Vol. 52, No. 5

In this edition

In this special pre-election edition, the Forum examines some of the accomplishments in Congress over the past two years, and some of the issues people may be thinking about when they vote. 


After years of slow growth and a lack of confidence, Americans asked for a better way. From cutting taxing to strengthing our national defense, the 115th Congress has shown that we found it.

How We Rebuilt America’s Military

The bipartisan budget agreement passed earlier this year has enabled us to deliver what we’ve long promised: making sure our troops have the training and equipment they need.

The State of the Small Business Economy

In August, the NFIB Optimism Index soared to a record high of 108.8, breaking the 1983 record of 108 that occurred during the Administration of President Reagan.

America is Building Things Again

The U.S. has gained back 15,000 manufacturing establishments and more than a million manufacturing jobs, with 278,000 of those jobs coming in the past year alone.

A View from Dubuque, Iowa

“The current picture of Iowa and Dubuque is that it is not yet firmly Trump Country,” reports the Professor from Loras College and the Director of the Loras College Poll.

A View from Northampton County

“Nothstein’s allegiance to Trump appears to be more of a burden than a boost as the mid-terms draw near,” writes the Muhlenberg College Professor about the local GOP candidate for Congress.

A View from Trumbull County, Ohio

“Trump’s single greatest achievement is his tearing up of NAFTA,” writes the Professor from Youngstown State University.

A View from Macomb County

“Macomb residents are sticking with President Trump,” write the professors from Oakland University in Michigan.

A View from Kenosha County

“Kenosha County reflects both traditional Democratic Party roots and recent Republican strength,” writes the Professor & Director of the Clausen Center for World Business at Carthage College.

Leveling the Playing Field with China

China’s wealth has grown significantly in recent decades, yet some of its trade practices remain rooted in its past as a fairly poor country.

Ripon Profile of Joni Ernst

The Senator from Iowa discusses some of the accomplishments of her first four years in office, and some of the challenges she plans to continue working on next year.

Ripon Profile of Joni Ernst

Name: Joni Ernst

Occupation: United States Senator, R-Iowa

First job & lesson(s) learned from it: I was taught the value of hard work from an early age, as I plowed the fields of our farm and worked construction with my dad. My first paid job, off the family farm, was working the biscuit line at Hardees. In this job, I not only learned to get up early – but also the importance of customer service and treating people with dignity.

Book(s) you’re recommending to friends: I recently read the Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It is a book that spoke to me, as it addresses many of the tough issues that rural America faces.  I would also recommend This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach.  It’s a book that is widely read among the military, as it provides a close look at infantry soldiers in Korea during the 1950s, and also talks about the broader tragedies of war.

Looking back on your first four years in office, what are some of the top accomplishments you have been able to achieve during that time? Anytime that I can make a difference to improve the lives of Iowans is a win. I work hard every day to keep the promises that I have made to Iowans, and I am constantly working to find ways to cut waste, fraud and abuse in the government. For example, Sen. Heitkamp and I wrote a bill to help make the government less wasteful and more efficient. At the end of 2016, President Obama signed into law the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act, which reduces cost overruns and increases accountability to create a more productive government through better management procedures. This was my fourth bill to be signed into law during the 114th Congress.

I am also proud of my bill to scrap the Waters of the United States rule that, under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to expand their power over farmers, small businesses, ranchers and other landowners. The 2015 WOTUS rule would give the federal government authority to regulate water on 97 percent of the land in Iowa. We Iowans have an incentive to conserve our land. We don’t need Washington bureaucrats telling us what is best. While my legislation to put an end to the expanded definition of WOTUS passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support, it was vetoed by President Obama. With the new administration, my efforts to scrap WOTUS will continue until we have a favorable solution for our state.

How about next year? What are some of the challenges still facing your State that you’re working hard to address? I am proud that Iowa was ranked the number one state by U.S. News and World Report in 2018 – a reflection of the hard work that has been done by our Iowa delegation, and the leadership of Governor Kim Reynolds. Iowa is first in infrastructure, high school graduation rates – and in the top five for health care, opportunity and four-year college graduation rates. We also have record unemployment and low taxes. But, we still have work to do. Iowa is a rural state, so access to broadband internet is very important. Rural Iowans need to have this access to expand their businesses and take advantage of the innovative technology that’s involved with agriculture.

Finally, finish this sentence — “If I could reform one government agency, it would be…”:  …the VA – we have to do better for our veterans. We have an incredible responsibility to not only make sure our country is protected, but to ensure that we live up to the promises made to our veterans. Upon being elected to the Senate, the first bill I introduced increased veterans’ access to mental health care services. One of my proudest moments was watching President Trump sign the VA MISSION Act into law earlier this year.  The VA MISSION Act helps our country reach an important milestone in providing our veterans with the quality of care they earned and deserve. This bipartisan legislation improves veterans’ access to health care services, giving those who have selflessly defended our nation greater access to hospital care, life-saving medical services and extended care services – right in their own community.

The VA MISSION Act includes my legislation with Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act, which will now allow our rural or homebound veterans in Iowa, and across the U.S., to receive necessary care, including critical mental health care, from the comfort of their homes.

On July 1, 2016, President Obama signed my bipartisan Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act into law.  Suicide among female veterans is higher than that of their male counterparts when compared to the general population, and six times more likely to occur in veterans versus non-military females.  We can and must do better for our men and women alike, and this legislation does just that by requiring the VA to identify the most effective mental health and suicide prevention programs for our female veterans.

On February 8, 2016, I introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act. This bipartisan legislation puts military sexual trauma survivors in control of their own health care by giving them the opportunity, flexibility and discretion to choose treatment options that best suit their needs, even if that care is outside of a VA facility.

Mental health, sexual assault and suicide are serious issues that affect our veterans. I will continue to fight to better address these issues and I will continue to hold the VA fully accountable for failures to provide our veterans with the care they deserve.