- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - As election day draws close, where do Iowa’s Senate candidates stand on some key policy issues? Here are five things to watch in the close race between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst:

HEALTH CARE

- Braley voted for President Obama’s health care law, which he says has helped Iowans get health insurance either through tax credits to purchase a plan or by the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. But during the rocky rollout of the law, he was among a group of Democrats who voted for a GOP-sponsored bill to permit the sale of individual health coverage that falls short of requirements in the law.

- Ernst has repeatedly said she wants to repeal the law, even airing an advertisement during the primary campaign in which she fires a gun at a target while a narrator says, “Once she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s gonna unload.” She has said she would replace the law with “free market alternatives,” but has not detailed how that would work or what that would mean for people who are getting benefits through Iowa’s version of Medicaid expansion.

MILITARY

- A lieutenant colonel and a battalion commander in the Iowa National Guard, Ernst has been vocal about the nation’s need for a robust military. She supports the limited airstrikes in Iraq, but recently told ABC News the U.S. might not be dealing with the current situation in Iraq if troops had been left in the country. Like many Republicans, Ernst opposed the use of military forces in Syria.

- Braley also opposed airstrikes considered in Syria last year. He thinks the latest limited engagement in Iraq is appropriate but voiced some concerns in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Braley wrote: “I believe the current situation in Iraq is a challenging one. However, I do not believe the United States should engage in another long-term conflict in Iraq.”

IMMIGRATION

- Ernst has said the government’s focus should be on securing the nation’s borders and enforcing existing laws. On the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America who have crossed the border into the U.S., her campaign said the children should be sent back to family in their home countries.

- Braley supports legislation approved by the Senate in 2013 that would provide those who entered the country illegally with a pathway to citizenship, which has not been taken up in the Republican-controlled House. Regarding the immigrant children who have crossed the border, he thinks the children should be reunited with relatives in the United States if they have parents or immediate family here. He also favors more resources at the border.

JOBS

- Braley has been vocal in his support for increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, arguing it would help working Iowans. He has also opposed a proposed cut to the amount of ethanol and other biofuels blended into gasoline, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, arguing it would have a negative impact on jobs in Iowa, the nation’s leading ethanol producer. He has supported a variety of business tax credits, including credits for hiring veterans.

- Ernst recently said she does not support a federal minimum wage, but called the $7.25 minimum wage in Iowa “a great starter wage for many high school students, those that are just getting into work experience.” She has said she supports maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard, though she has said she philosophically opposes subsidies for individual industries. She supports reducing business regulations and backed a commercial property tax cut in Iowa while in the Legislature.

ABORTION

- Ernst opposes abortion rights and has co-sponsored legislation in the Iowa Senate that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to guarantee an “inalienable right to life” at any stage of development. It has not been adopted.

Story Continues →