Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa sat down for an interview with the Townhall’s Katie Pavlich on the main stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, where they equated socialism and communism and admitted that having GOP women on the Senate Judiciary Committee—on which they both serve—was “long overdue.” Both Ernst and Blackburn received that committee appointment last year, making them the first Republican women to serve on the Judiciary.
Ernst, who is up for reelection in 2020, recounted her “brush with a socialist country” by a personal story about going on an agriculture exchange trip to the Soviet Union while attending Iowa State University. The Soviet Union was communist.
“I had the opportunity to go on an agriculture exchange to the Soviet Union. I lived on a collective farm, where my family had no running water, they were farming with horses and wagons on the collective, they had no refrigerator, they had no automobile. They shared one bicycle amongst all the family members,” Ernst said. “That was socialism, folks, living in poverty. If that’s what we’re striving for as the United States, I’m not having any of it.”
Pavlich chimed in to note that the Soviet Union was communist—before suggesting they were one and the same.
“I think when you say Bernie Sanders went to honeymoon in the former Soviet Union, it wasn’t a socialist country, it was a communist country,” Pavlich said. “We’re not talking about some low-level tinge of socialism, we’re talking about tyranny, authoritarianism, and the opposite of freedom for individuals; it’s completely the opposite of what America was founded on.”
Blackburn used the mention of Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, to attack Sanders for applauding Cuba’s literacy program on “60 Minutes” Sunday. “He was probably excited that Castro was teaching them how to read ‘The Communist Manifesto,’ which was on his bedside table—it wasn’t the Gideon Bible—while he was honeymooning in the Soviet Union,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn recalled hosting people from the old Soviet bloc when she was in the Tennessee state Senate. A man from Estonia, she says, kissed the floor at the Grand Ole Opry. “He said, ‘You know, I would listen to Radio Free Europe. And I would hear country music, and it would come from the Grand Ole Opry,’” she said, going on to suggest that country music had inspired him to lead his country to freedom. “Here was this individual who was standing up to lead his country to freedom as a newly minted, newly found leader. What had inspired him was music that he heard over the radio,” she said.
At one point during their conversation, Ernst mentioned serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Blackburn. “Both of us serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. We’re the first Republican women to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Ernst said.
“Ever,” Blackburn interjected.
“Ever. Long overdue, I would say,” Ernst said.
“Long overdue, but we’re at 192 judges, 192 federal judges,” Blackburn said, referring to the number of Trump-appointed judges confirmed by the committee.
Blackburn and Ernst were appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019, nearly three decades after Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein became the first woman to serve on the Judiciary Committee. In 2018, Sen. Chuck Grassley, then the chairman of Judiciary, explained the lack of Republican women on the committee by saying, “It’s a lot of work. Maybe they don’t want to do it.”
Ernst, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, once endorsed the notion of impeaching former President Barack Obama and suggested that states could nullify federal laws. She also has taken to peddling in conspiracy theories around Agenda 21, a 1993 non-binding U.N. treaty on sustainable development methods.
In 2013, Ernst predicted that Agenda 21 “agents” may start “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers and then telling them that you don’t have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it’s bad for the United States, bad for families here in the state of Iowa.”