Republican Joni Ernst said today she’s “honored and humbled” to be the first woman from Iowa to serve in congress. Ernst spoke by phone with Iowa reporters shortly after being sworn in as a United States Senator.
“Something else that has been pointed out to me and I am very honored to have this distinction is to also be the first female combat veteran to serve in the United States Senate and I’m very proud of that,” Ernst said. “Very proud to be the first woman to serve from Iowa also.”
Ernst, who is lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, did a tour of duty in Iraq about a decade ago. Ernst says she didn’t base her campaign for the U.S. Senate on the fact that she would break the glass ceiling in Iowa politics.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I am honored because I know that it is very, very significant,” Ernst said.
Ernst said the reality of it first hit home on Election Night when her own daughter said Ernst’s granddaughter would read about her “in the history books.” Ernst is hoping to be a role model and inspire other young women from Iowa to run for office.
“We want to encourage all young women to consider great things, whether it’s in politics or anywhere else,” Ernst said. “We want them to follow what their dreams and their goals are.”
A number of national publications and, most recently, ABC News, have put Ernst on list of new members of congress to watch. She downplayed the attention.
“It’s nice. I am honored and I guess, you know, I’m flattered that I’m on those lists, but don’t pay attention much to the media that’s coming from outside Iowa,” Ernst told Iowa reporters today. “I really do want to stay very focused on Iowa and the priorities that I laid out during the campaign.”
Ernst took the oath of office at about 11 o’clock this morning, Iowa time. She asked both Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and now-former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, to be her escorts for the pomp and circumstance of day one as a senator. Ernst said while she “very much” disagrees with some of Harkin’s political views, she was sending a signal to her new Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate.
“We are not going to agree on every item out there,” Ernst says, “but I do think that we can find those areas we do agree on and I certainly would love to work with them on those areas that we agree on.”
Ernst has already attended her first committee meeting. The first vote will likely be on legislation that would approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, legislation President Obama has already promised to veto.
AUDIO of Ernst’s conference call with Iowa reporters, her first as a United States Senator, 23:00