Republican newcomer Ernst says Congress ready to change U.S. direction

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 20, 2015 8:10 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The newly elected Republican Congress is working to change the country's direction after six years of President Barack Obama's policies, Republican Senate newcomer Joni Ernst will tell Americans on Tuesday.

Ernst, in excerpts from her Republican response to the State of the Union address, focused on stagnant wages, lost jobs and those who have seen health insurance plans canceled under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

"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," Ernst said. "It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions."

Ernst, the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa, is the latest fresh face that Republicans have put forward to respond to Obama. Just two weeks into her Senate career, she was previously best known for a campaign commercial in which she touted her family farm experience castrating hogs.

"When I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork," she said in the ad, vowing to make big spenders "squeal."

Ernst is viewed by many on Capitol Hill as a symbol of the Republican takeover of the Senate in November's elections. With the help of her "squeal" ad, she struck a chord with voters and handily beat Democrat Bruce Braley to win a Senate seat vacated by longtime liberal Democrat Tom Harkin.

In her speech excerpts, she called for legislation to speed free trade deals with European and Asia-Pacific countries, arguing it will boost American manufacturing jobs and wages. She also called for reforming an outdated tax code.

"So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending," she said. "The president has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them."

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In his State of the Union speech, Obama proposes raising capital gains and dividend taxes, primarily hitting the wealthy to give benefits to middle-class Americans.

Ernst, 44, was a deft campaigner, but it remains to be seen whether she can avoid the gaffes of some recent Republican State of the Union responders.

Fellow Senator Marco Rubio of Florida still gets jabs from late night comedians over his frequent use of a water bottle in 2013, while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's awkward delivery in responding to Obama's first address in 2009 drew poor reviews from members of his own party.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Ken Wills)