Joni Kay Ernst (née Culver; born July 1, 1970) is an American politician and veteran serving as the junior United States Senator for Iowa since 2015. A Republican, she served in the Iowa State Senate from 2011 to 2014. Ernst served in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1993 to 2015, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She was the first female combat veteran elected to the United States Senate and the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress.
Ernst was considered a “long shot” at the start of her 2014 Senate campaign but was boosted by support from the Koch brothers and an ad that gained nationwide attention in which she referenced her experience castrating pigs, saying she would “cut pork” in Congress. Having been strongly critical of President Barack Obama, she has been characterized as a reliable ally of President Donald Trump, and was thought to be a possible running mate in his 2016 campaign.
Ernst opposes legalized abortion, and has supported a fetal personhood amendment and introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. She opposes the Affordable Care Act and has called for reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. She has indicated concern, although not opposition, to Trump’s trade war with China and criticized some aspects of his foreign policy. While supporting both Trump’s nominees for EPA administrator, she has expressed concern over their commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard. She rejects human-caused climate change. At times, Ernst has appeared to support the idea that states can nullify federal laws, and has advocated for the elimination of federal departments such as the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the federal minimum wage.