September 18, 2014

Quinnipiac poll finds Ernst ahead by 6% over Braley in U.S. Senate race

A new poll released this morning shows Republican Joni Ernst holding a lead of 6 percent over Democrat Bruce Braley in the race for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat. The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 1,167 likely voters between September 10-15.

The poll found Ernst led Braley 50 to 44 percent. The key to the Republican candidate’s slight edge is with independents. The poll found 50-percent of independent voters back Ernst, while 43-percent support Braley.

Earlier this month, a Loras College poll had Braley holding a lead over Ernst by four points.


Grassley blasts Braley for no vote on EPA ‘overreach” bill

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has issued a carefully worded written statement that takes aim at a vote Democrat Bruce Braley took in the U.S. House last week.

Republicans in the U.S. House voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing rules that farmers fear would give the agency authority to regulate water in ditches, farm ponds and tile lines. Grassley called that House bill “a thoughtful approach to the problem” and an “easy” yes vote for “anybody who has talked to Iowans in the last couple of months.” Braley, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, voted no. Grassley didn’t mention Braley by name, but Grassley said in the statement that it’s “too bad the entire Iowa delegation didn’t get the message” to vote yes.

In a written statement, Braley’s staff noted Braley had supported an amendment to the bill instead. It would have barred the EPA from adopting rules that would change the Clean Water Act exemptions currently on the books for farmers. A spokesman for Braley said that approach would have protected farmers, but ensured polluters “like Big Oil” are held accountable for Clean Water Act violations.

Bruce Neiman, a livestock farmer from Manchester who is president of the Delaware County Farm Bureau, says based on an email he got from Braley’s congressional office, he had expected Braley to vote yes.

“It was just the opposite of the way he voted,” Neiman says. “and so after the second time reading it, I said: ‘Well, I guess an actual political flip-flop right in front of me.’”

Neiman lives in Braley’s congressional district, but has not supported Braley in the past. Neiman is backing Joni Ernst, the Republican running for the U.S. Senate this year and he believes Ernst would join those who are trying to reign the EPA.

“Anymore, there’s a very limited ag population let alone rural population so if we don’t find people that we can count on then we’re in a very difficult position because there’s been a lot of EPA — I’m going to call it static,” Neiman says. “I mean, when they’re concerned about dust coming out of a field, they’ve gotten everybody’s attention in production agriculture.”

Ernst told a group of farmers in Independence, Iowa, last Friday that the EPA was “overreaching” and she accused Braley of voting no on the bill because Braley has the backing of an “extreme environmentalist” from California. The EPA is one of the federal agencies Ernst has said she’d like to see eliminated and Braley’s spokesman calls that a “radical Tea Party” idea that would get rid of rules that “keep Iowa drinking water clean.”

Braley concerned about ‘scope’ of Obama’s ISIL request

Congressman Bruce Braley says there is “bipartisan concern” about President Obama’s new plan of attack against Islamic terrorists who’ve ruthlessly taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.

“Democrats and Republicans are going to be spending a lot of time digging deeper into the president’s proposal because of the scope of the committment he’s asking for and because of the concerns many of us have about what exactly is going to happen with that money,” Braley says.

Last Wednesday President Obama asked congress to authorize spending half a billion dollars to train and arm rebels inside Syria who are fighting the Islamic State. Braley says the U.S. already spent far more than that to train “nearly a million” Iraqis to police and defend their own country.

“And recently they were rolled back by somewhere around 15,000 terrorists associated with ISIL,” Braley says. “So from the standpoint of the America people I think we need to have some real firm answers about how this committment is going to protect American security interests, stabilize the government of Iraq — and it’s absolutely clear that a military solution alone is not going to solve this problem.”

According to Braley, Iraq’s central government must show a willingness to allow all factions to be represented, rather than favor one side or another in the centuries’ old conflict between the two main branches of Muslims — the Sunnis and the Shias. Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, is running for the U.S. Senate. However, as a current member of congress, he attended a security briefing held last week for members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There were a lot of things brought up — obviously things that I can’t talk about,” Braley says. “But there was bipartisan concern about the scope of the request, what would be accomplished with the financial resources the president is asking us to commit.”

President Obama has also authorized air strikes into Syria. Obama has also said a coalition of countries would join the effort “to ensure the U.S. doesn’t act alone.” That’s a key question that needs to be answered, according to Braley.

“Do we have the support of key allies?” Braley asks. “Do we have the support of the American people and what is our exit strategy?”

Braley says congress should take some sort of a vote to authorize expanded U.S. action against the Islamic militants, which President Obama refers to as ISIL, but Braley says it’s unclear whether congress will have all the information it needs in order to take such a vote before the election.

The leaders of 30 countries gathered in Paris yesterday to talk about combatting the threat of the Islamic terrorists known as ISIL. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, plus the leaders of key European countries, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the key Arab states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are there.

Braley faces Republican Joni Ernst in this fall’s election.

New Hampshire senator blasts Braley over 2009 prison proposal

A Republican Senator from New Hampshire spoke by phone with Iowa reporters this afternoon to criticize the Iowa Democratic Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate for dismissing safety concerns about housing terror suspects at a Midwest prison. In 2009 Democrat Bruce Braley expressed support for moving some of the prisoners detained in Cuba to a prison in Illinois, about 40 miles from the Quad Cities. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte spoke at a telephone news conference organized by the Republican National Committee.

“Clearly I think this is an issue for the people of Iowa to consider because my understanding is that Congressman Braley’s prior record is not only that he supports bringing the Guantanamo detainees to the United States,” Ayotte said, “but that he believes that bringing them to Illinois would be a jobs bill.”

Braley’s Republican opponent is Joni Ernst and Ayotte told reporters that Ernst is “fully opposed” to transferring Guantanamo prisoners to the Illinois prison. Ernst has not made a public statement on the subject.

Ed O’Neill, a member of the Clinton City Council in 2009, issued a written statement through the Braley campaign, saying Braley “had extensive conversations with constituents, local officials and business leaders in Clinton, Jackson and Scott Counties” five years ago and found there was broad support for turning the nearly-empty Illinois facility into a maximum-security prison for federal prisoners. Clinton’s City Council and Clinton’s Chamber of Commerce publicly supported the idea. A poll conducted by the Clinton Herald in 2009 found 61 percent of area residents supported converting the prison to a federal facility for over a thousand prisoners, including about 100 former Guantanamo detainees.

Republicans in congress, however, opposed the move and the plan was tabled. Senator Chuck Grassley said he had “serious concerns” about bringing terror suspects within “a stone’s throw of Iowa.”

Ernst against raising retirement age for Social Security, but ‘privatizing’ an option

Joni Ernst (file photo)

Joni Ernst (file photo)

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, says Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt and policymakers should “identify solutions” to fix the problem.

“We have to address the problem,” Ernst said this morning during an appearance at Wesley Acres, a retirement community in Des Moines. “What we can’t do is stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, so we need to find solutions. We need to work together to solve them.”

However, Ernst is ruling out one idea as a solution.

“One thing my opponent has stated is that he would consider raising the age of retirement and, yes, that is an option,” Ernst said. “That is an option that’s out there but that’s not an option that I support.”

Her opponent is Democrat Bruce Braley, who has served in congress since 2007. During his first campaign in 2006 Braley told The Cedar Rapids Gazette raising the retirement age might be necessary. Two months ago The Daily Nonpareil reported that Braley opposes raising the retirement age, and believes eliminating the cap on how much income is subject to Social Security taxes would fix the system’s insolvency problem.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. has risen to 78 and some, like Republican Congressman Steve King, have suggested raising the retirement age to 70 to account for people living longer.

“How long are we expecting our older population to work before they’re able to retire?” Ernst asked today. “I don’t support that. We have made these promises. We need to keep them.”

Bob Meddaugh, a 67-year-old retiree sitting in the front row, asked Ernst why she thinks allowing younger workers to invest their own Social Security taxes might be a good option.

“What about the problems we’ve had when we’ve seen the stock market problems and people losing their 401Ks?” Meddaugh asked.

Ernst responded:”Yes, I have talked about privatizing Social Security as an option. Again, that is one solution, so what I recommend is we look at a number of solutions because we really don’t know which was is the best way to go yet.”

Another retiree in the audience asked Ernst if she’d support charging Social Security taxes on all income, so wealthy Americans would pay more into the system, and she said that could be an option, too, but she’s not ready to endorse the idea.

Braley’s campaign issued a statement accusing Ernst of trying to “hide her risky plans to privatize Social Security, end Medicare as we know it and gamble Iowans’ retirement savings on Wall Street.”

College student loan issue swirls in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race

Bruce Braley talking with college students at Drake University.

Bruce Braley talking with college students at Drake University.

Government-backed student loans are the new battleground in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst. Braley has visited four Iowa college campuses this week to hold round-table discussions with students about college debt, to highlight some of his opponent’s statements.

“The choice couldn’t be clearer between the two of us,” Braley said after an event at Drake University. “She says she wants to abolish the Department of Education which oversees the Pell Grant program which distributes $350 million to Iowa college students, the federal student loan program which loans $1 billion to Iowa students — and she wants the federal government out of the student loan business.”

During the Republican primary campaign, Ernst expressed support for privatizing student loans. Yesterday, Ernst was asked about the issue.

“Before we got rid of any government-backed student loans, I would want to know what we’re replacing it with,” Ernst said during an interview after a campaign event in Indianola. “So it’s not just about doing away with government-backed loans, but making sure we’re finding a solution and, really, what is underlying is the excessive cost of education in the United States, so I think we need to get at that issue also.”

Braley said if federal direct loans for students are eliminated, student debt would skyrocket.

“We heard today from students what a dramatic additional financial burden that would be for them if they’re borrowing money at 12 to 18 percent,” Braley said Tuesday, “which is what many of them are forced to do depending upon their own credit history in the private marketplace.”

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Ernst said finding out why college tuition rates are rising so rapidly should be a goal for policymakers.

“Perhaps all of our students don’t need four-year degrees,” Ernst said. “I just heard from a group yesterday that said we really need those trade skills out there, those people that go to trade schools, not necessarily four-year schools.”

Both Ernst and Braley got undergraduate degrees from Iowa State University and both financed part of that education with government student loans.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce ‘all in’ for GOP’s Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate (AUDIO)

Rob Engstrom of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Joni Ernst.

Rob Engstrom of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Joni Ernst.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race. Rob Engstrom, the group’s national political director, said today they’re “all in” for Ernst because her opponent is “actively hostile” toward businesses.

“In any senate race across the country, the choice couldn’t be more clear where you have somebody in Congressman Bruce Braley who is a personal injury lawyer. He’s made a career suing businesses,” Engstrom said. “…He is the face of the problem in Washington, D.C.”

Engstrom spoke during an event at an Indianola hardware store, praising Ernst as an advocate of the free enterprise system, but directing most of his remarks at Braley.

“Whether it’s chasing chickens around his neighbor’s yard and threatening lawsuits, whether it’s pretending to be a farmer, there’s not enough duct tape in aisle three to fix Mr. Braley’s failed record in Washington, D.C.,” Engstrom said, as Ernst laughed.

The U.S. Chambers of Commerce spent over $35 million supporting Republican candidates in 2012 and the group this year has already spent more than half a million on behalf of just one incumbent Republican senator from Mississippi. Ernst will now benefit from U.S. Chambers of Commerce campaign ads run on her behalf in Iowa.

“I do truly hope to have the opportunity to fight the good fight for good, solid, pro-growth economic policies for Iowans — both employees and employers — in the United States Senate,” Ernst said at the event inside McCoy Hardware.

AUDIO of U.S. Chamber of Commerce event in Indianola, 16:00

Braley, her opponent, told reporters an hour later that Ernst will find the endorsement from the U.S. Chambers of Commerce to be a “liability.”

“They are strongly opposed to increasing the minimum wage, which would give 300,000 a pay raise — 20 percent of the workforce,” Braley said after a campaign stop in Des Moines. “And the fact that they’re another organization that is financed by the Koch brothers should be no surprise to Iowans as to why they chose to endorse my opponent.”

The Koch brothers are billionaires who are expected to spend $300 million this election cycle to back conservative candidates and causes.