015.
Ernst first gained national attention during her senate campaign for her famous “Squeal” commercial, in which she would make Washington politicians squeal just like the pics she castrated while growing up on a farm. She’s in the spotlight once again after Donald Trump tweeted that he met with her on July 4 in New Jersey, leading to speculation that she’s being considered for his running mate.
Here’s a look at how Ernst stands on several major issues.
1. Ernst Has an ‘A’ Rating from the NRA
Ernst has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association and even earned the group’s endorsement before she won the Republican nomination for Senate in May 2014, MSNBC reported. During a 2012 NRA rally, Ernst said, “I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from a government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”
After the Orlando mass shooting in June, the Senate once again considered gun control measures, including banning suspected terrorists from obtaining guns. These measures failed, with both Ernst and Senator Chuck Grassley voting against them. Enst told the Globe Gazette in Iowa that she believes Democrats were avoiding “addressing the real problem of radical Islamic terrorism,” adding that, “The Democrat leadership has taken their eyes off the ball and is trying to turn this tragedy into another debate about guns.”
Ernst did vote for the Johnson Amendment, which would have kept suspected terrorists from obtaining a gun for up to 23 business days so the FBI could investigate the suspect. According to her website, Ernst believes that this would preserve due process, since terrorist watch lists might be flawed.
“I have voted numerous times in support of measures that prohibit terrorists’ ability to obtain a gun,” she said. “However, the multiple terrorist watch lists kept by the government are flawed, which is why we must also make certain that law-abiding Americans’ Second Amendment and constitutional due process rights are protected.”
The NRA has praised Ernst because she opposes universal background checks, a federal gun database and an EPA ban on traditional ammunition.
2. Ernst Supported an Iowa State Amendment to Ban Gay Marriage
In 2013, the Des Moines Register reported that Ernst co-sponsored a bill to create a constitutional amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. She was among 18 Republicans to co-sponsor the bill.
During a primary debate in May 2014, Ernst said that she believes marriage is a decision that should be made by the state and voters.
“I do believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, and I also believe that this is a state’s right,” Ernst said. “And I have a record of this here in the state of Iowa. It is up to the people to make that decision, so allow the states to make that decision.”
However, Ernst did say she would support a federal ban if one came up for a vote.
3. She is Pro-Life & Would Support Federal Personhood Amendment
Ernst is pro-life and says she supports legislation that would ban abortions after five months of pregnancy. She also supports taking taxpayer money away from Planned Parenthood. While running for the senate nomination, she told the Souix City Journal that she is a pro-life candidate.
“I do believe in protecting life and I do believe most Iowans do believe in protecting life, and so I will continue to stand by that,” she said. “I am a pro-life candidate, and this has been shaped by my religious beliefs over the years so I support that.”
As Bloomberg notes, Ernst also said she would support a federal personhood amendment, which would give a fetus legal protection from the moment of conception. She also voted for a similar measure in the Iowa Senate.
4. She Believes States Should Protect Their Natural Resources & Supported the Keystone XL Pipeline
While running for Senate, Ernst admitted that climates may change but she hasn’t seen enough evidence to prove it is man-made.
“Yes, we do see climates change but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that’s been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made… but I do think we can educate people to make good choices,” she told the Des Moines Register in the above video.
Ernst also said that she wants to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. On her website, she insists that the decisions the EPA makes “would be better addressed by state officials, because these individuals have the best understanding of their states’ unique environmental and energy challenges.”
Ernst also pushed for the Keystone XL Pipeline construction, which President Barack Obama ultimately rejected. In her response to the 2015 State of the Union Address, Ernst said the bill would have created jobs with “minimal environmental impact.”
The President’s own State Department has said Keystone’s construction could support thousands of jobs and pump billions into our economy, and do it with minimal environmental impact. We worked with Democrats to pass this bill through the House. We’re doing the same now in the Senate. President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill, or block good American jobs?
Ernst also brought up the Agenda 21 conspiracy during her senate campaign. Agenda 21 is a United Nations Sustainable Development treaty written in 1992. Ernst suggested at a January 2014 GOP forum in Iowa, that the treaty could force Iowans to move.
“I don’t think that the U.N. Agenda 21 is a threat to Iowa farmers,” Ernst later told Yahoo News. “I think there are a lot of people that follow that issue in Iowa. It may be something that is very important to them, but I think Iowans are very smart and that we have a great legislature here, we have a very intelligent governor, and I think that we will protect Iowans.”
5. Ernst Wants a Balanced Federal Budget
In July 2014, Ernst was asked to give the weekly Republican Party address, she called for a balancing of the federal budget and still wants to see that happen. “We must cut this out of control spending and ensure that spending constraints are in place if we are going to get our debt under control,” she wrote on her site.
One of her most recent efforts to limit government spending came when she introduced the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act to limit how much money is spent on presidents. It already passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Overall, Ernst supports giving more power to the states. She also said in her campaign that she wanted to eliminate the Department of Education and still believes that education should be handled at the state level. She’s been critical of Obamacare and even vowed to take a shot at it in a campaign ad. She has co-sponsored a repeal of Obamacare.