State of the Union and Joni Ernst response discussion thread

President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address later this evening to a joint session of Congress. Newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa will deliver the Republican response afterwards. It's her chance to make a first impression on many politically-minded Americans who live outside Iowa, and lots of people were reportedly searching for information about her today. This thread is for any comments related to either Obama's or Ernst's speech. I'll update this post later with highlights and Iowa reaction.

Representative Steve King got bent out of shape by the news that a "DREAMer" (undocumented immigrant who was brought to this country as a child) will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama tonight.

#Obama perverts "prosecutorial discretion" by inviting a deportable to sit in place of honor at #SOTU w/1st Lady. I should sit with Alito.

It's bad enough that King frequently refers to undocumented immigrants as "illegals." A person should not be labeled a "deportable." Anyway, under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Ana Zamora is not "deportable."

UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland has a longstanding policy of not commenting on women politicians' attire, but Ernst's camouflage pumps compel me to break that rule. Ernst knows her audience, and whoever designed those shoes is going to make a fortune.

SECOND UPDATE: Iowa reaction to the president's speech is after the jump. Ernst's comments were a barely-revised version of her stump speech from last year's Senate campaign. Radio Iowa mentioned some highlights, including Ernst advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline. Cristina Marcos of The Hill focused on the "folksy" aspects of Ernst's performance, including her anecdotes about working at Hardee's as a teenager and wearing bread bags over her only pair of shoes. On social media I've seen lots of Iowans debating how common it used to be for children to wear bread bags over their shoes to prevent water damage. I don't remember seeing it when I was growing up, but I was a "city girl."

Pat Rynard sees Ernst as a likely GOP vice presidential nominee in 2016. I think that's out of the question, because she is way too inexperienced, and the Sarah Palin experiment didn't work out well for Republicans. Ernst can't be the VP nominee in 2020 either, because she would have to choose between that and running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Maybe in 2024 if Iowans re-elect her in 2020. Anyway, at the end of this post I enclosed excerpts from Rynard's case for Ernst as a VP candidate.

The most memorable line from the president's speech was reportedly ad-libbed.

THIRD UPDATE: Des Moines-based RAYGUN shirts is already out with a new design that reads, "IOWA! YOU SAY BREAD AISLE, WE SAY SHOE STORE." I think mocking the anecdote is a mistake for Democrats; doing so only plays into Republican narratives about liberal elitism. Iowa Rabbi David Kaufman is right: "Anyone who cares for the poor" and "wouldn't walk up to a homeless person and insult their clothing" should not be making fun of Ernst over her bread bag anecdote. That said, it's fair game to point out that Ernst opposes many policies (such as Medicaid expansion or a minimum wage increase) which would help the working poor and their children.

Statement from Senator Chuck Grassley:

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa tonight made the following statement in reaction to the President's State of the Union address and Sen. Joni Ernst's response.  Grassley is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a senior member and former chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over taxes.

"The President and I have major philosophical differences.  Tonight's speech made clear where and how we differ.  

"What I hear from Iowa is that people want Washington to simplify the tax code, not make it more complicated.  Taxpayers expect tax fairness, not tax increases that punish success and discourage innovation.  Farmers are now scrambling to figure out how the President's proposals would affect the transfer of the family farm from one generation to the next.  Parents who budget carefully to save money for their children's education are seeing the President's attempt to scale back the tax benefits that encourage the savings.   A speech that picks so many winners and losers leaves people wondering where they fall in the plan.  It's a demoralizing approach.

"Instead of tax increases and new federal education entitlements that might be redundant, Washington needs to look for ways to restore the promise of prosperity.  Let's foster opportunities that help all Americans get ahead.   This means reducing tax rates, looking for ways to make U.S. businesses more competitive worldwide, expanding export opportunities for U.S. farmers and manufacturers, and avoiding new regulations and mandates that hurt job creation.  It means worrying about an $18 trillion debt that future generations will inherit.  It means focusing on the core functions of the federal government, like national security, instead of finding alternate ways to spend money.  In the new Congress, I'll continue working for fiscal discipline and holding government accountable.  Americans want more good government and a whole lot less Big Government.  They want the most bang for the buck.  Washington should deliver on that.  

"Iowans expect their elected representatives to look for areas for bipartisan agreement.  Wherever I can, I want to continue to honor their expectation.  Cyber security was a big part of the President's speech, and I see that as an example of an area for potential strong bipartisanship.  A previous proposal that I put together with several colleagues included information sharing, enhanced criminal laws, and research.  As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I'm already working on legislation to create a fair national data breach notification standard.  The cost to consumers, businesses and national security is too much for us to ignore.  

"In closing, Senator Ernst is an ideal person to deliver the Republican response to the President's speech.  She brings a new perspective that's welcome in Washington.  I look forward to her leadership on military matters, farm policy, cutting wasteful spending, and everything else that's shaped by her background and fresh approach."  

Less than an hour after delivering the response, Senator Ernst sent a fundraising e-mail for her new PAC:


I just had the incredible honor of delivering the Republican Address to the nation, and if you had the chance to tune in, I thank you for your support this evening. Though the President and I may not always agree, it's important to hear different points of view in this great country.  

The new Republican Congress you elected last fall is hard at work to address your priorities and we are seeking solutions that will make Washington focus on your concerns again. Will you make a contribution of $25 today to support the new Republican Congressional agenda?

We heard the message you sent last November-loud and clear-and now we're working to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.

We understand how difficult these past six years have been for too many hard-working families across the country. These days, many of our families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it.

However, when Americans demanded solutions from Washington, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. But the new Republican majority you elected has made it a priority to reform Congress so that it functions again. And now we're working hard to pass the kind of serious job-creation ideas you deserve.

Please make a contribution of $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to support your new Republican majority.

You'll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress. There are important and pressing issues we need to address like how to confront terrorism and support our exceptional military, honoring America's veterans with the quality of care they deserve, fighting to repeal and replace a health care law that's hurt so many hardworking families, correcting executive overreach, working to eliminate wasteful spending and balancing our budget, and more.  

Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again. And with a little cooperation from the President, we can get Washington working again.

Make a contribution right now to show your support for your new Republican Congress and join us as we get to work to get our country going in the right direction again.

Thank you again for your support this evening. On behalf of the new Republican Congress, we look forward to making Washington work for you.


Statement from Representative Rod Blum (IA-01):

WASHINGTON, DC - Tonight it was an honor to attend the State of the Union address, and I was glad to hear President Obama focus on improving the economic situation for working families: I agree that we must do better to foster an environment that provides opportunity for all Americans. The reality is that middle class families are still struggling under the policies of the last six years, and voters made it clear in November that a new direction is needed.

I absolutely agree with the President that we need to close unfair loopholes and reduce the tax burden on the middle class. Letting hard working Americans keep more of their money will stimulate economic growth and increase financial security for our families. But paying for this welcome tax relief by raising other taxes is not the answer. Let's increase our tax base through higher wages and more jobs while cutting wasteful spending that both parties agree is unnecessary.

The President also spoke about trade agreements tonight, and I see this as an area where bipartisan cooperation is achievable. Opening up new markets for American products will be a boon not only in Iowa, but all across our country. We also need to eliminate the harmful red tape that stifles our small businesses and encourage domestic energy development, two initiatives that the House has taken up already in the new Congress, but that have unfortunately drawn only veto threats from the Administration.

Overall, I was glad to hear the President express a willingness to work with Congress to move our country forward, but his choice to begin this Congress with multiple veto threats makes me skeptical. House Republicans are willing to come to the table at any time to collaborate on a common sense agenda that helps reignite the economy, and I sincerely hope the President will join with us.

Radio Iowa quoted Blum as saying he's open to some of the president's ideas on tax reform.

Republican Congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque says he, too, is concerned by Obama's veto threats, but Blum says he "definitely could get behind" major tax reform, and that includes Obama's call to close loopholes that let major corporations significantly reduce their tax bills.

"It's one of the things I campaigned on. We need to reform the tax code. I'd like to see us lower taxes overall for companies, because they're highest in the world - lower taxes for everyone," but let's get rid of all the loopholes and the crony capitalism," Blum says.

Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02):

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement this evening after President Obama delivered the State of the Union address.

"Since first being elected, my number one priority has been to fight to expand the middle class. As a nation, we must work to create jobs and grow the economy here at home so the middle class, and those working hard to join the middle class, have the tools necessary to pull themselves up and fulfill the American dream. I am pleased that the President laid out his plan and look forward to working with him to move our state and nation forward.

"As a former teacher, I am especially interested in the President's proposal to provide two years of community college for free to all interested students. To truly succeed in this 21st century global economy, it will make more than just a high school degree. I have long said that community colleges are the principal intersection between education and workforce development and strongly believe that we need to ensure everyone who is qualified has access to a high-quality education.

"The future of economic development in Iowa and across the country depends, in large part, on access to the internet and specifically broadband. Just over the weekend, I met with local and economic development officials who stressed the importance of expanding high speed internet. Broadband would also provide small and rural schools the power to vastly expand their educational options, providing students with a cutting-edge 21st century education regardless of geography.

"Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, the State of the Union speech is always a great opportunity to hear directly from them."

Statement from Representative David Young (IA-03):

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman David Young of Iowa's Third District released the following statement on President Obama's State of the Union address, calling on the President to put aside his differences and work with Congress to spur economic growth and create jobs for the American people.

Congressman Young said, "The President is intent on playing politics in his final two years in office rather than working with Congress to find solutions. Like many Iowans, I am deeply disappointed.  He needs to roll up his sleeves and get to work on behalf of the country.  We know there is common ground between the two parties. The House has already passed bipartisan bills to expand domestic energy infrastructure, rein in out of control regulations, and save certain workers who have seen their hours slashed because of Obamacare. I hoped the President would have focused on these areas to grow the economy and wages for our hardworking families. Instead, we heard the same calls to raise taxes and increase spending that we have heard for the past six years."

Young continued, "I believe Iowa's Third District sent me to Washington to work with my colleagues to find solutions. Iowans work together every day, Americans work together every day, and I believe the President can and should work together with Congress to help move the country forward."

Representative Steve King (IA-04) released a video statement.

Senator Joni Ernst discussed foreign policy in a January 21 conference call with reporters:

Senator Joni Ernst says she'll "have to give more consideration" to the president's request that congress approve continued military action against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.

"I want to make sure that he is using that authority appropriately in responding to those threats," Ernst said this morning. [...]

The president is also asking the new congress to resist passing legislation that would impose additional sanctions against Iran. Ernst said she wants Iran to understand that their nuclear ambitions "are not welcome" and she argues new sanctions would send that message.

"I am of the school of thought we need to show Iran that we are serious about this," Ernst said this morning. "And I would like to see additional pressure coming from congress saying: 'You know what, Iran? We have delayed, delayed, delayed and we need you to come to plate and we need you to follow up.'"

Late last week British Prime Minister David Cameron called on U.S. senators to put a halt their talk about additional sanctions against Iraq, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing today on the issue. Ernst said she understands negotiations have reached a critical stage, but she said Iran needs to understand there will be "very serious consequences" if they don't reach a deal soon.

"There are others that are of a different school of thought...They just really want to handle this with kid gloves, I understand that and I understand we need to negotiate in good faith," Ernst said. "But at the same time, we need to let Iran know that their nuclear ambitions are not welcome."

Reaction from Iowa Democratic Party:

Des Moines - Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire issued the following statement on tonight's State of the Union address:

"During tonight's State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a vision for our country that is defined by expanding opportunity for all, continuing to grow the middle class, and fighting for all American families.  By making our tax code fairer, expanding access to free community college for every responsible student and extending sick leave for working families, the President and Democrats are pursuing policies that will level the playing field for generations to come.

"With national unemployment at its lowest point today in six and a half years, we are seeing faster job growth in industries that are providing good-paying, traditional middle class jobs.  That's because the Democrats' and President Obama's vision for our economy is building on the progress we have already made since the Recovery Act was put into place in 2009. Our hope for the coming year is that Republicans will join the President in his efforts to continue to strengthen the middle class, create good jobs and grow our economy."

Reaction from Iowa GOP:

DES MOINES - Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann and Co-Chair Cody Hoefert responded this evening to President Obama's State of the Union address and Senator Ernst's speech.

Chairman Kaufmann: The President gave us exactly what we expected this evening: A partisan screed clothed in bipartisan pablum. Rather than fulfill his pledge to work with the new Republican Congress, the President resorted to veto threats and fantasy proposals. The President must take the opportunity these next two years to find common ground with Republicans and put this country back on track.

Tonight Senator Ernst started a positive conversation about how Congress can help create more jobs and enhance opportunity for all Americans. She is a mother, soldier, and now a fantastic Senator from the state of Iowa. Senator Ernst is also the first Iowan in history to individually deliver the Republican address after a State of the Union. I am beyond proud that Senator Ernst earned this honor, and I look forward to working with her to move Iowa and America forward.

Co-Chair Cody Hoefert: Senator Ernst eloquently spoke for conservative values this evening, demonstrating for America what we in Iowa have seen for months. She is in Washington to do the hard work necessary to spur job creation, and we couldn't be more proud of Senator Ernst.

President Obama, however, seems to be out of ideas after six years of failed leadership. Rather than live up to his own lofty rhetoric, he has obstructed the will of the people, added $8 trillion to our debt, and now proposes to tax his way out of trouble. The President should heed the warning sent by voters in November and work with Republicans in Congress to create a more efficient government.

From Iowa Starting Line, "Mother. Soldier. Vice President?"

Because when you think about it, all the advantages that Ernst brought to the Iowa Senate race are the same qualities a presidential nominee would look for in a running mate. Need to add some excitement to the ticket? Get a straight-shooting, balls-cutting, authority-defying farm girl. Diversity? If your opponent is Hillary Clinton, you could cut into her lead with women by appealing to rural women and soccer moms. Concerned Ernst isn't experienced enough? Well, if the biggest worry about taking over the presidency in a crisis is being Commander-in-Chief, then Ernst has a military background to guide her. Plus Ernst will have a chance to personally meet every presidential candidate in Iowa and build a rapport with them.

  • This Moderatepachy

    Was happy to hear fellow law school alumni of all political stripes fearing the worst for what Ernst will bring to Iowa's reputation.  Say what you will about Grassley, the man has character and despite his voting record that (D)s will dislike, he has not brought scandal, shame, or dishonor to Iowa.  More importantly, excluding his infamous tweet (Deeth has gotten a lot of enjoyable mileage out of this), Grassley has avoided cultivating a public persona of ignorance or lack of personality.  For instance, consider that the uproar over his "pull the plug on Grandma" statements were really an outlier for him and are basically harmless compared to Legitimate Rape, Cantaloupe Calves, and all the other wonderful gems of ignorance my party has delivered.  Juxtapose that against the speech he gave regarding Harkin, and you can sense that he is probably one of the more progressive soon-to-be octogenarian farmers.

    Ernst, on the other hand, is a curious mess.  I met her at a function, she was personable, and to her credit, spent a lot of time listening to people.  But she is not a public speaker.  Nor can she be that sophisticated, if she thinks supporting "personhood" is a statement of faith and nothing more.  I look forward to her using the "mother, soldier, conservative" line and will be playing my own drinking game for how many times I hear her use the words "bold" or "solution" or mentions that DC is "dysfunctional."  

    • don't forget

      "It's a long way from Red Oak to Washington, DC."

      I disagree with many of Grassley's votes and find some of his policy stands disingenuous (such as co-sponsoring a Republican health care bill that included an individual mandate but later claiming that was unconstitutional once a Democrat proposed it). However, he does not play the Steve King game of deliberately saying offensive things to provoke an uproar and then play the victim of the liberal media. I expect Ernst will play a similar game: saying ignorant things and then positioning herself as the target of "elites."

  • Did He really say

    "I have no more campaigns to run - because I already won both of them" or somesuch line split by the repub applause at the first part?

    I didn't watch or listen to either the SOTU or the out party equal-time filler.

  • Rebuttal?

    I just moved to Iowa this year. My sister asked me, "Why Iowa?" My reply was, "It's small town living without the religious fanatics and right wing wackos running the state. Silly me. My sister just called. She couldn't stop laughing. She had watched the "Ernst Rebuttal" to the SOTU. "Isn't that the Senator from IOWA?? (raucous laughter)" I turned so red my makeup started to melt off my face. I sputtered a bit but had to agree. I fear that Iowa has become, yet another, wacked out right wing haven of weirdos. Tonight's "GOP rebuttal" with Joni Ernst at the helm was embarrassing. I didn't think it would be possible to outdo Rubio in horrible responses to the SOTU but Ernst managed to do just that. The whole "rebuttal" was an endless self promotion ad for the woman. She spoke for, what seemed, a very long time and said nothing of substance. She appears to think the Keystone Pipeline IS the GOP jobs bill (a couple thousand jobs for two years then 50 permanent jobs - oh boy, what a deal - NOT). Then she tells us how the GOP is going to get rid of Obamacare to give us better healthcare. No specifics of course. Lovely...We've been asking the GOP for YEARS to tell us what they have that's better and they still aren't giving details so her claim tonight is redundant and ridiculous. The rest of her "rebuttal" was an endless tirade of self aggrandizement. I don't know if Ms. Ernst was ever truly "impoverished" but even if she was, it was over 25 years ago and she has clearly lost touch with the working class and unemployed. You want proof? Well, try this on for size...She wants to cut assistance to the urban poor (cut foodstamps, medicaid, unemployment, etc) but keep farm subsidies for wealthy farmers. What a bighearted lady, huh? (snort, choke) She's called Obama a dictator, told us the UN is trying to destroy Iowa and she believe's she has every right to push her religious values on others regarding everything from a woman's right to choice to LGBT people in the military and gay marriage equality (hint: according to Ernst LGBT folks should be dealt with 'biblically" - uh...Leviticus says gays should get the death penalty - That's sick and extreme to me ok?). So, great. I moved to Iowa from Nebraska to get away from the right wing extremism and religious madness I was witnessing in "Husker" territory and what happens? Iowa votes in some of the most wacked out right wing extreme nutjobs I've EVER seen. For right wingers thinking, "So leave already!" No worries. I'm already packing. Laters.  

  • The shoes' audience

    Deeth this morning says it pretty insightfully about Joni's audience.

    Appalachia as a metaphor.

  • she won by 8 points

    Sen. Ernst did well last night and that makes it interesting to watch the chortling here and at the Register. Keep laughing at Ms. Ernst, folks, since that attitude has worked so well for you in the past. Like when she beat the snot out of the Democrats' supercilious candidate who nobody dared challenge in a primary. He'd be in the Senate if it wasn't for his sense of entitlement, his clumsy personality, his boorish behavior, the fact he is truly unlikable and yes, those blasted voters who agreed with Ernst on issues more than him. It makes me wonder what Mr. Braley was doing last night. I'd guess he was pounding his little fists on the carpet and weeping, still unable to understand how he lost to a candidate with a such an inferior intellect.

    • they didn't agree with Ernst on the issues

      even the DMR polls that showed her ahead never said Iowans agreed with her on the issues. She was lucky to run against a flawed candidate in a Republican landslide year. Now she is lucky to represent a state whose voters almost always re-elect incumbents. That is all.  

    • You can

      ask around the legal circles - there is not a lawyer that I have met that has a negative opinion of Bruce Braley.  I practice exclusively on the defense side, and I know many a defense lawyer (plaintiff attorneys are portrayed as bleeding hearts, us defense attorneys as corporate shills) who has a very high opinion of his personality and work ethic.  Terrible campaign, littered with gaffes, but I would be careful about using the word "issues."  This state would never vote for personhood, impeachment, or privatizing social security, nor would it lightheartedly suggest that firearms are a suitable route by resolving policy disagreements.  All of those have come from the mouth of Ernst.  Just as all the social conservatives boast about how they will stay at home instead of voting for Romney, so shall I refuse to vote for a candidate from my party that insults my intelligence.  Good for Ernst for being a first year, female Senator from Iowa and having the opportunity to deliver that address, but I have yet to seen credible evidence that she is anything more than the script laid in front of her.

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