- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican Sen. Joni Ernst met with confrontational crowds in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids Friday where she was repeatedly shouted down and booed over the GOP health care reform plan, an issue which dominated both meetings.

Protest signs dotted the Des Moines audience including those which said “Poverty is not a choice,” ”Health Care For All” and “Investigate Trump.”

She drew applause at both meetings when she said Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

However, for much of the hour-long meetings in a packed 1,100-seat auditorium at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and a nearly full 780-seat room at Drake University in Des Moines, she endured shouting and booing.

Ernst drew laughter and booing when she said many of the millions of people likely to lose insurance under the House GOP health care bill will willingly chose not to buy insurance once the mandates under the current law are lifted.

“We need clarification on how many of those are folks that will choose not to engage in health care,” she said, interrupted by shouts of “read the report.” She answered back, “I do have the report, thank you.”

Another questioner in Cedar Rapids said more Iowans support keeping the Affordable Care Act than repealing it, asking: “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re pursuing a partisan agenda on these issues and others instead of following the will of your constituents?”

“What we want to make sure is whatever we are coming out with is sustainable in the long run,” Ernst said, reiterating that the Obama administration’s ACA is unsustainable.

Teachers in both locations asked Ernst how she could vote for Betsy DeVos to become Secretary of Education after thousands of Iowans objected through calls and emails to her.

“Why did you not listen to your constituents about that vote?” asked Kim Lovick, a teacher from Atkins at the Cedar Rapids meeting.

Ernst was drowned out by shouting as she said said DeVos was carefully vetted and supports all types of education “and I support all types of education.”

She also faced shouts for suggesting climate change is a natural occurrence and booing when she said states should decide whether money is spent funding Planned Parenthood.

“We know Planned Parenthood is not the foremost provider of women’s health care in United States but it is the number one provider of abortions in the United States,” she said, drowned out by loud shouting. She suggested private donors will step up to keep the agency’s offices open.

After the Des Moines meeting she said it’s important to hear what people have to say recognizing there’s “a level of angst out there and most of it centers around the health care act and that is because it is a very personal issue to a lot of people.”

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