Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst reportedly told a libertarian group that she favored passing state legislation that would “nullify” the Affordable Care Act and even direct Iowa authorities to arrest federal officials who tried to implement it.
Ernst, who recent polls have shown taking a small lead over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, answered “yes” to a candidate survey question from Campaign For Liberty on a proposed law “to nullify ObamaCare and authorize state and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare." Talking Points Memo first reported on the CFL survey, which is posted online, on Friday.
States are not allowed to supersede federal laws, but while the “nullification” debate has been settled in the United States since the Civil War, there’s still a strong well of support for the idea in certain libertarian and conservative circles.
Earlier this year, The Daily Beast reported that Ernst had flirted with the concept, telling voters back in 2013 that “we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying.”
The quote was ambiguous as to Ernst’s position, however, and her campaign clarified shortly afterward that "Joni has not and does not endorse or support nullification." The Campaign for Liberty survey, if accurate, would directly contradict that claim.
Democrats, who have been working for months to portray Ernst as too conservative for swing-state Iowa, pounced on news of the 2012 questionnaire.
"Apparently arresting health officials for giving Iowans access to quality, affordable health care is something Joni Ernst believes in. This is just another example of how her radical Tea Party ideas are wrong for Iowa," Christina Freundlich, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party, told TPM in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Ernst campaign did not immediately reply to an e-mail asking to clarify her position.