WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Joni Ernst firmly seized — and waved — the mandate Republicans believe they won in the November midterm elections, which swept her party into power in the Senate, as she delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
The freshman senator from Iowa pledged Republicans will take the country on a new course that eschews Washington’s “stale mindset” and called on Obama to work with her party in the new Congress. But Ernst largely trained her sights on Washington, not President Obama, during the under 10-minute address.
“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country,” Ernst is expected to say. “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. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”
After Obama highlighted improvements in the economy following continued decreases in the unemployment rate and an uptick in job creation, Ernst made it clear that the U.S. economy has not yet fully recovered and much more still remains to be done.
Ernst even talked about the “sting of the economy” as something “many of us” didn’t have to read about, but “felt them every day.”
From “stagnant wages and lost jobs” to “the hurt caused by canceled healthcare plans,” Ernst painted a far rosier picture of the economy than President Obama presented moments before.
“We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children,” Ernst said.
All while sticking to conservative Republican policy ideas, Ernst also spoke about the potential for common ground with the President.
“There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together,” Ernst said in her rebuttal late Tuesday night.
That common ground includes tearing down trade barriers in Europe and reforming the U.S. tax code, both issue areas that Republicans and Democrats have heralded as potential bipartisan success stories. Ernst even notes that Obama has expressed his willingness to work with Republicans on tax reform.
But Ernst also hit President Obama’s signature health care law, repeating the all-but-impossible goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare.
She also criticized Obama over his opposition to a bill that would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which he recently threatened to veto.
“Will he sign the bill or block good American jobs?” Ernst said.
Ernst, who successfully pulled support from establishment and tea party groups during her election campaign, also made note of plans to continue fighting for conservative causes: “We’ll defend life,” she said.
Ernst also signaled that the GOP Congress would fight to rein in Obama’s executive action on immigration, vowing to “correct executive ovverreach.”
And speaking from the Armed Services Committee room, Ernst also called for a “comprehensive plan” to defeat “the forces of violence and oppression,” addressing renewed concerns over terrorism revived in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 17 less than two weeks ago.
“We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief,” Ernst said.