Ernst expresses tariff concern
By BILL SHEA
The tariffs proposed by President Donald Trump are a source of concern for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, who said she’s worried they could hurt Iowa farmers and the rest of the country’s economy.
“So what we don’t want to see is an all-out trade war where the American economy is suffering,” the Republican senator said last week, during an interview with The Messenger.
She’d like to see any tariffs phased in gradually rather than being imposed all at once.
During the interview, Ernst said she voted against the recently approved $1.3 trillion federal budget even though she supports its increased funding of the military.
She said she hasn’t even finished reading the roughly 2,200 page spending plan.
Ernst said she co-sponsored two bills to address school safety in the wake of the Florida shooting that killed 17 people.
“The sooner we can get those implemented, the better,” she said.
But Ernst added that the Second Amendment right to bear arms cannot be taken away from people without due process.
“We don’t strip rights away and that’s what makes us such an incredible, incredible country,” she said.
A tariff is a fee imposed on items imported into the United States. Trump has recently proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. He’s also proposing tariffs on products imported from China.
Ernst said she’s concerned that tariffs may hurt the farm economy.
“I support the president in his efforts to preserve American jobs,” she said. “I think that’s really important.”
“But what I try to communicate to the president is that his effort to preserve the jobs of American steel workers and American steel manufacturers is that now we might have repercussions where the American farmer is suffering because of the tariffs,” she added. “And so anytime that we as the United States are looking at imposing tariffs against certain items like steel is that we do it in a very thoughtful approach, perhaps a phased-in approach.”
She also addressed the tariffs aimed at China.
“I think what he has done is put China on alert,” the senator said. “But now China’s making threats against the pork producers, soybean growers. So what we don’t want to see is an all-out trade war where the American economy is suffering.”
Ernst said she has co-authored two letters to Trump expressing concern about the tariffs from both an agricultural standpoint and a national security standpoint.
She said Trump has exempted South Korea from proposed tariffs.
“We have seen the administration back off a little,” she said.
Ernst said the budget was presented to the Senate for a vote without any debate. She said she voted against it because she didn’t have time to read it and because she thinks it contains a lot of unnecessary spending.
The budget contains $617 billion for the military, which she said is “getting us where we need to be to get maintenance done, to order the parts that we need and to get our readiness up.”
She said that because of past budget restraints half of the Navy’s planes cannot be flown and the Army only has three brigade combat teams ready to go at a moment’s notice.
The budget does not contain any additional money for Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico. Ernst said she doesn’t like the idea of spending money from the military budget to pay for it.
She acknowledged that Trump promised to have Mexico pay for the wall, but added, “I’m not sure how that was going to be implemented.”
Ernst said she has been named to a special committee of senators and representatives that has been tasked with recommending changes to the budgeting process.
Ernst said she co-sponsored the Stop School Violence Act and another law intended to improve the background check system for people wanting to buy guns.
She said the Stop School Violence Act will provide $75 million this fiscal year to pay for school security improvements and hiring police school resource officers and mental health counselors. Starting next year and continuing through 2028, it provides $100 million annually for that purpose.
The background check law, she said, will provide easier ways for local governments to add information to the registry used for gun purchases.
“Those are just two very, very important starts,” she said. “There will continue to be discussions, I’m sure, about other ways we can safeguard our children.”
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