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Ernst: Protesters 'not really there to listen'

Ernst: Protesters 'not really there to listen'

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Ernst visits Muscatine

During an interview with reporters following a private visit to Carver Pump in Muscatine, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the protesting crowds who attended her public veterans event in Maquoketa Tuesday were unhappy their party didn't win in November.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Thursday she is glad people are paying attention to their government but hopes they will begin to pose thoughtful questions and listen to the answers.

She made the remarks during a private tour of Carver Pump in Muscatine, the 13th stop on her 99 County Tour of Iowa.

During Tuesday's veterans roundtable in Maquoketa — a public event — Ernst was met by about 300 people, many protesters, who chanted phrases such as "You work for us" and "Investigate Trump."

"It was on the schedule to be a veteran's roundtable, and unfortunately, we were not able to get to the crux of some of these issues we were hearing," Ernst said Thursday.

Ernst said it was OK to take a variety of questions because it was a public event, but people talked over her, which made it difficult to answer their questions.

"Even though I'm trying to answer questions, they're not really there to listen," she said.

Ernst said she would prefer "thoughtful questions coming from the audience" and a chance to explain what Congress is working on.

"But at least they're coming out, I mean at least people are interested in government," she said.

Similar protests critical of the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress have occurred nationwide, as lawmakers returned to their districts for the congressional recess, according to national media reports. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) faced a crowd of about 100 in Hancock County Tuesday and 125 in Floyd County Thursday.

The people who are protesting Iowa's Senate delegation may be upset their party is not in office, Ernst said.

"They want to make sure that we're taking note of them, but understanding that when the majority of people in Iowa came out, they supported President Trump," she said.

Ernst said the congressional vote schedule can be erratic and Congress will be in session more often this year, but she and Grassley are committed to their tour of all of Iowa's 99 counties. Stops so far have included a town meeting at a YMCA in Red Oak, an economic development roundtable in Indianola and a coffee in Winterset.

"We've done it every year, that won't change," she said. "I don't see that changing not at all. So we'll have other forums; we'll have other town hall opportunities to visit with folks."

Ernst said she hopes to hear thoughtful questions from those attending town hall forums.

"And hopefully, we can just really have a good dialogue," she said.

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