Senator Joni Ernst says she’ll “have to give more consideration” to the president’s request that congress approve continued military action against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
“I want to make sure that he is using that authority appropriately in responding to those threats,” Ernst said this morning.
Obama made the request for a vote in congress to back the air campaign against the Islamic State last night, during his “State of the Union” address. Ernst, the first female combat veteran in the U.S. Senate, delivered the Republican response to Obama’s “State of the Union” speech last night and talked in general about terrorist threats. This morning, during a conference call with Iowa reporters, Ernst was asked whether she would vote to authorize the use of U.S. military force against the Islamic State.
“I would have to put more consideration into that,” Ernst told reporters. “…I think that if there is an imminent threat out there that certainly congress would rally around the president. I don’t doubt that.”
In early September there were calls back then for congress to vote on whether the U.S. should strike against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria and Ernst, who was a candidate at the time, said Obama hadn’t presented congress and the American people with enough information about the operation. Ernst said four months ago that if she became a senator, she’d review the intelligence reports that members of congress receive and determine whether the U.S. has a “clear objective” in the region.
The president is also asking the new congress to resist passing legislation that would impose additional sanctions against Iran. Ernst said she wants Iran to understand that their nuclear ambitions “are not welcome” and she argues new sanctions would send that message.
“I am of the school of thought we need to show Iran that we are serious about this,” Ernst said this morning. “And I would like to see additional pressure coming from congress saying: ‘You know what, Iran? We have delayed, delayed, delayed and we need you to come to plate and we need you to follow up.'”
Late last week British Prime Minister David Cameron called on U.S. senators to put a halt their talk about additional sanctions against Iraq, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing today on the issue. Ernst said she understands negotiations have reached a critical stage, but she said Iran needs to understand there will be “very serious consequences” if they don’t reach a deal soon.
“There are others that are of a different school of thought…They just really want to handle this with kid gloves, I understand that and I understand we need to negotiate in good faith,” Ernst said. “But at the same time, we need to let Iran know that their nuclear ambitions are not welcome.”
A bill drafted for Ernst and other senators to consider would reimpose sanctions that were suspended during negotiations if a deal isn’t reached by July 6 and, each month after that, more sanctions would be added.