It’s not every day there is an opportunity to ride a motorcycle alongside a U.S. senator, but on June 3, hundreds of Americans will do just that.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is hosting her annual Roast and Ride Saturday. Motorcyclists are invited to join Ernst in a ride to the Iowa State Fairgrounds to enjoy some barbecue are hear from 2024 Republican presidential hopefuls, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley; Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; political commentator Larry Elder; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and former Vice President Mike Pence, who has yet to formally announce his bid for president.
“We live in the greatest nation on the face of this planet, and I know that all of our candidates know that,” Ernst says. “Unfortunately, so many of our voters across these great United States have just been hammered, whether it’s inflation, the debt and the debt ceiling, all of the wokeness that’s coming from the far Left, the climate ideology.”
Ernst added that Iowa voters want to hear from the candidates on what they will do “to reaffirm who we are as America.”
Proceeds from this year’s ride will benefit the veterans charity the Freedom Foundation.
In addition to the Roast and Ride, Ernst joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to discuss why she and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., are fighting to end a Pentagon policy that uses taxpayer money to help cover the costs associated with abortion.
Listen to the podcast below or ready the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: We are joined today by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. Senator, welcome to the show.
Sen. Joni Ernst: Oh, it’s great to be with you. Thanks so much.
Allen: There is a great annual event that you host called the Roast and Ride and it takes place at the state fairgrounds in Iowa. And it’s really an event that supports our veterans, it supports a veteran organization, and there’s a group of people that all ride motorcycles to the fairgrounds where you eat barbecue and you hear from speakers. Now, Senator, are you going to be riding a motorcycle in this event yourself?
Ernst: I will be. I lead the pack and we’ve had as many as 500 motorcycles out on this ride. And the Roast and Ride is an annual event and it is family-friendly, great entertainment, great food.
But the way we do this, we kick off the day at Big Barn Harley-Davidson in Des Moines, Iowa, and that starts at 10:30. And those that register for the ride, their ticket sales, all of those proceeds go to a veteran’s charity.
Every year I pick a different charity to support and this year it’s our great friends over in Cedar Rapids at the Freedom Foundation, and that is a veterans helping veterans organization. And I have visited them many times. They’re doing great work across the state of Iowa, primarily in their region, but they’re good folks.
So, we kick off with the motorcycle ride and then we’ll end up at the fairgrounds. And again, you can get your tickets at roastandride.com. But once you arrive at the fairgrounds—and you don’t have to participate in the motorcycle ride, you can just go to the fairgrounds and grab a barbecue sandwich, hang out with our VIPs.
We have a whole list of presidential hopefuls on the GOP ticket that are attending this year’s event at the fairgrounds, again, June 3, roastandride.com. We’ve been announcing some of those presidential hopefuls and we’re really, really excited about the opportunity to showcase them all to Iowa voters and all of the additional visitors that will come into Iowa for this event.
Allen: Well, this is a big deal because, of course, Iowa is an early caucus state. A lot of people look to what happens in Iowa. So, tell us, who are some of these speakers that on June 3 they’re going to be attending the Roast and Ride? And these are presidential candidates that are going to be speaking not only to Iowans, but to all Americans.
Ernst: Absolutely. And we have got a whole list and it’s fantastic. Of course, we have Nikki Haley and [Sen.] Tim Scott. We’ve got Vivek Ramaswamy, we’ve got Larry Elder, we’ve got Perry Johnson, Mike Pence. We have a few others that we’ll be announcing here in the next couple of days as well.
But we did extend invitations to anyone that was considering a run for the presidency on the GOP ticket, and we’ve had such a great response. And they’ll all take the stage and be able to appeal to the Iowa voter, be able to talk about their values, their inspirations, and be able to mix and mingle with Iowans as well, so it’s a big deal.
Mike Pence will actually be joining in on the motorcycle ride, too. We have a few that are riders so I’m really excited about that. And it is just so much fun and a great way to interact with Iowa voters.
Iowa is the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Democrats not so much anymore. The Democrats really gave Middle America the middle finger. And as a GOP we’re maintaining that first-in-the-nation caucus. And we think it’s really important that people remember, we’re not just flyover, we’re everyday Americans, proud patriots, and we really do want a voice in deciding who our next president will be.
Allen: So, as those candidates take to the stage, whether it’s Nikki Haley or Tim Scott or Vivek Ramaswamy or any of the other candidates, what do you think Iowans want to hear from them?
Ernst: Well, one is, what are we going to do to drive our nation forward?
We live in the greatest nation on the face of this planet, and I know that all of our candidates know that. Unfortunately, so many of our voters across these great United States have just been hammered, whether it’s inflation, the debt and the debt ceiling, all of the wokeness that’s coming from the far Left, the climate ideology. This is not the America that many of us grew up with.
And I think that Iowa voters, those that are in attendance, they want to hear from these candidates on what are we going to do to reaffirm who we are as America? What are we going to do to get our debt under control? How are we going to support our great military men and women? I think there are so many things that Americans are hungering for, but they want a positive message on how we can write our nation.
Allen: Senator, I want to dive in here in just a moment and talk about some of the key issues that you’ve mentioned that Americans care about and that you have taken some action on within the Senate. But before we do that, I do just want to acknowledge that you yourself are a veteran. You served. How long did you serve?
Ernst: Thank you. Yes. I served for over 23 years between the Army Reserves and the Iowa Army National Guard.
I served as a company commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom One, which was from 2003 to 2004, with a whole group of Iowa Army National Guard truck drivers and mechanics, and just the folks that are making it happen, the wheels on the road, some of the best, hardest-working soldiers you will find anywhere in the nation. And I’m proud of them and all that they did to support the greater force for the greater good. And honestly, serving in our armed services was one of the greatest privileges of my life.
Allen: Well, we thank you, Senator, for your service and we thank you for the ways that even now you’re working to represent and to bring accountability in so many areas. And specifically, there’s one area I want to talk about that has to do with the issue of life right now and holding the Pentagon specifically accountable on this issue.
There’s a large debate right now within the Senate over a Pentagon policy that provides three weeks of paid leave and taxpayer-funded reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who seek an abortion. You introduced legislation to bring this new Pentagon policy to an end. Why is the Pentagon trying to use taxpayer money to help cover costs associated with abortion?
Ernst: Right, exactly. And this is a brand new policy and why they are doing it is very hard to explain. So we have an issue with taxpayer dollars going toward these efforts to provide abortions not just for service members, but for their dependents as well. So I take real issue with that.
And I do have legislation that would undo this Pentagon policy. It is a policy that was put into place by [Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin, and it is something that we as a Congress do not have the opportunity to overturn the way you would a rule that’s put in place by any of the other administrative agencies in the federal government. So I do have legislation that would strip this rule away and return it to the way it was a number of months ago before Austin put this rule into place. I just think the issue is very bad.
[The Defense Department] has a war against the unborn and I struggle with that. Of course, as I just said, I am a proud service member. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that the military gave me, but we are those that are the ones that will go forward and defend life. We are soldiers and airmen and marines and sailors, and we are there to protect the vulnerable around the world and yet we have this war on the unborn within our own Department of Defense.
So I do have legislation, and I’m hoping to gain support on this and actually get it included either in the [National] Defense Authorization Act or have a straight-out vote on it on the floor of the Senate. I am sure we’ll get it through the House. It’s the Senate that’s the issue.
But yeah, I am very, very upset with the Department of Defense for this particular rule and the fact that we are using taxpayer funds to go after the unborn. It’s very, very unfortunate and I’m going to do something about it.
Allen: And you’re not the only senator who is deeply concerned over this policy. Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama is blocking the Senate’s approval of nearly 200 promotions of military generals and flag officers until the Pentagon agrees to end this policy. Are you supportive of Tuberville’s actions here?
Ernst: I am supportive of undoing this egregious rule. I think it’s really important and Coach continues to raise the issue. And I just want to remind people—and I hate that Coach has really received a lot of ire from a lot of people. They’re cursing him out, but you know what, [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer could have brought these generals to the floor and we could have voted on these generals on the floor. So, of course, there are ways around Coach’s block or his holds, and yet Chuck Schumer is choosing not to do that.
So I hate that people are directing all of the negativity at Coach when it’s actually Chuck Schumer that is not bringing those generals forward for votes on the floor. He could have done that 10 weeks ago and he chose not to do it.
Allen: Is the Pentagon responding either to your proposed legislation or to Tuberville’s reaction or his advocacy and his decision to really block these promotions until the Pentagon takes action? Have we heard from the Pentagon?
Ernst: Well, I know that they are very upset and they have not reached out directly to me because all I am saying is that we take the policy back to where it was months ago. It worked just fine. So let’s go back to the way it was and not have to hold all of these generals. That’s the simple solution.
And Lloyd Austin, Secretary Austin simply could go back and reverse his policy. That would be the easiest way to do it. Otherwise, there is the issue of either voting on my legislation on the floor of the Senate or voting on it through the National Defense Authorization Act.
So there’s a number of ways that we can handle this or Chuck Schumer can just simply bring these generals up on the floor of the Senate and we can vote on them. But Chuck Schumer, I would direct all of that anger right back at Chuck Schumer and at Secretary Lloyd Austin. They can undo this mandate. They can undo this, but they’re choosing not to.
Allen: Senator, before we let you go today, I want to ask, we have so many young female listeners who enjoy this podcast and you have had such a diverse career and honestly, broken a lot of molds. Talk a little bit about what the advice would be that you would give to young women who are young in their career, maybe just starting out.
Ernst: Oh, I appreciate that. And I love speaking to groups of young women. And the best advice that I can give young women across the United States today is, figure out what your passion is, and when you know what that passion is, make sure you study it up one side and down the other and have all those answers, become that subject matter expert.
And then when you walk into a room, especially if that room is just completely filled with a group of men, leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that you are the expert on that issue. Go in and own that room. It is so important that you do that. Carry yourself well.
I’ve faced that many times over, especially—I’ll give you a little story on the Armed Services Committee.
When I first got to the United States Senate, going in for those first committee meetings, and all the guys on the committee are like, “Oh, look at little Joni. Isn’t she so cute? Oh, sweet Joni,” and little pat on the head kind of issue.
But when you get down to questioning the witnesses in front of you after those first few committee meetings, they had no doubt, there was no doubt left in their minds at all that I was a subject matter expert. I had worn those boots. I knew my topic up one side and down the other. I owned the room.
And I think it’s important that young women know that today that you can go in, you can own the room, and you will leave that room with a heck of a lot of respect.
Allen: I love that. A message of empowerment. Sen. Joni Ernst, thank you so much for your time today. This has been a real privilege.
Ernst: Great to be with you. Thanks so much.
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