Senator Ernst Has Tried to Deceive Iowans on Aid She Opposed, Including Billions for Hospitals, Testing, Expanded Unemployment Benefits, and State and Local Funding

A Daily Iowan/Iowa PolitiFact examination of Senator Joni Ernst’s efforts surrounding the interim relief package revealed what Iowans have repeatedly witnessed in this pandemic: Senator Ernst made a political ‘pivot’ – flipping from ‘criticizing efforts’ to include funding for hospitals and testing, to falsely claiming she supported the funding all along. 

As Congress considered $75 billion for hospitals, money for testing, and state and local funding, Senator Ernst spent weeks deriding the urgent relief as “gimmicks,” “unnecessary pork,” and “unrelated requests.” Even Senator Ernst’s excuse for opposing the aid – saying it wasn’t urgent – further displays her disregard of the severity of the pandemic and failure to lead as COVID-19 ravishes Iowa communities. 

All of this comes as Senator Ernst still opposes direct state and local funding, despite communities facing an “economic death spiral” that could lead to layoffs of first responders and public workers and eliminating essential services.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Democratic Party released a new video, “Point Fingers,” holding Senator Ernst accountable for spending months politicizing and downplaying the COVID-19 crisis, while leaving Iowans without the leadership they need in this unprecedented crisis. 

Daily Iowan: Did Sen. Ernst flip her position on health care funding?

The Iowa Democratic Party has criticized Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, for pivoting in her support for hospital and testing funds. Without a voting record, past Ernst statements show she wasn’t initially in favor of including hospital and testing funds to be coupled with small-business loan relief.

By: Sarah Watson

May 20, 2020

Key points:

  • If your time is short: 

    Democrats and Republicans were at loggerheads in April over whether to sandwich more funding for hospitals and testing with dollars for the Paycheck Protection Program as money ran out for the federal small business loan program.

    Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa pivoted in messaging, initially criticizing efforts to include any add-ons to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, but later said she pushed for hospital and COVID-19 testing that was included in replenishing the PPE funds.

  • The Iowa Democratic Party claims in its 2020 campaign against U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, that Ernst reversed her support for a coronavirus relief plan 3.5, which offered nearly half a trillion dollars for small businesses, hospitals, and testing.
  • The Iowa Democratic Party claimed in the headline of an April 21 statement that Ernst opposed funding for hospitals and COVID-19 testing for weeks before $75 billion to reimburse health-care providers and $25 billion for COVID-19 diagnostic testing was included in an interim coronavirus relief bill passed by the Senate April 21 and signed by President Trump April 24. It’s a claim Democrats have continued to make against Ernst.
  • The Republicans’ proposal would’ve solely funded the quickly depleted Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and launched April 4 for businesses that keep employees on their payroll. Democrats pushed for a $500-billion-dollar-plus aid package with Paycheck Protection Program funds as well as $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local government, of which some of the hospital funds made it into the final deal.
  • As negotiations on refilling the Paycheck Protection Program were ongoing, Ernst said in an April 16 Fox News interview she supported the program and disagreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress should wait.
  • “So, I do believe that what we had was a narrowly crafted bill to replenish the funds for PPP, but the Democrats wanted to hijack it with unrelated items and additional changes. We have a program that’s working, now we need to make sure that it’s properly funded,” [Ernst said.]
  • A final proposal to McConnell’s original interim bill included $500 billion for hospitals, the Paycheck Protection Program and COVID-19 testing, but none for local government. The Senate approved that measure April 21 with unanimous consent, a procedural fast-tracking move that means no senators voiced opposition.
  • According to a RadioIowa report, Ernst said April 16 that discussions about extra funding for hospitals and local governments could wait until Congress passed the PPP funds. 
  • “No political gimmicks, just a simple ask to put more money in this program,” RadioIowa reported Ernst saying. “Unfortunately, politics got in the way.”
  • When Democrats brought their version of the interim relief proposal, which included extra dollars for hospitals and local government, to the senate floor April 9, McConnell objected. Ernst is the Vice Chair of the Senate GOP Conference, meaning she is part of Republican leadership.
  • The claim is partially accurate but needs additional context. We rate it Half True.