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Sen. Joni Ernst hosted a conference call with the press on Thursday morning. She started the call by expressing her deepest sympathies for Iowa’s first victim of the Coronavirus.

She noted Congress is working through getting aide to Americans in this time of crisis. Ernst said Phase 1 of the relief was a “major” piece of legislation passed earlier this month. It added additional resources to federal, state and local partners and health officials. Last week Phase 2 was finished and passed. Ernst said it was another major piece of legislation to help families, workers and seniors. It provided free COVID-19 diagnostic testing and increased access to “vital” nutrition and food for children and seniors while also providing emergency paid sick leave for workers.

Late last night, the Senate finalized Phase 3. Ernst said she’s spent a lot of time on the phone the last few days speaking directly with Iowans to make sure their voices are heard. The resounding message from Iowans was relief is needed and it is needed now.

“Our country is in a time of crisis,” Ernst said. “We in Congress have a duty to act. The Senate stepped up in this time of crisis and delivered. The House must do their job and pass this bipartisan bill quickly and get it to President Trump’s desk. We don’t have time to delay.”

Ernst said this is the largest package ever passed in United States history, totaling nearly $2 trillion. She cited U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who said he’d love to see the aide available by the end of April.

“We are very hopeful,” Ernst said. “Now, it’s up to the House to act in a quick manner.”

The House, Ernst said, has been on break and has been gone from D.C. for over a week. She said there is hope the bill passes through the House with unanimous consent. If not, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to bring all of the House members back.

“I hope they will agree that America needs this relief now and that they will allow it to pass without bringing all of those members back,” Ernst said. “We need it now.”

Ernst addressed concerns from Republicans who criticize the bill for including elements that have nothing to do with the Coronavirus.

“Holding firmer and delaying a package is not what we wanted to do,” she said. “Certainly I hope (the critics are) very thankful that we did not pass what Speaker Pelosi was proposing by inserting the Green New Deal, emission standards for our airlines, same-day voter registration nationwide, federalizing the election system — there were so many unrelated issues that the House members wanted to put into this bill and that’s what delayed us several days.”

Senate Democrats, Ernst said, were not willing to stand with Senate Republicans and demand the bill focus on the Coronavirus.

“A few minor items in the overall package did get slipped into the bill,” she said. “We know that, we understand that, but it was a way that we could get Democrats to agree to move the bill forward. This is a pandemic, so arguing, nicking and diming at a time like this is unwarranted when we have a carefully crafted package that will provide relief to Iowans and all Americans.”

Ernst noted that nearly 42,000 Iowans filed as new applicants for unemployment, which she called unprecedented.

“We want to be fiscally responsible, but certainly in a time like this, when America is at a crisis point, we need to make sure that we’re getting that relief out,” she said. “In order to meet that 60-vote threshold, we had to entice some of those Democrats to vote for it.”

Ernst was asked for her thoughts about the need for increased testing kits.

“The sooner that we can get those kits in, absolutely more is better,” she said. “That has been an issue in the past and a lot of those resources are being directed to the states and the areas that are hardest hit. They do have to prioritize.”

“I love the President’s optimism,” Ernst said. “I really do appreciate that and I think the sentiment is out there across America that if it were possible, we’d love to see it. I think it’s best that we turn to the folks at the CDC as well as Dr. Fauci and listen to those medical professionals and use their determination as our guidepost.”

Ernst said she’d like to see life go back to whatever normal will be sooner rather than later, but it cannot come at the expense of not protecting American families.

“If we still see that there is extraordinary risk out there, then we need to abide by those medical providers’ recommendations,” Ernst said.

Ernst was asked about continued abortions taking place across the country despite requests non-essential medical services slow. She was asked if she thought the federal government could step in and do anything about that situation.

“I don’t think that there is a way that we could step into those types of services,” Ernst said. “Those are independent agencies. If they are still providing abortions, then I just need to tell them please understand that you are using personal protection equipment to perform those abortions that could be used for treating victims of Coronavirus. Everyone knows how I feel about life, I’m very pro-life, but certainly, this is a time where we need to be stepping up and making sure we’re protecting the lives of Iowans and Americans through this pandemic.”

Author: Jacob Hall