On a call with reporters Thursday morning, Sen. Ernst, R-Iowa, made it clear she expects EPA to get an E15 rule finished by the summer driving season.
A reporter asked about the E15 rule, noting EPA might be saying the waiver for the vapor rule will be done by the end of May, but EPA is unofficially indicating that just won't happen. Ernst, said she would be meeting later Thursday with acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, now nominee for the permanent Cabinet post.
"The president has said we will have E15 year-round and I will hold Andrew Wheeler's feet to the fire in this regard," Ernst said. "Even though we have a government shutdown, he knew and understood the president's push to have this done by about that May timeframe so that consumers could purchase E15 through the summer months."
Ernst said she would emphasize the point to Wheeler. "Really, in my mind, there's no room for excuses there. He knew it had to be done by May."
Ernst is up for re-election in 2020 and getting the rule done on time would achieve a major policy goal in a state that produces 4 billion gallons of ethanol. But it could hurt Ernst if EPA and the petroleum industry are able to drag out the rule-making process, which isn't that difficult to do. Rules can take years to implement and bogged down from litigation.
Ernst said she doesn't like the shutdown, but she also reiterated President Trump has constantly pushed for more border security since he took office - which includes "some sort of barrier" and additional technology along the border.
Defended the need for border walls or other barriers in places to secure the southern border.
"I would tend to agree that not all areas of our border need a physical barrier," Ernst said. “If those are adequately patrolled by Border Patrol agents, if we have the technology to monitor those areas without having a physical barrier, and can adequately respond in a timely manner to illegal border crossings, we wouldn’t need a barrier in that particular area."
Ernst added, "But I do think it needs to be a comprehensive plan which allows us to make smart choices on how we spend our dollars on the border. So when it makes sense to have a physical barrier, then we should have a physical barrier.”
Pointing to her military background as an engineer, Ernst said shaping the battlefield includes erecting barriers "that funnel people into certain areas where they can be apprehended, if they are trying to cross the border."
Ernst also pointed to earlier Democratic votes for more border walls. The latest example was the comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that included more funding for a barrier, but also a broad overhaul of immigration policies. That bill was approved by the Senate, but did not come up for a vote in the House. Still, Ernst said the wall funding in that bill shows Democrats supported building a border wall under President Barack Obama. "$5 billion was acceptable five years ago, it should be acceptable now," Ernst said.
But Ernst said she also thinks Republicans and Democrats could work together this session on technology and rural broadband efforts. She also thinks Congress could work on other immigration issues to bring guest workers in the country. Ernst is now on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration topics.
"Iowa has extremely low unemployment and we certainly would love to have additional workers enter in Iowa," Ernst said. "If there is a way I can make an impact on that, I certainly want to do that and I need support in the House in order to achieve it."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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